Joe Cuba

Cuba was born Gilberto Miguel Calderon in New York City. His parents immigrated from Puerto Rico to New York City during the 1920s. They settled in Spanish Harlem which is a Latino neighborhood in Manhattan. Cuba was born in an apartment where his father owned a candy shop on the ground floor. His father was the founder of the Devils stickball team. Stickball was the most popular sport in the area. Cuba broke his leg and began playing the conga. He continued practicing between school and free time. He graduated high school and joined an orchestra. He was 19 when he started playing for J. Panama. Also, he joined a band called La Alfarona X. Cuba entered college to study law after the group disbanded. He attended a concert where Tito Puente’s “Abaniquito” was performed. He introduced himself to Tito as a fan and student, and they quickly developed a friendship that would last a lifetime. Cuba was inspired by this event to form his own band. His agent suggested that he change his band’s name to the Joe Cuba Sextet from the Jose Calderon Sextet. The Joe Cuba Sextet, now known as the Joe Cuba Sextet, made its debut at the Stardust Ballroom in 1954. Cuba recorded “To Be With You” in 1962 with Cheo Feliciano’s vocals and Jimmy Sabater Sr.’s singing. The group became very popular in New York’s Latin community. Cuba’s lyrics were written in a mix of English and Spanish, making them an integral part of the Nuyorican Movement. The Sextet’s first crossover hit was in 1965 with “El Pito” (I Never Go back to Georgia), a Latin-soul fusion. Dizzy Gillespie introduced the iconic Afro-Cuban song “Manteca” with the “Never Go back to Georgia” chant. Sabater revealed later that “none” of them had ever been to Georgia. Cuba, along with Ray Barretto and Richie Ray were at the forefront in New York’s Latin Soul movement, blending American R.

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