Today is the Birthday of the “Other” Tito.
Tito Rodríguez was known by many fans as El Inolvidable (The Unforgettable One), according to his Wikipedia bio. He was born January 4, 1923 in Santurce, Puerto Rico, where he was always surrounded by musical toys, such as guitars, pianos and vibes. His older brother, Johnny, 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.
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, and Se Fue la Comparsa. In 1942, Rodríguez joined the band of Xavier Cugat, and recorded Bim, Bam, Bum and Ensalada de Congas.
In 1947, Rodríguez made his solo debut and finally organized his own band, 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 recorded under the band's new name that became a hit was "Bésame La Bembita" (Kiss My Big Lips). In 1952, he was honored for having developed his own unique singing style by the Century Conservatory of Music of New York. His orchestra won the Gran Trofeo Award for two consecutive years.
In the mid-50s a feud erupted between the "two Titos," Rodriquez and Tito Puente. That fued 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.
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 tried his luck with boleros and recorded various albums, which gave way to various hit songs, particularly Inolvidable (Unforgettable) and En la Soledad (In Solitude), which are considered by many to be his most successful songs.
Rodríguez returned to Puerto Rico in 1970 where he produced his own television show. 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 on February 2, 1973 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He 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.