Willie Bobo Day

February 28, 1934 – September 15, 1983

A tribute to the popular percussionist

Drummer, percussionist, and singer Willie Correa (“Willie Bobo”) were born on February 28, 1934, in New York City.

Born in Harlem to parents from Puerto Rico (including a father who played a ten-stringed guitar), Bobo started playing the bongos as a teenager, soon adding drums, congas, and timbales.

He worked as Machito’s band boy in 1947 (which allowed him to see the band’s performances and sometimes sit in on bongos or drums later in the night), played with Perez Prado, and recorded with Mary Lou Williams in 1952; she is the first person to call him Willie Bobo.

He became well known as the bongo player with Tito Puente (1954-57), playing next to Mongo Santamaria who was featured on congas.

Bobo, who guested on a George Shearing album in 1955, left Puente along with Santamaria to become members of Cal Tjader’s group (1958-61).

He next worked with Santamaria (1961-62) and Herbie Mann (1962-63), led a short-lived band, recorded on Cal Tjader’s famous Soul Sauce album, and then led his own successful groups from 1965 on.

Willie Bobo became popular, particularly after recording his hit album Spanish Grease; he occasionally sang (including “Dindi”) and played Latin music that was influenced by r&b and pop while having jazz as its foundation.

Willie Bobo passed away from cancer in 1983 at the age of 49.

He is featured with his band playing “Love’s Theme” in the late 1970s.

-Scott Yanow


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