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Poncho Sánchez: 1951—: Jazz Percussionist, Vocalist

Poncho And The Conga

Fortunately Sánchez remained open to a new thrill—his maiden tap on conga drums. His father bought the first drum; a second one was his own purchase, with money saved from singing with the Halos. Enthralled, he thumped congas along with his siblings' records. At Los Angeles's Griffith Park, he attempted to join the Sunday morning drummers, but was met with rebuffs from Cubans and Puerto Ricans until he proved himself worthy of the staunch Latino traditionalists. One of his earliest career contacts was with the Five Ortiz Brothers, who later developed their own 14-man salsa band, Son Mayor, which showcased bongos and the tres, a six-string acoustic guitar.

Like most young dreamers, Sánchez filled the garage with practice sets to recordings of the musica Latina of his day. In 1969 he sang with the Young Set at his brother's wedding, one of many chances to play before an audience. In December of 1975, at Concerts by the Sea, a jazz club in Redondo Beach, a friend got him an introduction to his hero, Cal Tjader. When Tjader's conga master left, Sanchez competed with other percussionists for the position. After the first audition, Tjader invited him to sit in at a Coconut Grove engagement for New Year's Eve, opposite scat singer Carmen McRae. That night expanded into a seven-year commitment to Tjader's band, which ended on May 5, 1982, when Tjader died in the Philippines at age 57.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Nate Smith Biography - Fought His Way into the Union to Theodosius II BiographyPoncho Sánchez: 1951—: Jazz Percussionist, Vocalist Biography - A Home Filled With Music, Poncho And The Conga, Sánchez On His Own, Still Jammin'