[Cover photo of Ray Barretto]
Craft Latino is celebrating Tico Records’ 75th anniversary with Hit the Bongo! The Latin Soul of Tico Records. Spanning 1962–1972, this new vinyl and digital collection surveys the rise of Latin Soul through 26 rarities and classics by pioneering figures such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz and Ray Barretto, as well as by the Joe Cuba Sextet, La Lupe, Willie Bobo and many more.
Arriving October 27, 2023, Hit the Bongo! features newly remastered audio by Joe Tarantino, a 2-LP set housed in a gatefold jacket with new liner notes by DJ Dean Rudland, with lacquers cut by Phillip S. Rodriguez at Elysian Masters. In addition, exclusive bundle option including a commemorative Tico Records T-shirt is available at Fania.com.
In 1948, Tico Records opened in New York City, becoming one of the first US labels to focus solely on Latin music. Home to such pioneering figures as Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Joe Cuba, Jimmy Sabater, La Lupe, Eddie Palmieri and Celia Cruz, Tico was at the forefront of Latin musical trends during its three-decade-long reign, from Mambo and cha-cha-chá to Pachanga and Boogaloo.
The story of Tico Records began in the late 1940s when Mambo swept dance clubs across the East Coast. Its epicenter was New York City’s Palladium Ballroom, where bandleaders like Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodríguez (aka the “Mambo Kings”) played the Cuban-influenced music. Despite its popularity, however, there was little Mambo on record.
In 1948, New York club owner George Goldner sought to change that. While Goldner would establish many labels during his career (including Roulette, Gone and Leiber and Stoller’s Red Bird), his first endeavor, Tico Records, would hold a significant place in Latin music history.
While Tico’s Latin Soul output was impressive, its catalog wasn’t as vast as some of its competitors. But, as Rudland explains, this certainly wasn’t detrimental:
Tico’s involvement in Latin soul was a little tangential, the reasoning being that it was the establishment Latin label with the big established names on its roster. It didn’t need . . . scrappy young bands.
Despite the label’s status in the industry, it was sold to Latin music giant Fania Records in 1975. Under Fania, Tico maintained an active frontline roster until the end of the decade.