El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
Infobox musical artist
Name = El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
Img_capt = El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
Background = group_or_band
Years_active = 1962–present
URL = [http://www.elgrancombodepuertorico.net/website/index.php www.elgrancombodepuertorico.net]
Notable_instruments = El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, commonly known as El Gran Combo, is a Puerto Rican
Salsa musicorchestra. It is Puerto Rico's most successful musical group, and one of Salsa's most famous groups across Latin America. Since many of the genre's legendary singers have been members of the orchestra, the band has been given the moniker "La Universidad de la Salsa" ("The University of Salsa")
El Gran Combo was founded by
Rafael Ithierin May 1962. Ithier is still, as of 2006, the orchestra's pianist and musical director. The group is currently promoting their latest album titled " Arroz con Habichuela" ("Rice and Beans") and they continuously tour around the world.
The Birth of El Gran Combo
Rafael Ithier had been a member of
Rafael Cortijo's "Combo" orchestra, travelling to the eastern United Statesbefore forming El Gran Combo. For their first gig, the orchestra was signed by the legendary Cuban comedian, writer and businessman Alvarez Guedes, who hired them to support Dominican singer Joseito Mateoon one of his albums for his record company Gema Records. It was Alvarez Guedes himself who baptized them with the name of "El Gran Combo".
The members that met for this first incarnation were Ithier, Eddie Perez, Hector Santos, Rogelio "Kito" Velez, Martín Quiñones, Miguel Cruz and
Roberto Roena. That first album was titled " Menéame Los Mangos, El Gran Combo con Joseito Mateo" ("Shake My Handles, or Shake My Mangoes, depending on the double meaning of the word Mango").
The group met again to define the foundations of the orchestra and they chose singers Daniel Vázquez, Pellín Rodríguez and
Chiqui García. On May 21, 1962, El Gran Combo was heard for the first time on Puerto Rican radio. Later on, they became the on-studio musicians of the live television show, "La Taberna India", sponsored by India Beer.
After their live debut at
Hotel La Conchain San Juan, Puerto Rico, Chiqui García left the orchestra. Sammy Ayala, who had also played with Ithier in the Cortijo orchestra, recommended the hiring of Andy Montañez. Felipe Rodríguez, another legendary Salsa singer, also followed the group's career closely, sometimes even making suggestions to Ithier.
November 20, 1963, El Gran Combo released their first group album, " Acángana", with Rodríguez and Montañez as leading voices. The album became a number one hit in New York, Panamaand Puerto Rico. Their success opened doors for them in many Latin Americanmarkets and they gained an exclusivity spot in Puerto Rican television show " El Show de las 12". The album also reached gold status.
1964, musician Elías Lópezjoined the orchestra. However, the excess of exposure helped their demands to decline. Still, in 1967, their album " Boogaloo con el Gran Combo" also reached gold status. In 1969, Roena and López left the orchestra to form the "Apollo Sound" together. Despite all this, that same year the group is awarded with an "Agüeybana de Oro" Award in Puerto Rico.
Near death experience
February 15, 1970, the members of "El Gran Combo" shared a near death experience. They were returning to Puerto Rico from Curaçao, and had to stop at Las Américas International Airportin Santo Domingo. One of the band's members had a bad feeling about the flight they were about to embark on, and the orchestra decided not to take that flight, which would turn out to be the Dominicana Airlines DC-9 that crashed off the Caribbean coast.
In 1970, their contract with Gema Records wasn't renewed. Despite offers from the renowned
Motownlabel, El Gran Combo decided to produce their own albums. Their first album under their label, EGC, is titled " Estamos Primeros".
In 1971, El Gran Combo introduced the
tromboneto their list of instruments. The trombone was played by Fanny Ceballos. Soon after, their production named " De Punta a Punta" (slang for "From Coast to Coast") was released. In 1973, Pellín Rodriguez left the group to continue on with a solo career. Legendary Salsa musician Jerry Concepciónand the well known sportscaster Rafael Bracero, friends of Ithier, recommended Ithier to replace Rodríguez with Charlie Aponte.
In 1973, El Gran Combo sang in front of 50,000 fans at the famous
Yankee Stadiumin New York City as the opening act for the Fania All Stars' sold out concert.
Montañez left the band in early 1977 and went to live in
Venezuela, where he receive a good contract to replace Oscar D'Leónin another orchestra, Dimension Latina. Jerry Rivaswas then chosen to join the orchestra. Both Rivas and Aponte are still members of the orchestra to this day. The success of this new duo was proved with their 1977 album " International" and 1978's " En Las Vegas" which reached gold record status.
