El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, commonly known as El Gran Combo, is a Puerto Rican Salsa music orchestra. It is Puerto Rico's most successful musical group, and one of Salsa's most famous groups across Latin America. Since many of the genre's legendary singers have been members of the orchestra, the band has been given the moniker La Universidad de la Salsa (The University of Salsa) El Gran Combo was founded in May 1962, by Rafael Ithier.
El Gran Combo was founded in May 1962, by Rafael Ithier. Ithier is still, as of 2008[update], the orchestra's pianist and musical director. The group is currently promoting their latest album titled Arroz con Habichuela (Rice and Beans). They still perform today after 40 years together.
* 1 History
o 1.1 The Birth of El Gran Combo
o 1.2 First albums
o 1.3 Near death experience
o 1.4 The 1970s
o 1.5 Recent years
o 1.6 The new millennium
* 2 Discography
* 3 Current members
o 3.1 Singers
o 3.2 Orchestra
* 4 Former members
o 4.1 Singers
o 4.2 Percussion
o 4.3 Bass
o 4.4 Brass section
o 4.5 Others
* 5 Bibliography
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links
 The Birth of El Gran Combo
Rafael Ithier had been a member of Rafael Cortijo's "Cortijo y su Combo" orchestra, travelling to the eastern United States before forming El Gran Combo. For their first gig, the orchestra was signed by the legendary Cuban comedian, writer and businessman Alvarez Guedes, who hired them to support Dominican singer Joseito Mateo on one of his albums for his record company Gema Records. It was Alvarez Guedes himself who baptized them with the name of El Gran Combo.
The members that met for this first incarnation were Ithier, Eddie Perez, Hector Santos, Rogelio "Kito" Velez, Mart?n Qui?ones, Miguel Cruz and Roberto Roena. That first album was titled Men?ame Los Mangos, El Gran Combo con Joseito Mateo (Shake My Handles, or Shake My Mangoes, depending on the double meaning of the word Mango).
The group met again to define the foundations of the orchestra and they chose singers Daniel V?zquez, Pell?n Rodr?guez and Chiqui Garc?a. On May 21, 1962, El Gran Combo was heard for the first time on Puerto Rican radio. Later on, they became the on-studio musicians of the live television show, "La Taberna India", sponsored by India Beer.
After their live debut at Hotel La Concha in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Chiqui Garc?a left the orchestra. Sammy Ayala, who had also played with Ithier in the Cortijo orchestra, recommended the hiring of Andy Monta?ez. Felipe Rodr?guez, another legendary Salsa singer, also followed the group's career closely, sometimes even making suggestions to Ithier.
 First albums
On November 20, 1963, El Gran Combo released their first group album, Ac?ngana, with Rodr?guez and Monta?ez as leading voices. The album became a number one hit in New York, Panama and Puerto Rico. Their success opened doors for them in many Latin American markets and they gained an exclusivity spot in Puerto Rican television show El Show de las 12. The album also reached gold status.
On 1964, musician El?as L?pez joined the orchestra. However, the excess of exposure helped their demands to decline. Still, in 1967, their album Boogaloo con el Gran Combo also reached gold status. In 1969, Roena and L?pez left the orchestra to form the Apollo Sound together. Despite all this, that same year the group is awarded with an Ag?eybana de Oro Award in Puerto Rico.
 Near death experience
On February 15, 1970, the members of El Gran Combo shared a near death experience. They were returning to Puerto Rico from Cura?ao, and had to stop at Las Am?ricas International Airport in Santo Domingo. One of the band's members had a bad feeling about the flight they were about to embark on, and the orchestra decided not to take that flight, which would turn out to be the Dominicana Airlines DC-9 that crashed off the Caribbean coast.
 The 1970s
In 1970, their contract with Gema Records wasn't renewed. Despite offers from the renowned Motown label, El Gran Combo decided to produce their own albums, under the label "Combo Records". Their first album under their label, EGC, is titled Estamos Primeros.
In 1971, El Gran Combo introduced the trombone to their list of instruments. The trombone was played by Fanny Ceballos. Soon after, their production named De Punta a Punta (slang for "From Coast to Coast") was released. In 1973, Pell?n Rodriguez left the group to continue on with a solo career. Legendary Salsa musician Jerry Concepci?n and the well known sportscaster Rafael Bracero, friends of Ithier, recommended Ithier to replace Rodr?guez with Charlie Aponte.
In 1973, El Gran Combo sang in front of 50,000 fans at the famous Yankee Stadium in New York City as the opening act for the Fania All-Stars' sold out concert.
