Machito Biography

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Francisco Raúl Grillo, 16 February 1912, Tampa, Florida, USA, d. 15 April 1984, London, England. Raised in Cuba, Machito became a singer and maracas player, working with many of the best-known bands on the island. After arriving in New York, USA, in the late 30s, he became similarly well known as an accomplished player in various Latin-American dance bands. In 1941 he formed his own unit, the Afro-Cubans, and the following year his brother-in-law, Mario Bauza, until then lead trumpeter with Chick Webb, joined him. Under Bauza’s watchful eye, the Afro-Cubans became one of the leading exponents of their particular form of Latin-American music. In the late 40s, and throughout the 50s, Machito’s band regularly teamed up with leading jazz musicians, especially beboppers, for recording sessions, some of the earliest of which were produced by Norman Granz. These artists included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, Buddy Rich, and Howard McGhee. His music appealed greatly to Stan Kenton, helping to prompt Kenton’s long-lasting love affair with Latin rhythms. Machito played percussion instruments on some of Kenton’s recordings, including the original version of ‘The Peanut Vendor’. Machito had a number of successful records during the mambo craze of the 60s, but it was the increasing popularity of salsa that helped to keep him in the front rank of popular entertainment until his death in April 1984, which occurred during an engagement in London.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.