The Birth of Salsa
Witness “the Birth of Salsa” at the Cheetah Club: the moment when many strands of music converged in New York to create “the Latin Sound of the 70s.” LATIN MUSIC USA airs Friday, April 28 and Friday, May 5 at 9/8C on PBS (check local listings).
SMITS: By the early '70s, Fania was set to explode.
The catalyst was a single night's concert
in a former roller-skating rink in midtown Manhattan,
the Cheetah Club.
The label had gathered its best talent
to create the Fania All-Stars, led by Johnny Pacheco.
They were a supergroup, the cream of New York's Latin scene,
though they didn't sound like it at the afternoon's rehearsal.
MASUCCI: That day, when they were rehearsing,
it was horrendous.
And we were saying, "This is gonna be terrible."
It was like a...
a corral full of peacocks.
Really, it-it was not easy.
Uh, the egos... I remember that I had brought a chart
that Hector and I had written
and I won't say who did it,
but one of the old timers took it and threw it on the floor
and we couldn't play it, so I was very pissed.
But Jerry said,
"Ah, take it easy, Willie..." So I went and I played.
And we did it and it was great.
SANABRIA: The place was completely packed.
The police and firemen came, you know, they blocked...
people couldn't get in, there's a line around the block, boom.
After the third number, we knew it was a happening.
MASUCCI: That was one of the most
amazing nights that you could ever witness in music.
SMITS: That night at the Cheetah
has been called the Birth of Salsa.
It was the moment when many strands of music converged
in New York to create the Latin sound of the '70s.
(song ends, crowd cheering)