Recollections of Rock and Roll in Puerto Rico
do I start? I guess it would be in grade school at República
del Peru on la Calle Loiza where I went after our
family moved to P.R. after 13 years living in California. It
was hard being el Americano there, and I remember one of the
things I looked forward to was getting off the bus from urbanización Los Angeles where we lived, and going to the
little store next to school where you could get snacks. They
had a juke box which for 25 cents you could hear 6 songs,
and I would play all the old Doo Wop tunes and found more
rock and roll that I really liked. After a while I met some
kids that liked the same kind of music so we would meet each
morning and pool our money and play our fave tunes. At that
time in 1962 I remember that the jukebox had 2 Puertorrican
groups. One was Julito and The Blacknites and my fave one
was The Rocking Chairs, and I can’t for the life of me
remember the name of their songs.
Then I started going to Ramon Power High School and at the
store I met Junior Brown and he was cool, he played guitar
and loved rock and roll and the girls liked him and like me,
he spoke great English so we became good friends and he was
like my mentor. We had started a Doo Wop group with just
Junior playing guitar and about 5 of us singing. Then
suddenly the Beatles seemed to come out of nowhere and it
all changed. I talked my dad into getting me a Harmony
guitar and a Gibson Falcon amp at Musical Trading Company
for $125. and I taught myself all the basic chords. There
were 2 songs that I learned real fast. One was House of the
Rising Sun and the other was Like a Rolling Stone. Junior
found a kid, Geno, that lived across the street from the
high school who had drums and then he brought in Rafi
Battista on bass and Carlos (Cusin) Marcano on rhythm
guitar, and Paquito Rosario on rhythm guitar and me on
rhythm guitar, while Junior played lead guitar and we all
sang and harmonized very well.
Rafi Batista - bass / Carlos (Cusin) Marcano -
rhty. guitar -vocals
Manolito Santos - drums / Charlie Rivera (RIP) (Golun) -
organ - vocals
Paquito Luis Rosario - vocals - rhty.guitar
Romero - lead guitar
Yeah, we were guitaring Heavy and what do you know! This
band became The Starlights who would have at times early on
different drummers, Rafi Gonzalez, Cuco Gonzalez, Carlitos
Perez and Geno, it was dependent on who could play. Rubén
Perez had a TV show on canal 30 called Teen Time and The
Starlights were the house band and we would accompany the
teen stars as their band on tours around the island.
We played at the Miramar Center a lot because Ruben Pérez
was Carlitos’ dad and Carlitos was the official drummer of
Los We which were Perdrito lead guitar, Rubencito Perez
vocals and guitar, Mario Sanchez keyboard and vocals, Willie
We vocals and bass. I wish I knew everyone’s full names but
we all had nick-names back then. And yes mine was Perilla
don’t ask me why!
At Miramar Center we played along with
The Sonset which were
Tommy Huerta on lead guitar, Indio on rhythm guitar and vocals,
Cuco Gonzalez on drums and Dino on bass and vocals. The axman before Tommy
Huerta was Manny who had a Hofner 335 semi-hollow. Shortly
Tommy would leave and Billy B. would take up the lead
guitar spot in the next incarnation of The Sonset. Orly
Vazquez would be the guitar god. Also at Miramar Center were
the Telstars who at that time were Adrian Montijo lead
guitar and vocals, Rafi guitar and vocals, Pete drums,
Victor bass, and Orly V.(Don J) lead guitar and vocals.
Another unsung hero band was The Undertakers who had a
couple of great players in the band. A guy from Cuba named
Reno Habiff on vocals, a great left-handed lead guitar
player whose name someone else can provide. I remember this
because I played with them for a short while and I kinda
think Roberto Puras, bass and vocals, was with us for a
I think after that I met this big Mulato near the jukebox at
the snack store on Calle Loiza.
We got to talking music and he said he played drums and sang
and that he had a band
but that their rhythm guitar player had to go to college and
they were in a bind, as they were thinking of recording a
record and needed someone and he had heard about me being a
Starlight. That guy was to become my best friend till he
passed away some 35 years later. This was Charlie (Golun)
Rivera, or El Gordo as people called him, and the band was
Los X-5 which were made up of the Cabrera brothers lead
guitar and vocals, Jorge bass and vocals, Charlie drums and
vocals, and David Romero (me) rhythm guitar and vocals.
