A latin flavor has been a part of me and my music for a long time. Where did it come from? It all started with Mario. My first band was called "Super Natural". It was a big band, as most bands were in the 70's. Drums, bass, two guitars, percussion and a horn section.
We were all neighborhood friends. We played covers of "Mandrill", "Kool and The Gang", "The Ohio Players", to name a few. I was a huge "Chicago" fan, so we did a lot of their tunes.
Believe it or not, we didn't play any "James Brown" tunes, we thought it was too hokey, and we didn't play any Motown because that music was about the singers, not the band. We didn't like the idea of being in the background. Bands were bold during that time. Interestingly, the bands who were backing up singing groups were the ones making all the money.
Joey had been our percussionist for a few years, when he left. Mario joined the band. Mario play the bongos. Most of the percussionist we knew play congas. Bongos seemed strange in a big band, but we loved his passion. One jam with us and he was in. The other great thing about having Mario was the girls loved him. This helped the bands popularity.
Being black, it was always easy to see the prejudice and ignorance in others. I learned through Mario that yes, black people could be as ignorant as anybody else. For example, when Mario came to my house for dinner, we had beans and rice that night. How many times have I guffed at people having fried chicken when I was invited to their house. Of course, I'd eat up all the chicken. Humans, you gotta love us.
Mario lived in a hispanic neighborhood in north philly. Every weekend his church would have a dance. One Friday our band played a set before the dance. When the dance got underway, I experienced something that would change me forever. I had never heard Salsa music before. Energetic, fast, syncopated. Then when everybody started dancing. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The footwork, the spinning, the gyrations, it was so exciting.
Mario later took me to a "Willie Colon" concert. I'll never forget it. It had a profound effect on me.
Mario also taught me a salsa groove on the bass. Look out.
Since then, the latin influence has only grown and still continues to grow.
Bless you Mario