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Boricua Pioneer Joe Quijano

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Vocalist Joe Quijano’s career took flight at Junior High School PS 52 in the Bronx in 1950 when he joined a group of amateur musicians featuring Orlando Marin (Timbales), Eddie Palmieri (Piano), Larry Acevedo (Congas), and Albert Ramirez (Bongos).
When the group played their first gig at the Hunt’s Point Palace in the Bronx, the repertoire consisted of three tunes, “Abaniquito,” “La Toalla,” and Rafael Hernandez’s “El Cumbanchero,” which they played ad nauseam. One year later, the group added three trumpets, which evolved into The Orlando Marin Conjunto. When Marin was inducted into the Army, Quijano took Marin’s place.
While studying commercial art at Manhattan’s High School of Industrial Arts, Quijano worked part-time for the Translux Corporation near the original Palladium Ballroom. Quijano’s boss and dear friend, Douglas Sterling Paddock, allowed him to take his lunch hour whenever an orchestra was rehearsing around the corner.
During a working vacation in 1956, Quijano went to Cuba, where he met some of his favorite bands and musicians, such as Beny More, Roberto Faz, Miguelito Cuni, Jose Fajardo, and Celia Cruz. He was particularly enamored with the sound of The Senen Suarez Group and made a few sales while he was there. Quijano returned to New York with stock arrangements, instruments, and a concept that combined two trumpets, a flute, and a rhythm section with a Charanga feel. After a few months, Charlie Palmieri developed an instrumental version of the “Amor” tune, and The Conjunto Cachana was conceived.
After a stint with Tico Records, Quijano went to work for Good One Stop, a wholesaler distributor servicing retail stores and jukeboxes. He convinced his bosses, Al Deutsch and Artie Schrift, to finance two (45 RPM) tunes on the AQA label titled “Rumba En Navidad” and “Descarga Charanga.” Thanks to Paramount Vending, the records were in every jukebox in New York.
Afterward, Quijano was approached by Jack Goodman of Panoramic Records, and the LPs “A Catano” and “Volvi a Catano” were recorded. Both were massive hits in South America, but Quijano roamed the halls of CBS seeking a recording contract. The “someone” was Ernie Altshuler, who interviewed Quijano, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett on the same day. In the summer of 1960, Joe Quijano y Su Conjunto performed at the Spring Rock Country Club with Altshuler and his wife in attendance, and Quijano was offered a contract.
Afterward, he recorded three LPs with Columbia: “La Pachanga Se Baila Asi,” whose lyrics, according to Max Salazar, “cleared up the confusion between Charanga vs. Pachanga.”  Also, “Everything Latin,” “Yeah Yeah,” and “Latin Jo.” Also, Quijano’s three LPs featuring his rhythm section backing Eydie Gorme and Trio Los Ponchos were international hits.
In the early 60s, Quijano started his own company. Being an amateur Jai-Alai player, he called the company Cesta Records (a Cesta is a basket used in the game) and recorded the album The Fiddler On The Roof Goes Latin.”
From the 60s to the 80s Quijano released a string of albums on Cesta, including “Joe Quijano y Su Fantástico Conjunto Cachana,” “Swings Uptown And Downtown,” “Joe Quijano Shingalings,” “The Joe Quijano Party Album,” “Joe Quijano With Strings,” “Joe Quijano y Su Conjunto Cachana Do Their Own Thing,” “Joe Quijano Christmas Album,” “El Nuevo Joe Quijano,” “Joe Quijano En Puerto Rico,” “Joe Quijano Christmas LP ‘Para Las Parejas,'” “Cositas Sueltas Joe Quijano: Nosotros 2,” and “Joe Quijano: El Conjunto Cachana, The World’s Most Exciting Latin Orchestra & Review.”
Also, Quijano participated in two notable albums by the Cesta All-Stars:” “Live Jam Session” (the 1960s) and “Salsa Festival” (the 1970s), which was a 1967 recording by the Alegre All-Stars under the direction of Charlie Palmieri made while Santiago was working as a staff producer at Musicor. Al Santiago (founder of the Alegre All-Stars) was overextended and couldn’t afford to release the material, so he sold the tapes to Quijano.
Quijano is the first artist to record a composition by the great Puerto Rican composer Tite Curet Alonso titled “Efectivamente.”
Over the years, he quietly organized tributes and fundraisers for needy musicians. Also, in 1979, he produced and promoted The Tito Puente Roast, which exposed the Mambo King to a broader audience. Moreover, he served as the Director of Public Relations for the Agency for Drug Addiction Rehabilitation (LUCHA) in New York in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1992, Quijano was involved in a motorcycle accident in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. The accident damaged his spine and led to six surgeries from which he never fully recovered. Afterward, Quijano walked with a cane. After the accident, he devoted much of his time to promoting events and reissuing his records in a compact disc format.
