Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Joe Cuba Sextet – "Bang! Bang!" (1966)

Cornbread, hog maws, and chitlins
Bang! bang!

Boogaloo (originally bugalú) is a style of Latin music and dance that was popular in the United States – especially the New York City area – in the 1960s.  It’s sometimes described as a fusion of Afro-Cuban music and R&B.

The first boogaloo hit was Mongo Santamaría’s 1963 recording of “Watermelon Man,” which was composed by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.  

But the biggest boogaloo record of the sixties was Joe Cuba’s million-selling “Bang! Bang!”

Joe Cuba
The boogaloo craze threatened the continued viability of old-school Latin dance bands, and some say that those more traditional musicians colluded with record companies and dance-hall owners to squelch boogaloo’s popularity.

Others think boogaloo was just another short-lived dance fad like the twist, the electric slide, and the hustle.

In any event, boogaloo’s popularity waned by 1970, as salsa’s waxed.

The Joe Cuba Sextet
The most popular of the boogaloo bandleaders was Joe Cuba, who was born Gilberto Miguel Calderón in New York City in 1931.  He was a conga drummer of Puerto Rican descent — in other words, a “Nuyorican.”  

When he was a teenager, Calderón was more interested in stickball than music:

Stickball was a central part of the neighborhood.  Of course back then the cops used to bust up the games and break the sticks, but we got good at hiding the equipment and running away from them.  The Devils [a stickball club organized by his father] became a neighborhood tradition, known for their great teams through the years, and the club had guys from all ages.  There were the Devil Seniors, Devil Juniors and Young Devils. . . .

Stickball players
There was actually a connection between my playing ball and playing music.  I starting getting involved with music in early fifties when I was 19 years old.  I broke my leg playing stoop ball, sliding into the sidewalk of all things, so I asked my friend to lend me his conga.  My leg was up in a cast and I couldn't do anything, so for the next few months, I practiced in the house all the time. 

Calderon was inducted into the Stickball Hall of Fame in 1985 and the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1999. 

If you haven’t figured out what the songs that are featured in this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days” have in common, “Bang! Bang!” offers you not one, but two clues.  (Come on, boys and girls – you never heard of Google?)

Here’s “Bang! Bang!”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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