Boogaloo or Bugalú (also: Shing-a-ling, Latin Boogaloo, Latin R&B) is a genre of
Latin music and dance that was popular in the United States in the 1960s.
Boogaloo originated in New York City among teenage Cubans, Puerto Ricans
and others. The style was a fusion of popular African American R&B and Soul,
with Mambo and Son Montuno. Boogaloo employed English as well as Spanish
lyrics, and entered the American mainstream primarily through the American
Bandstand television program.
In the 1950s and 60s, African Americans in the United States listened to various
styles of music, including jump blues, R&B and doo-wop. Puerto Ricans in New
York City shared in these tastes, but also listened to genres like mambo or
chachacha. There was a mixing of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, African Americans
and others in clubs, whose bands tried to find common musical ground. Boogaloo
was a result of this search, a marriage of many styles including Cuban son
montuno, guaguancó, guajira, guaracha, mambo, and American R&B and soul.
Boogaloo can be seen as "the first Nuyorican music" (René López), and has
been called "the greatest potential that Cuban rhythms had to really cross over in
terms of music" (Izzy Sanabria). Styles like doo wop also left a sizable influence,
through Tony Pabón (of Pete Rodríguez Band), Bobby Marín, King Nando,
Johnny Colón and his vocalists Tony Rojas and Tito Ramos.
Though boogaloo did not become mainstream nationwide until later in the
decade, two early Top 20 hits came in 1963: Mongo Santamaría's performance
of the Herbie Hancock piece Watermelon Man and Ray Barretto's El Watusi.
Inspired by these two successes, a number of bands began imitating their
infectious rhythms (which were Latinized R&B), intense conga rhythms and clever
novelty lyrics. Boogaloo was the only Cuban-style rhythm which acquired English
lyrics – some of the time. Established Cuban-influenced orchestras also recorded
the occasional boogaloo, including Perez Prado, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente.
Most of the other groups were young musicians – some were teenagers – the
Latin Souls, the Lat-Teens, Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers, Joe Bataan and the
The term boogaloo was probably coined in about 1966 by Richie Ray and Bobby
Cruz. The biggest boogaloo hit of the 60s was "Bang Bang" by the Joe Cuba
Sextet, which sold over one million copies in 1966. El Pito was another hit by this
popular combo. Hits by other groups included Johnny Colón's "Boogaloo Blues",
Pete Rodríguez's "I Like It like That", and Hector Rivera's "At the Party".
The same year as Joe Cuba's pop success, 1966, saw the closing of New York
City's Palladium Ballroom, when the venue, the home of big band mambo for
years, lost its liquor license. The closing marked the end of mainstream
mambo, and boogaloo ruled the Latin charts for several years before salsa
began to take over. At the same time several other rhythmical inventions were
going the rounds: the dengue, the jala-jala and the shing-a-ling were all
offshoots of the mambo and cha-cha-cha.
The older generation of Latin musicians have been accused of using their
influence to repress the young movement, for commercial reasons. There was
certainly pressure on booking agents by the established bands. The craze was
mostly over by 1970, perhaps because of the hostility of established bands and
key booking agents; the reason is uncertain. Almost every major and minor Latin
dance artist of the time had recorded at least a few boogaloos on their albums. It
had been an intense, if brief, musical movement, and the music is still highly
The Latin boogaloo bands were mostly led by young, sometimes even teenage
musicians from New York's Puerto Rican community. These included, but weren’t
limited to, Bataan, Cuba, Bobby Valentín, The Latin Souls, The Lat-Teens,
Johnny Colon, Willie Colón and The Latinaires. As such, Latin boogaloo can be
seen as "the first Nuyorican music" (René López), and has been called "the
greatest potential that (Latinos) had to really cross over in terms of music" (Izzy
Sanabria). However, Latino musicians and composers also made a big
contribution to doo-wop.
Latin boogaloo also spread throughout the wider Latin music world, especially in
Puerto Rico, where top band El Gran Combo released many boogaloos. Latin
music scenes in Peru, Colombia, Panama and elsewhere also embraced the
boogaloo. Though the dance craze only lasted until 1968/69, Latin boogaloo was
popular enough that almost every major and minor Latin dance artist of the time
recorded at least a few boogaloos on their albums. That included boogaloos by
long-time veteran, mambo-era musicians such as Eddie Palmieri and his Aye
Que Rico or Tito Puente's Hit the Bongo.
The boogaloo was dead by the end of 1969. What caused the fairly rapid end of
the boogaloo's reign is in doubt. According to several sources, jealous older
Latin music artists colluded with record labels (in particular, Fania), radio DJs,
and dance hall promoters to blacklist boogaloo bands from venues and radio.
Alternatively, it was a fad which had run out of steam. Its demise allowed older
musicians to make a comeback in the New York scene. The explosive success of
salsa in the early 1970s saw former giants like Puente and the Palmieri Brothers
return to the top, while most Latin boogaloo bands went out of business (Joe
Bataan and Willie Colón being two notable exceptions).
Latin boogaloo remains popular to this day in Cali, Colombia, where the genre is
played extensively, along with salsa and pachanga, in various FM and AM radio
stations and hundreds of dance clubs. The Caleños prefer their boogaloo sped
up, from 33 to 45 RPM, to match the city's fast dance style.It is also a list
available through HLB – part of the WWAVRC group.
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