I joined the band and we found ourselves playing all around
doing las fiestas patronales all over the island backing up
Charlie Robles, Glory Vee, Julio Angel, The Caribelles, and
Celia Inez (who use to go to Ramon Power High also). We
would practice at my house in Los Angeles in la marquesina
So we did go and record the record Charlie told me about,
which became Al Compás De La Nueva Ola, the second record
released by a Rock Band in P.R. The first was The Sonset
record, but not by much since both were out at the same
time. I still have a copy of that record, boy the innocence
Los X-5 didn’t last long after that. Half the guys wanted to
go to college but Charlie and I wanted to rock! We just
loved this thing, and at the same time The Starlights lost
Junior Brown and Rafi Gonzalez. Charlie knew how to play
keyboard but hadn’t tried it and he knew of this kid from
Calle Loiza who played drums, Manolito Santiago, so the band
added Charlie on Vox Continental, Manolito on drums and me
on lead guitar.
This band had a great run. We were the house band at Disco A
Go-Go in San Juan, then at TheTrip and at Jack Roachs sailor
bar and puta bar. Anyone remember The Red Door?
If my memory works, around this time The Telstars were kinda
breaking up. Rafi and Victor were leaving, Orly was with The
Sonset, and of The Starlights Cusin Marcano was leaving, so
there was a merging of the bands under the name of The
Adrian was lead guitar and vocals, David rhythm guitar and
vocals, Charlie keys and vocals, Rafi B. bass and vocals,
Manolito drums, and for a while Rafi on guitar and vocals
(he went into the service shortly after).
This turned out to be a pretty good combo. There were
strengths all around but as always change goes on. We got to
the point where Rafi B. wanted to go to school I believe, so
he left, and when our other Rafi Telstar had left, we got a
friend of ours, Eric Erba from this young band called
Challengers who had as lead singer our other friend Reno
Habiff to join the gang.
Eric was a great front man and he played drums. Manolito had
things to do so he left, leaving Adrian, Eric, Charlie and
me. Well, change goes on, I jumped to bass and vocals, Eric
got on the drums and vocals, Charlie stayed at the keys and
vocals, and Adrian was on lead and vocals…still The Telstars.
At this point we met Joey (Lindin) Barbosa, a bass player. I
liked playing bass but guitar was my passion so we got Joey
with us and he was great! Eric still didn’t like playing
drums and singing.
By now it was Beatles White Album – Hendrix –Vanilla Fudge –
Monterey. Things were happening. Adrian and Eric left to
form Abram Shoo with Alberto Carrion keys and vocals, Gonchi
Sifre drums and formerly of The Chessmen, a great band, and
Jorge Casas bass and vocals, formerly of The Challengers.
This was a real good band. Some time after Charlie joined
Abram Shoo also.
So there was this other band, The Gadgets. Alberto guitar,
Noel organ, George bass, Felix drums. Good band, very B-3
influenced and they were going through changes, the bass
player was leaving and Noel also.
Joey and I were looking for a band so we hooked up with
Alberto and Felix, and then we met Chepo, organ B-3. He was
just what was needed at the time. Then we had another break.
Mario Sanchez from Los We became available and we had a lead
vocalist and percussionist. We got the main gig at El 1800,
a popular place on la calle 18 and at Ceasars Palace in el
We had come to the conclusion that there was not much else
we could do in P.R. and we knew there were gigs in St.
Thomas, but that was just a smaller island even though you
were on your own to do and play anything (thanks jack roach
50 -50 -50 ). We took that gig to hone ourselves. There we
met The Foxy Ladies, an all girl group from Philly.
They encouraged us to come to the States since we were
different from the local bands there.
After St. Thomas we were back at Ceasars Palace and then
decided we’ve got to go.
But wait…Mr. Change was breathing down our necks! Felix had
decided that he couldn’t leave P.R. so we started to go
through our contacts and as fate would have it our oldest
friend, Cuco Gonzalez, was going through some stuff with The
Sonset and he was willing to come to the States, so after
some quick practices the band was now
The Requiem Band, and
we were ready for the grand adventure on the mainland!
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