In 1964, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Johnny Pacheco and his friend Jerry Masucci started a tiny record label called Fania. The company grew from very small beginnings (Pacheco delivered their first records personally to music stores from the trunk of his car) to become the powerhouse of Latin music known as the Motown of salsa.
"Salsa" music grew out of the 1960s Latin soul and boogaloo movement. Fania became a movement of its own.
By 1968, Fania Records had signed a mind-boggling roster of top Latin musicians, like Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon and Hector LaVoe. They decided to throw them all together in a touring and recording group called the Fania All-Stars.
The Fania All-Stars sold out club dates and huge concert venues in Puerto Rico, Chicago and Panama, and played to an audience of over 50,000 at Yankee Stadium in 1973. That was topped by their performance in 1974 at the 80,000 seat Stadu du Hai in Kinshasa, Zaire.
Changing musical fashions and business woes contributed to the end of the All-Stars, and eventually the record label was sold. The current owners have done a good job of keeping the history of the label alive, and have issued some never-before-released material.
Listen for the Fania All-Stars on Jazz Caliente this week. I'll play their version of "Soul Makossa" from the 1973 concert in Puerto Rico.
Here's an enlightening segment all about Fania Records from the great PBS series "Latin Music USA."
Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio