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RAMÓN GARCIA

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Ramón Emilio García (March 18, 1907 – March 6, 1989) was a Dominican saxophonist, composer, recording director, and bandleader, born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, in 1907. Known as one of the most skilled and gifted saxophonists in the history of Dominican merengue, Ramón was one of three sons and four daughters of musician Bruno García Sr. and Eleonora Álvarez. While little is documented about his childhood and musical education in Santiago, Ramón began his early artistic career playing alongside his father and siblings Bruno "Brunito" García and Oscar "Niño" García in the Orquesta Lira del Yaque, founded in Santiago in 1910. It's not entirely clear when Ramón joined the Orquesta Lira del Yaque, but the band was reorganized and expanded by Luis Alberti in 1928 and directed by him during Ramón's involvement.

At twenty-three, Ramón decided to relocate to New York City, and one of his first jobs was playing tenor saxophone with Augusto Coen and his Golden Casino Orchestra in the 1930s, featuring Puerto Rican singer Davilita "Pedro Ortiz Dávila." The band took its name from the Golden Casino dance hall situated at 111th Street and Fifth Avenue in East Harlem. In the early 1940s, Ramón initiated an enduring collaboration with his fellow compatriot, musician, composer, and arranger Rafael Petitón Guzmán.

While he was adept at playing many different genres of Latin music in the late 1940s, he began performing merengues with his siblings who had recently arrived in New York City post-World War II, such as noted saxophonist, clarinetist, and bandleader Bruno "Brunito" García. During this era, he was a member of the family orchestra La Dominicana de los Hermanos García with Brunito as director, and Josecito Roman's Orquesta Quisqueya performing in uptown venues like the Hunts Point Palace, Tropicana Ballroom, and Royal Manor, to name a few. In 1949, Ramón also led his outfit, Orquesta Jaragua, a big band that, for a short time, shared the stage and probably some musicians with many of New York's top Dominican musical artists. Throughout the 1950s, Ramón's family band, La Dominicana, constantly played at prominent Manhattan venues showcasing merengue music and dancing.

In the summer of 1953, following almost a decade of performances at premier nightclubs, theaters, and hotels across the city, Ramón seized a significant opportunity that would cement his legacy. Puerto Rican record promoter and founder of Ansonia Records, Rafael "Ralph" Pérez, extended an offer for Ramón to record with the newly established Conjunto Típico Cibaeño, under the direction of Ángel Viloria, who also played the piano accordion. Joined by lead vocalist Dioris Valladares on güira, Willie Sosías on bass, Ramón Quesada on tenor saxophone, and chorus support from Jaime Richetti and Yayo El Indio, Ramón delivered remarkable solos on alto saxophone.

In 1954, Ramón collaborated with Dioris, who had established his orchestra the previous year, and Viloria while producing 78 RPM singles for Ansonia. Following the untimely death of Viloria on August 26, 1954, Ansonia contracted Ramón to establish his own conjunto and commence recording tracks for the label. The band was Conjunto Nuevo Cibao, and the lead vocalist was Dioris Valladares. While Ramón held the formal title of director, there were instances in the press or advertisements for performances where Dioris Valladares was portrayed as the band's director due to promotional choices. The first 78rpm single released consisted of merengues "Como Voy a Gozar" and "La Yegua Herida."

-Jhensen Ortiz

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