Ángel Salvador Viloria, popularly known as Ángel Viloria, was a Dominican accordionist, pianist, composer, and bandleader who established his career in New York City during the late 1940s and 1950s. He led the most successful merengue group outside of the Dominican Republic and helped popularize merengue in the United States in the early 1950s.
Viloria was born on June 1, 1914 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to Belisa Perez and Maximiliano Viloria, a musician who played the accordion. In 1938, he played piano with Agustín Ovalle’s orquesta “La Benefactor” in Cuidad Trujillo (Santo Domingo) -- both the orchestra and the capital city were named in honor of dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961. In 1946, Viloria was the musical director of the orquesta Tropical led by composer Luis Rivera, performing at the Ariete café located in Santo Domingo. Shortly after, in 1948, Viloria immigrated to New York City to escape Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship and seek better opportunities.
By March 1948, Viloria had emerged on the New York music scene playing piano gigs for local cultural and civic Latin American-Spanish Caribbean clubs. The first iteration of his group Conjunto Tipico Cibaeño was called El Conjunto Cibaeño, which debuted on October 9, 1948 at the St. Nicholas Ballroom in the “El Merengue en N.Y.'' festival. Viloria also worked as a pianist for Radio Hispana WLIB in 1949. His first recording sessions took place that same year in Cuba where he recorded two boleros, “Ballerina” and “Granada,” under the name “Ángel Viloria y su ritmos” for the New York label Margo Records. In the midst of the mambo dance craze, some time between 1950 and 1952, Viloria was introduced to Puerto Rican record promoter and Ansonia Records founder Rafael “Ralph” Pérez through Dominican singer Manolita Rojas. Pérez and Viloria founded the Conjunto Típico Cibaeño, which occasionally consisted of a traditional tambora, a double-headed drum, alto saxophone, güira (wood scraper), and piano accordion. Pérez, with Ángel Viloria as the director and piano accordionist of the Conjunto Típico Cibaeño, incorporated Luis Quintero (tambora) and Jaime Richetti (güira/chorus). The conjunto’s original lead vocalist was Ramón Emilio “Mililo” Morel who, in 1953, recorded the first four merengues for Ansonia Records with the group: “Dolorita,” “Antonio Mi Hijo,” “San Antonio,” and “Ají Caribe.” According to Mililo, Julio Tonos, an Ansonia Records representative in the Dominican Republic, made the decision to not include Mililo’s name in the credits of the 78rpm releases because he disliked his voice. Mililo was then replaced by Dioris Valladares as lead vocalist by the summer of 1953. The group's name was later changed to Ángel Viloria y su Conjunto Típico Cibaeño.