Monta?ez left the band in early 1977 and went to live in Venezuela, where he receive a good contract to replace Oscar D'Le?n in another orchestra, Dimension Latina. Jerry Rivas was then chosen to join the orchestra. Both Rivas and Aponte are still members of the orchestra to this day. The success of this new duo was proved with their 1977 album International and 1978's En Las Vegas which reached gold record status.
In 1975, El Gran Combo en Navidad, a Christmas album, was released, with Mart?n Qui?ones appearing as Santa Claus in the album's cover. After a car accident in early 1977, Qui?ones was replaced in the band by his son, Mart?n Qui?ones Jr. He stayed until 1979, being replaced by Luis D?az.
 Recent years
The band continues to receive numerous awards in all Latin America. In 1984, they traveled to Alaska where they received a great welcome. Soon after they release their album titled Breaking the Ice which garnered them their first Grammy nomination.
In 1982 they celebrated their 20th anniversary playing at the Madison Square Garden. They also reached Europe that year playing in Paris, France.
In the early 90s, they were honored in the city of Madrid, Spain to open the decade in the right track. In March 29, 1992, they celebrated a huge concert in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in front of 30,000 people.
 The new millennium
In 2002, El Gran Combo celebrated their 40th anniversary with two sold-out concerts at the Ruben Rodr?guez Coliseum in Bayam?n, Puerto Rico. This celebration spawned a renowned album that was recognized as one of the best of the year. A year later, they received a Grammy for Best Tropical Album. Among other musicians, they are one of the 'the enduring superstars of the island' 
As of 2006[update], the orchestra has released over 40 albums or CD's, and it has received many awards, including golden albums, a "Calendario de Plata" in Mexico, a "Golden Combo" in Colombia, a "Paoli Award" in their native Puerto Rico, an honorable distinction in Spain and countless others.
In 2006, they released their latest album titled Arroz con Habichuela. It has already spawned three hit singles. The first one titled "No Hay Manera" ("There's No Way"), the title song, and "Si La Vez Por Ah?".
In 2007, El Gran Combo performed two massive concerts at the Jos? Miguel Agrelot Coliseum to celebrate their 45th anniversary.
Album Year Label
Men?ame los Mangos, el Gran Combo con Joseito Mateo 1962 Gema Records
El Gran Combo... de Siempre 1963 Gema Records
Ac?ngana 1963 Gema Records
Ojos Chinos, Jala Jala 1964 Gema Records
El Caballo Pelotero 1965 Gema Records
Traigo un Tumba'o, Mene?to Me 1965 Gema Records
El Swing del Gran Combo con Pell?n y Andy 1966 Gema Records
El Gran Combo En Navidad 1967 Gema Records
Maldito Callo 1967 Gema Records
Esos Ojitos Negros 1967 Gema Records
Fiesta Con El Gran Combo 1967 Gema Records
Boleros Rom?nticos Con El Gran Combo 1967 Gema Records
T? Quer?as Boogaloo, Toma Boogaloo 1967 Gema Records
Pata Pata, Jala Jala Y Boogaloo 1967 Gema Records
Boogaloos Con El Gran Combo 1967 Gema Records
Tangos 1967 Gema Records
Merengues 1968 Gema Records
Guarachas 1968 Gema Records
Bombas, Bombas, Bombas 1968 Gema Records
Los Nenes Sicod?licos 1968 Gema Records
Latin Power 1968 Gema Records
Smile, It's El Gran Combo 1968 Gema Records
Este Si Que Es El Gran Combo 1969 Gema Records
Estamos Primeros 1970 EGC Records
De Punta A Punta 1971 EGC Records
Por El Libro 1972 EGC Records
En Acci?n 1973 EGC Records
N?mero 5 1973 EGC Records
Disfr?telo Hasta El Cabo 1974 EGC Records
N?mero 7 1975 EGC Records
Los Sorullos 1975 EGC Records
Mejor Que Nunca 1976 EGC Records
Internacional 1977 EGC Records
En Las Vegas 1978 Combo Records
Aqu? No Se Sienta Nadie 1979 Combo Records
Unity 1980 Combo Records
Happy Days 1981 Combo Records
