A Tribute To Willie “Bobo” Correa
Today while listening to internet radio, I head a track from Afro-Jazz musician Willie “Bobo” Correa. I was so touched by the track, that it inspired this blog. Here goes…Today I pay tribute to a man and a jazz legend Willie “Bobo” Correa, gone but not forgotten by his fans – young and old. Willie Bobo was the stage name of William Correa (February 28, 1934 – September 15, 1983) was an American jazz percussionist who grew up in in Spanish Harlem, New York City. He made his name in Latin Jazz circles and specifically Afro-Cuban jazz, in the 1960s and ’70s, where the timbales became his favoured instrument. He met Mongo Santamaria shortly after his arrival in New York and studied with him while acting as his translator, and later at age 19 joined Tito Puente for four years. During the early ’50s, the nickname Bobo is said to have been bestowed by the jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams.
His first major exposure was when he joined George Shearing’s band on the album The Shearing Spell. After leaving Shearing, Cal Tjader asked Bobo and Santamaria to become part of the Cal Tjader Modern Mambo Quintet, who released several albums as the mambo craze reached fever pitch in the late ’50s. Reuniting with his mentor Santamaria in 1960, the pair released the album Sabroso! for the Fantasy label. He later formed his own group releasing Do That Thing/Guajira with Tico and Bobo’s Beat and Let’s Go Bobo for Roulette, without achieving huge penetration.
After the runaway success of Tjader’s Soul Sauce, in which he was heavily involved, Bobo formed a new band with the backing of Verve Records, releasing Spanish Grease, of which the title track is probably his most well known tune. Highly successful at this attempt, Bobo released a further seven albums with Verve.
In the late ’70s, he moved out to Los Angeles, where he worked as a session musician for Carlos Santana among others, as well as being a regular in the band for Bill Cosby’s variety show. In the late ’70s, he recorded a couple of albums for Blue Note and Columbia Records. Willie’s health deteriorated and he later died at age 49, succumbing to cancer.