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Though diminutive in stature like his racehorse jockey father, Johnny Seguí looms large in the early history of Latin music made in New York, even if you’ve never heard of him. During the 1940s and ‘50s when he worked in NYC, his band (first billed as Los Dandys Del 42, later as Johnnie Seguí And His Orchestra) was quite popular and respected in El Barrio, with several hits to their name that allowed them to play all the top venues and share the stage with the likes of Johnny’s friends and contemporaries, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez and Machito. In addition to pioneering the conjunto format and hot dance repertoire of guaracha, mambo, son montuno and guaguancó in New York, which would become part of the blueprint for the global phenomenon dubbed ‘salsa’ in the 1960s and ‘70s, many great musicians went through the ranks of Segui’s organization, several of whom got their start with Los Dandys and would become far more well-known and popular than their former employer. Towering figures like pianist brothers Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, percussionists Mongo Santamaría, Willie Bobo, Willie Rosario and Fred "Poppy" Pagani, and vocalists Eladio “Yayo El Indio” Peguero, Pedro “Pellín” Rodríguez and Pete Bonet made Seguí’s organization a band to be feared and admired by other orchestra leaders, as readily admitted at the time by Tito Rodríguez, Mario Bauzá and others. A young Joe Quijano received his first opportunity to perform in front of a large audience when Seguí let him sit in and sing a bolero once, and crooner Wilfredo Figueroa, who would become a well-known bolerista and sonero in the following decades, got his first big break with Seguí’s outfit.

-Pablo Yglesias

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