Max Salazar says, “Despite all his accomplishments, his Puerto Rican heritage made him proudest. Quijano, like his hero Noro Morales, recorded tunes whose titles are a tribute to the Puerto Rican culture, such as “Mayaguez,” “Catano,” “Barrio Obrero,” Bayamon,” “En Mi Viejo San Juan,” “Puerta de Tierra” and a Christmas album that contains the tune, “Un Jibaro en Nueva York.”
Quijano credits much of his success to the late great Charlie Palmieri, whose melodic arrangements sold his recordings.
Quijano has recorded and shared the stage with Alex Israel, Benny Bonilla, Doc Severinsen, Eddie Rivera, Mel Davis, Charlie Palmieri, Hector Rivera, Artie Arzenser, Macuchito, Jimmy Loro, Dave Tucker, Louis Goicoechea, Chicky Perez, Mike Collazo, Ray Mantilla, Joe Grajales, Charlie Fox, Manny Oquendo, Bobby Valentin, Herman Gonzales, Rod Sanchez, Bobby Nelson, Willie Pastrana, Benjamin Rosario, Joe Rosa, and Manny Corchado, with singers that included Chaguito Montalvo Jr., Paquito Guzman, Willie Torres, Chivirico Davila, Adalberto Santiago, Yayo El Indio, Ray Cruz among others.
In 2018, Joe Quijano and Conjunto Cachana performed at Damrosch Park as part of Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing. Also, in 2000, he presented the group at The Hotel Normandie in San Juan.
Joe Quijano, “El Rey de La Pachanga” died in San Juan on April 4, 2019.
La carrera de Joe Quijano despegó en la escuela secundaria PS 52 en el Bronx en 1950 cuando se unió a un grupo de músicos aficionados que incluía a Orlando Marín (Timbales), Eddie Palmieri (Piano), Larry Acevedo (Congas) y Albert Ramírez (Bongos). .
Cuando el grupo dio su primer concierto en el Hunt’s Point Palace en el Bronx, el repertorio constaba de tres temas, “Abaniquito”, “La Toalla” y “El Cumbanchero” de Rafael Hernández, que tocaron hasta la saciedad. Un año después, el grupo añadió tres trompetas, que evolucionaron hasta convertirse en The Orlando Marin Conjunto. Cuando Marín ingresó al ejército, Quijano ocupó su lugar.
Mientras estudiaba arte comercial en la High School of Industrial Arts de Manhattan, Quijano trabajó a tiempo parcial para Translux Corporation cerca del Palladium Ballroom original. El jefe y querido amigo de Quijano, Douglas Sterling Paddock, le permitía tomar su hora de almuerzo cada vez que una orquesta ensayaba a la vuelta de la esquina.
Durante unas vacaciones de trabajo en 1956, Quijano fue a Cuba, donde conoció a algunas de sus bandas y músicos favoritos, como Beny Moré, Roberto Faz, Miguelito Cuni, José Fajardo y Celia Cruz. Estaba particularmente enamorado del sonido de The Senen Suarez Group e hizo algunas ventas mientras estuvo allí. Quijano regresó a Nueva York con arreglos originales, instrumentos y un concepto que combinaba dos trompetas, una flauta y una sección rítmica con aire de Charanga. Después de unos meses, Charlie Palmieri desarrolló una versión instrumental del tema “Amor” y se concibió el Conjunto Cachana.
Después de una temporada con Tico Records, Quijano comenzó a trabajar para Good One Stop, un distribuidor mayorista que presta servicios a tiendas minoristas y máquinas de discos. Convenció a sus jefes, Al Deutsch y Artie Schrift, para financiar dos temas (45 RPM) en el sello AQA titulados “Rumba En Navidad” y “Descarga Charanga”. Gracias a Paramount Vending, los discos estaban en todas las máquinas de discos de Nueva York.
Posteriormente, Jack Goodman de Panorámica Records se acercó a Quijano y se grabaron los LP “A Catano” y “Volvi a Catano”. Ambos fueron grandes éxitos en Sudamérica, pero Quijano deambulaba por los pasillos de la CBS en busca de un contrato discográfico. Ese “alguien” fue Ernie Altshuler, quien entrevistó a Quijano, Johnny Mathis y Tony Bennett el mismo día. En el verano de 1960, Joe Quijano y Su Conjunto actuaron en el Spring Rock Country Club con la asistencia de Altshuler y su esposa, y a Quijano le ofrecieron un contrato.
Posteriormente grabó tres LP con Columbia: “La Pachanga Se Baila Así”, cuya letra, según Max Salazar, “aclaró la confusión entre Charanga vs. Pachanga”. Además, “Everything Latin”, “Yeah Yeah” y “Latin Jo”. Además, los tres LP de Quijano con su sección rítmica acompañando a Eydie Gorme y el Trío Los Ponchos fueron éxitos internacionales.
