16 July 1948, Panama City, Panama. Blades was brought up in a musical family, with his mother Anoland an accomplished pianist and singer, and his father Rubén Snr. a bongo player. In 1966, while still at school, he became a vocalist with the band Conjunto Latino. He then switched to Los Salvajes Del Ritmo, staying with this band until 1969. In 1970, he travelled to New York to record De Panama A Nuevo York with the band of ex-boogaloo star Pete El Conde Rodríguez. After graduating from the University of Panama, he worked as a lawyer with the National Bank of Panama. In 1974, while visiting his family in Miami (they had relocated there in 1973), Blades made a side trip to New York and secured a job in the mailroom of Fania Records. When Tito Allen left Ray Barrettos band in 1974, Blades was recommended to the band leader. Barretto auditioned him in the mailroom, and in July of that year Blades appeared at Madison Square Garden with...
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