I also inquired about musicians that Tito is inspired by. He gushes over James Taylor - the way he sings, his arrangements, and his melodic nature. Tito is also a fan of Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett. As a young teenager, he listened to Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Grand Funk Railroad, Three Dog Night, and was always into soulful Motown music. Latino musicians that Tito is a big fan of include Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Puente, Machito, Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri, La India and Lucy Da Silva. He also mentions the influence of his parents’ musical tastes growing up such as his father’s love of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Andy Williams while his Mom loved Barbra Streisand and Peggy Lee, and then of course always playing Sergio Mendes in the house.
A day in the life of Tito can be crazy with rehearsals, flights, and gigs. With his large 13 piece band it’s also very challenging, but Tito loves playing live gigs so it’s all worth it. Right now he’s touring about 30 to 40 days a year and looking to grow his touring schedule.
Tito Jr. newest album, “Transicion”. Photo Credit: Joyce Michel
Tito has 2 grown children, a daughter in West Palm Beach who has recently given him his newest job of being a grandfather and a son who is a film producer.
Currently Tito is working on a movie about his father as well as a book. The book will be the first to be completed as his mother drafted plenty of material throughout his father’s career. This will be followed by the movie which he envisions as a positive feel good experience reflecting on his father’s early struggles all the way through to his success and providing the audience with a strong Latino role model.
I ask about the rivalry that existed in the golden era of the Palladium Ballroom days between his father, Tito Puente and Machito as they battled it out for over 14 years.
Tito says that it was all about top billing and at the end of the day the listening audience were the winners regardless of the band who claimed top billing. Tito says he always joked with his father that the booking agents seemed to cause the rift, and if they could have just thought about the money that could have been made if they would have smartly managed the rivalry. Eventually his father dissolved his band and became a soloist leaving those days behind.
Many years Tito ago appeared on a Sally Jesse Raphael episode highlighting the popularity of mambo music. Tito Puente happened to also be a guest. They met up in the restroom at one point and Puente said, “Kid I gotta talk to you. They call me the Mambo King because your father’s not around but let me explain itto you. When your father broke the band up, it was all over. He ruined it for everybody. There was no more competition. He left me the baton. We both had great bands and we would have both taken truck loads of Grammys home if he had stuck with it”.
We talk about technology in music and how it has made the creation of music more affordable. Compared to what it cost for him to make his “Eclipse” album in ’94, his newest album only cost half of that. He tells me that he found his trumpet player for “Transicion”, Louis Dowdeswell, on Youtube. Dowdeswell, at that time a 22 year old recently graduated from the Royal Academy of London was in a Youtube video showcasing the “Game of Thrones” score with a big band and Tito knew that’s who he wanted for the trumpet on his album so he messaged him via Facebook and 15 minutes later Dowdeswell responded that he would absolutely love to do it. Tito is always looking for the next “thing” and feels that the Latin music world is so highly male dominated. Tito is very proactive about seeing more females being recognized . They are not getting a fair shake so he would love to be the person who could find the next great female singer.
Most fulfilling to Tito is the response he sees from his fans and watching the dance floor fill up when he’s playing live. His fans love the legacy of his father’s music, but he sees that they are also recognizing his music as well. He feels like he is able to do his own thing and still maintain the integrity of his father’s music.
With his charming and genuine personality, and endless amount of stories about the music industry, we could keep this interview going forever but I know his touring schedule is ramping up and I need to find the next location to get to and enjoy a live performance.
I’m looking forward to joining his fans on the dance floor!
End of Part two during the interrim
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About the author
Tina Trevino is the Senior Design Director of KBL Group Intl. Ltd. in NYC and manages their large creative design team. Partner and Director Community Relations for Latin Business Today. She shares all of her insight on upcoming fashion trends for the season with her team to start the collaborative design process. The company specializes in sweaters, knits and wovens. It provides product for ladies, men, contemporary, jr, and children. Tina specializes in coordinating directly with large US retailers to design exactly into their targeted customer needs. With many years under her belt in the industry, she has also gained the ability to go beyond the fashion component and help to work through sourcing, fitting, production and merchandising issues as well.