by Rosie G.
When you were a kid did you ever imitate something you saw on TV? I know I did. Every time I saw an orchestra leader on TV, I would jump up on a chair and pretend that I was leading the orchestra with my hair brush…especially if it was a Latin band. I loved the music but I wasn’t yet familiar with one of the most popular band leaders: Living legend, Johnny Pacheco.
I met the legendary Johnny Pacheco many years ago at a party honoring Latin music. At first I admit I didn’t know who he was. There were so many people there that he looked just like any other older gentlemen. I remember he was dressed in a very sharp looking suit with his silver hair, thick mustache and glasses; it seemed everyone gravitated towards him. He greeted everyone with a great smile. I realized after a bit of observation that it was Johnny Pacheco, ‘El Maestro’ as he is known. My Mom told me about the Fania-All Stars and the great Johnny Pacheco and how he orchestrated this amazing band with some of the most famous and legendary musicians and singers of our time.
Johnny was born in Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic. Yes I know, many of you probably thought he was Puerto Rican considering that he was seen a lot in New York’s Spanish Harlem. He came to New York by age 11. He credits his father with putting his first instrument in his hands. His father had been an orchestra leader back in the Dominican Republic, therefore it was only natural for him to follow in his footsteps.
“He attended the famous Julliard School of music and learned to play many instruments like the saxophone, violin and clarinet but percussion was his favorite.” 1963 is the year his career really took off upon meeting Jerry Masucci and they formed the legendary Fania Records. He was the label’s executive, creative director and musical producer.” He is the mastermind of the Fania All-Stars which featured, Hector LaVoe, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Ray Baretto, Cheo Feliciano, Willie Colon and so many others.
I was able to have an amazing conversation with Johnny Pacheco and I asked him what it was like to be El Maestro of the Fania All-Stars. He laughed and said it was the greatest time of his life and at the time, he didn’t know it would turn out to be such a legendary moment in Latin music history. He loved being around his friends; to him it wasn’t work, it was more like play time. I told him that my Mom was a huge fan and always played those records in the house that were my introduction to Salsa music. He told me that my Mom had good taste and that as a Latina I should be proud of our musical heritage and should pass it along. He said, “If you play that music today you would see the room light up and not just Latinos would be dancing and having a good time!”
Que Viva El Maestro and the Fania All-Stars! Que Viva!!
For more information on the Fania All-Stars, visit their blog.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.