A principios de los años 60, Quijano fundó su propia empresa. Como jugador aficionado de Jai-Alai, llamó a la empresa Cesta Records (una Cesta es una canasta utilizada en el juego) y grabó el álbum “The Fiddler On The Roof Goes Latin”.
Desde los años 60 hasta los 80, Quijano lanzó una serie de álbumes en Cesta, incluidos “Joe Quijano y Su Fantástico Conjunto Cachana”, “Swings Uptown And Downtown”, “Joe Quijano Shingalings”, “The Joe Quijano Party Album”, “Joe Quijano With Strings”, “Joe Quijano y Su Conjunto Cachana Do Their Own Thing”, “Joe Quijano Christmas Album”, “El Nuevo Joe Quijano”, “Joe Quijano En Puerto Rico”, “Joe Quijano Christmas LP ‘Para Las Parejas’, ” “Cositas Sueltas Joe Quijano: Nosotros 2” y “Joe Quijano: El Conjunto Cachana, The World’s Most Exciting Latin Orchestra & Review”.
Asimismo, Quijano participó en dos álbumes notables de los Cesta All-Stars: “Live Jam Session” (década de 1960) y “Salsa Festival” (década de 1970), que fue una grabación de 1967 de Alegre All-Stars bajo la dirección de Charlie Palmieri hizo mientras Santiago trabajaba como productor en Musicor. Al Santiago (fundador de Alegre All-Stars) estaba sobrecargado y no podía permitirse el lujo de lanzar el material, por lo que vendió las cintas a Quijano.
Quijano es el primer artista en grabar una composición del gran compositor puertorriqueño Tite Curet Alonso titulada “Efectivamente”.
A lo largo de los años, organizó discretamente homenajes y recaudaciones de fondos para músicos necesitados. Además, en 1979, produjo y promovió The Tito Puente Roast, que expuso al Rey del Mambo a una audiencia más amplia. Además, se desempeñó como Director de Relaciones Públicas de la Agencia para la Rehabilitación de las Adicciones a las Drogas (LUCHA) en Nueva York en las décadas de 1970 y 1980.
En 1992, Quijano estuvo involucrado en un accidente de motocicleta en Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. El accidente dañó su columna y provocó seis cirugías de las que nunca se recuperó por completo. Después, Quijano caminó con un bastón. Tras el accidente, dedicó gran parte de su tiempo a promocionar eventos y reeditar sus discos en formato de disco compacto.
Max Salazar dice: “A pesar de todos sus logros, su herencia puertorriqueña lo enorgullece. Quijano, al igual que su héroe Noro Morales, grabó canciones cuyos títulos son un tributo a la cultura puertorriqueña, como “Mayagüez”, “Catano”, ” Barrio Obrero,” Bayamón”, “En Mi Viejo San Juan”, “Puerta de Tierra” y un álbum navideño que contiene el tema “Un Jibaro en Nueva York”.
Quijano atribuye gran parte de su éxito al fallecido gran Charlie Palmieri, cuyos arreglos melódicos vendieron sus grabaciones.
Quijano ha grabado y compartido escenario con Alex Israel, Benny Bonilla, Doc Severinsen, Eddie Rivera, Mel Davis, Charlie Palmieri, Hector Rivera, Artie Arzenser, Macuchito, Jimmy Loro, Dave Tucker, Louis Goicoechea, Chicky Perez, Mike Collazo, Ray. Mantilla, Joe Grajales, Charlie Fox, Manny Oquendo, Bobby Valentin, Herman Gonzales, Rod Sanchez, Bobby Nelson, Willie Pastrana, Benjamín Rosario, Joe Rosa y Manny Corchado, con cantantes que incluían a Chaguito Montalvo Jr., Paquito Guzmán, Willie Torres. , Chivirico Dávila, Adalberto Santiago, Yayo El Indio, Ray Cruz entre otros.
En 2018, Joe Quijano y Conjunto Cachana actuaron en Damrosch Park como parte del Midsummer Night Swing del Lincoln Center. Asimismo, en el año 2000, presentó el grupo en El Hotel Normandie de San Juan.
Joe Quijano, “El Rey de La Pachanga” falleció en San Juan el 4 de abril de 2019.

SOURCES
Quijano, Joe – Joe Quijano’s Cesta Records, Inc., http://www.recordmerchants.com
Quijano, Joe Biography (http://last.fm)
Salazar, Max – Mambo Kingdom, Latin Music in New York (Schirmer Trade Books, 2002)
Serrano, Basilio – Puerto Rican Pioneers in Jazz, 1900-1939, Bomba Beats to Latin Jazz (iUniverse 2015)
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great education about this legend & one of my hero’s. I had the privilege of dancing to his music several times as a youngster while I grew up in The Bronx at The Hunts Point Palace. What memories!

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