Nuestro Aniversario 1982 Combo Records
20th Anniversary 1982 Combo Records
La Universidad De La Salsa 1983 Combo Records
In Alaska: Breaking The Ice 1984 Combo Records
Innovations 1985 Combo Records
Nuestra Musica 1985 Combo Records
El Gran Combo Y Su Pueblo 1986 Combo Records
25th Anniversary 1987 Combo Records
Rom?ntico Y Sabroso 1988 Combo Records
Amame 1989 Combo Records
Latin Up! 1990 Combo Records
Erupci?n 1991 Combo Records
Gracias 1992 Combo Records
First Class International 1993 Combo Records
La Ruta Del Sabor 1994 Combo Records
Para Todos Los Gustos 1995 Fonovisa Records
Por Todo Lo Alto 1996 Fonovisa Records
35 Years Around The World 1997 Combo Records
Pasaporte Musical 1998 Combo Records
Nuevo Milenio, El Mismo Sabor 2001 Combo Records
40 Aniversario 2002 Combo Records
Estamos Aqui...?Y De Verdad! 2004 Sony Discos Norte
Arroz con Habichuela 2006 Sony Discos Norte
Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso 2009 Sony Discos Norte
 Current members
* Charlie Aponte (1973?present)
* Jerry Rivas (1977?present)
* Luis "Papo" Rosario (1980?present)
* Rafael Ithier - leader, director (1962?present); piano (1962?2006; except on live performances)
* Willie Sotelo piano (2006?present)
* Eddie P?rez - saxophone (1962?present)
* Freddie Miranda - saxophone (1980?present)
* Luis "Taty" Maldonado - trumpet (1970?present)
* Victor "Cano" E. Rodriguez - trumpet(1980?present)
* Mois?s Nogueras - trombone (1991?present)
* Freddy Rivera - bass guitar (1989?present)
* Domingo "Cuqui" Santos - timbales (1988?present)
* Miguel "Pollo" Torres - conga (1979?present)
* Richie Bastar - bongo (2001?present)
* Jorge Torres - sound engineer
* David Marrero - support personnel
 Former members
* Pell?n Rodr?guez (1962?1973)
* Andy Monta?ez (1962?1977)
* Marcos Monta?ez (1973)
* "Chiqui" Rivera (1962)
* Milton Correa - timbales (1962?1970)
* Miguel Marrero - timbales (1970?1979)
* Edgardo Morales - timbales (1979?1988)
* Roberto Roena - bongos (1962?1969)
* Mart?n Qui?ones - conga (1962?1977)
* Mart?n Qui?ones, Jr. - conga (1962?1979)
* Luis D?az - conga (1979)
* Miguel Cruz - bass guitar (1962?1975)
* Fernando Perez - bass guitar (1975?1989)
 Brass section
* Mike Torres - trumpet (1969)
* Epifanio "Fanny" Ceballos - trombone (1971?1991)
* To?ito V?zquez - trombone (1991)
* Hector Santos (1962?1969)
* Rogelio "Kito" V?lez (1962?1964)
* Daniel V?zquez (1962)
* Mickey Duchesne (1962?1969)
* Elias Lopez (1964?1969)
* Edwin Cort?s (1969)
* "Baby" Serrano - Bongos (1969?1984)
* Jos? "Keko" Duchesne - Saxophone (1969?1980)
* Tommy S?nchez (1969)
* Gerardo "Grillo" Cruz-Trumpet (1969?1979)
* Miguel Laboy-Bongos (1984?2001)
* Mike Ramos-Coro (1969?1980)
* Edwin Gonz?lez (1979)
* Nelson Feliciano-Trumpet (1979?1980)
* Paquito Guzman (Coros; Recording Sessions 1971?1976)
* Elliot Romero (Coros; Recording Sessions 1973?1977)
* Yayo "El Indio" (Coros; Recording Sessions 1977?1979)
* Tito Henriquez (Coros; Recording Sessions 1978)
* Eddie W. Feyjoo (Trumpet; Recording 1980s-????)
* Keeling, Stephen: Rough Guides, Rough Guides, 2008, ISBN 978-1-85828-354-8
* Marino, John: Wiley Publishing Inc., 2008, ISBN 978-0-470-25711-1
* Let's Go Inc: MacMillan, 2007, ISBN 978-0-312-37447-1 ISBN 10-0-312-3744-X Third Edition
* Peffer, Randal: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, 2002, ISBN 1 74059 274 3
 See also
* List of famous Puerto Ricans
1. ^ Keeling and Rough Guides: "The Rough Guide to Puerto Rico", page 377. Rough Guides, 2008.
2. ^ Frommer's Puerto Rico: Marino, p. 37
3. ^ Lonely Planet Puerto Rico: Peffer Published, p. 42
 External links
* Official website
* Biography, Discography, Photos, Lyrics (SalsaClasica.com)
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Gran_Combo_de_Puerto_Rico"
Categories: Puerto Rican musical groups | Salsa music groups | Latin Grammy Award winners