Tito Rodríguez

Tito Rodríguez
Background information
Birth name Pablo Rodríguez Lozada
Also known as "El Inolvidable"
(The Unforgettable One)
Born January 4, 1923
Santurce, Puerto Rico
Origin Puerto Rican
Died February 28, 1973(1973-02-28) (aged 50)
New York City, NY
Genres Puerto Rican music, Boleros, mambo
Occupation(s) Bandleader, composer, arranger, instrumentalist, television host
Instruments Timbales
Years active 1936–1973
Labels United Artists, Tico, Musicor, RCA, TR Records, West Side Latino
Associated acts Cheo Feliciano, Tito Rodríguez, Jr.
Notable instruments
Timbales, guitar, vibes, bongós

Tito Rodríguez (January 4, 1923 – February 28, 1973) was a popular 1950s and 1960s Puerto Rican singer and bandleader. He is known by many fans as "El Inolvidable" (The Unforgettable One), a moniker based on his most popular song, a bolero written by Cuban composer Julio Gutiérrez .

Early years

Rodríguez (birth name: Pablo Rodríguez Lozada [note 1]) was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, His father was from Puerto Rico and his mother from Cuba. The vocalist, percussionist, bandleader, composer, and record producer, was equally talented as an uptempo sonero and a romantic singer. . He was always surrounded by musical toys, such as guitars, pianos and Vibes.His older brother, Johnny Rodríguez was a popular song composer and bandleader, who inspired the younger Rodríguez to become a musician. In 1936, 13-year-old Rodríguez joined the group of Ladislao (El Maestro Ladí) Martínez, "Conjunto de Industrias Nativas", as a singer and when he was 16 years old he participated in a recording with the renowned Cuarteto Mayarí. In 1940, Rodríguez emigrated to New York City shortly after his parents, José and Severina, died. He went to live with his brother Johnny, who had been living there since 1935.[1]

Musical career

In New York, Rodríguez found a job as a singer and bongó player for the orchestra of Eric Madriguera. In 1941, he recorded "Amor Guajiro", "Acércate Más" (Come Closer) and "Se Fue la Comparsa". In 1942, Rodríguez joined the band of Xavier Cugat, and recorded "Bim, Bam, Bum" and "Ensalada de Congas" (Conga Salad).[2]

Rodríguez joined and served in the U.S. Army for one year. After he was discharged, he returned to New York where he joined the orchestra of José Curbelo. On one occasion, the band performed at the China Doll Cabaret. There he met a young Japanese chorus girl by the name of Tobi Kei (b. Takeko Kunimatsu, January 23, 1925, Bellingham, Washington, USA), who eventually became his wife.[2]

Solo debut

In 1947, Rodríguez made his "solo" debut and finally organized his own band, which he named "Los Diablos del Mambo". He renamed his band "Los Lobos del Mambo" and later dropped the name altogether, deciding to go with the "The Tito Rodríguez Orchestra". The first song that he recorded under the band's new name which became a "hit" was "Bésame La Bembita" (Kiss My Big Lips). In 1952, he was honored for having developed his own unique singing style (early in his career he had been heavily influenced, as had so many other singers, by the Cuban vocalist Miguelito Valdés) by the "Century Conservatory of Music of New York". His orchestra won the "Gran Trofeo Award" for two consecutive years.[1]

In 1953, Rodríguez heard a percussionist by the name of Cheo Feliciano. Rodríguez was so impressed with Feliciano that he offered him a job in his band as a band boy. Rodríguez discovered that Feliciano also knew how to sing and gave him an opportunity to sing at the popular Palladium Ballroom. Eventually, Feliciano went to work for another band, but the friendship between the two lasted for the rest of their lives. Among the other orchestras that played at the Palladium were the Machito, Tito Puente and Charlie Palmieri orchestras. A rivalry, which was to last for years, quickly developed between the two Titos. The popular Latin music craze at the time was the chachachá and the mambo.


The feud between the two Titos was reflected on some of Rodriguez's recordings. "Avísale a Mi Contrario [Que Aquí Estoy Yo]" (Tell My Counterpart That I Am Here) and "Que Pena Me Da" (I Feel Pity), are just two examples of the competitive feelings between them.[1]


With the beginning of the 1960s, the popularity gained by rock music brought changes. Latin bands began to switch their styles and started playing more salsa and boogaloo, which was more attractive to Latin youth of the day. Rodríguez then tried his luck with boleros and recorded various albums, which gave way to various hit songs, particularly "Inolvidable" (Unforgettable), composed by Julio Gutiérrez, and "En la soledad", (In Solitude), composed by Puchi Balseiro, which are considered by many to be his most successful songs. They sold over a million and a half copies world-wide. He also produced records for other groups, such as Los Hispanos and Los Montemar.[1]

Selected discography

External audio
You may listen to Tito Rodríguez's "Cara De Payaso" on YouTube.

Represented by Sony International (née Columbia Records.) Most of these albums were originally record under the Musicor label, later Musicor was sold to West side Latino records. Tito Rodriguez also recorded for RCA records, Seeco Records, SMC, United Artist Records and his own label TR records.In which you can find some great selections of his music.

Later years

Rodríguez returned to Puerto Rico in 1970 and built a Japanese-style house in Santurce, where he lived with his family. Rodríguez produced his own television show called "El Show de Tito Rodríguez" which was transmitted through San Juan's television Channel 7 (whose call letters were WRIK-TV at the time). Among the guest stars that appeared on his show were Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett, Shirley Bassey, Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda. Rodríguez also founded his own recording studio/label called TR Records.

Rodríguez's last public appearance was with Machito and his band on February 2, 1973 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Tito Rodríguez died of leukemia on February 28, 1973.


In April 1999, Tito Rodríguez was represented by his son, Tito Rodríguez Jr., in the induction ceremonies of the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.[2]

The Tito Rodríguez's Japanese-style house in Puerto Rico is featured in tours of the San Juan metropolitan area. The aforementioned Cheo Feliciano recorded a tribute to Rodríguez honoring his memory.[2]

In August 2010, reggae band Cultura Profética released the song "Me faltabas tú" on the album "La Dulzura", where the band plays Tito's song in a modern bolero style.[2]


  1. This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Rodríguez and the second or maternal family name is Lozada.

See also


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