In 1975, "El Gran Combo en Navidad", a
Christmasalbum, was released, with Martín Quiñonesappearing as Santa Clausin the album's cover. After a car accident in early 1977, Quiñones was replaced in the band by his son, Martín Quiñones Jr. He stayed until 1979, being replaced by Luis Díaz.
The band continues to receive numerous awards in all
Latin America. In 1984, they traveled to Alaskawhere they received a great welcome. Soon after they release their album titled " Breaking the Ice" which garnered them their first Grammynomination.
In 1982 they celebrated their 20th anniversary playing at the
Madison Square Garden. They also reached Europe that year playing in Paris, France.
In the early
90s, they were honored in the city of Madrid, Spainto open the decade in the right track. In March 29, 1992, they celebrated a huge concert in the Hiram Bithorn Stadiumin front of 30,000 people.
The new millennium
In 2002, "El Gran Combo" celebrated their 40th anniversary with two sold-out concerts at the Ruben Rodríguez Coliseum in
Bayamón, Puerto Rico. This celebration spawned a renowned album that was recognized as one of the best of the year. A year later, they received a Grammy for Best Tropical Album. As of 2006, the orchestra has released over 40 albums or CD's, and it has received many awards, including golden albums, a "Calendario de Plata" in Mexico, a "Golden Combo" in Colombia, a " Paoli Award" in their native Puerto Rico, a honorable distinction in Spainand countless others.
In 2006, they released their latest album titled "
Arroz con Habichuela". It has already spawned three hit singles. The first one titled "No Hay Manera" ("There's No Way"), the title song, and "Si La Vez Por Ahí".
In 2007, El Gran Combo performed two massive concerts at the
Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseumto celebrate their 45 anniversary.
* Charlie Aponte (1973–present)
* Jerry Rivas (1977–present)
* Luis "Papo" Rosario (1980–present)
* Rafael Ithier - leader, director (1962–present);
piano(1962–2006; except on live performances)
* Willie Sotelo
* Eddie Pérez -
* Freddie Miranda -
* Luis "Tati" Maldonado -
* Victor "Cano" González -
* Moisés Nogueras -
* Freddy Rivera -
* Domingo "Cuqui" Santos -
* Miguel "Pollo" Torres -
* Richie Bastar - bongo (2001–present)
* Jorge Torres -
* David Marrero - support personnel
* Pellín Rodríguez (1962–1973)
* Andy Montañez (1962–1977)
* Marcos Montañez (1973)
* "Chiqui" Rivera (1962)
* Milton Correa - timbales (1962–1970)
* Miguel Marrero - timbales (1970–1979)
* Edgardo Morales - timbales (1979–1988)
* Roberto Roena - bongos (1962–1969)
* Martín Quiñones - conga (1962–1977)
* Martín Quiñones, Jr. - conga (1962–1979)
* Luis Díaz - conga (1979)
* Miguel Cruz - bass guitar (1962–1975)
* Fernando Rivera - bass guitar (1975–1989)
* Mike Torres - trumpet (1969)
* Epifanio "Fanny" Ceballos - trombone (1971–1991)
* Toñito Vázquez - trombone (1991)
* Hector Santos (1962–1969)
* Rogelio "Kito" Vélez (1962–1964)
* Daniel Vázquez (
* Mickey Duchesne (
* Elias Lopez (1964–1969)
* Edwin Cortés (1969)
* "Baby" Serrano (1969–1984)
* José "Keko" Duchesne (1969–1980)
* Tommy Sánchez (
* Gerardo "Grillo" Cruz (1969–1979)
* Miguel Laboy (
* Mike Ramos (1969–1980)
* Edwin González (1979)
* Nelson Feliciano (1979–1980)
* Paquito Guzman (Coros; Recording Sessions 1971–1976)
* Elliot Romero (Coros; Recording Sessions 1973–1977)
* Yayo "El Indio" (Coros; Recording Sessions 1977–1979)
* Tito Henriquez (Coros; Recording Sessions 1978)
List of famous Puerto Ricans
* [http://www.elgrancombodepuertorico.net/website/index.php Official website]
* [http://www.salsaclasica.com/elgrancombo Biography, Discography, Photos, Lyrics (SalsaClasica.com)]
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