The success of the Cheetah concert was not enough to convince Jerry Masucci that the new conglomerate of stars known as the Fania All Stars would be able to fill a large stadium. I had brought the music of Fania Records to Puerto Rico on a trip that I made expressly to New York. From there, I began working as an artistic promoter with Fania Records, until I became Manager of Promotions and personal consultant to Masucci. All the important decisions were consulted with me, and no one else. The Fania All Stars went to Puerto Rico only because I insisted on it. I was the one who convinced Masucci to sponsor this first show, and I organized the entire production. ...MORE >
The success of the Cheetah concert was not enough to convince Jerry Masucci that the new conglomerate of stars known as the Fania All Stars would be able to fill a large stadium. I had brought the music of Fania Records to Puerto Rico on a trip that I made expressly to New York. From there, I began working as an artistic promoter with Fania Records, until I became Manager of Promotions and personal consultant to Masucci. All the important decisions were consulted with me, and no one else. The Fania All Stars went to Puerto Rico only because I insisted on it. I was the one who convinced Masucci to sponsor this first show, and I organized the entire production. I remember Masucci challenged me, offering me one dollar for every person who would enter the coliseum. I accepted the challenge.
At the time, Puerto Rico was inaugurating the Roberto Clemente coliseum in Hato Rey, with a capacity for 11,184 people, commemorating Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane accident as he was transporting food and aid to Nicaragua. I went to see Roberto Santana, who at the time was the manager of this new coliseum. I took with me a $5,000 deposit, as well as an insurance policy for $100,000. The Fania All Stars show was the venue's first concert. The day before, a boxing event with Wilfredo Gómez took place. The following day was an event that all of Puerto Rico anticipated: the debut appearance by the Fania All Stars in San Juan.
In order to achieve this, I negotiated a promotional exchange with the AM radio station WKVM (known as KVM La Vaquita de Leche). It was the station that generated hits, covering all of Puerto Rico. In that station, I had achieved the feat of having 28 songs in heavy rotation at the same time, with the help of various radio DJs who I managed to become friends with, such as José Carlos Colón, Alfonso “El Loco Loco”, Junior Vázquez, Luisito Hernández and Eduardo González. Among those songs, I had managed to program six tracks by the Fania All Stars: “Ahora Vengo Yo,” “Estrellas de Fania,” “Anacaona,” “Quítate Tú,” “Macho del Cimarrón,” and “Ponte Duro,” regardless of their length.
I also managed to turn Celia Cruz into a star with an old record by Tito Puente. When she was recently signed to Vaya Records, I turned the song “Bemba Colorá” into a hit, as an introduction to her future recordings. It was this song, in fact, that opened the door for Celia to be invited into the Fania All Stars. In similar fashion, I managed to get 36 songs programmed in the WCMN radio station, in the town of Arecibo.
I made the necessary arrangements for my friend Cholo Méndez from Mayaguez to bring two buses filled with people for the Fania concert at the Roberto Clemente coliseum. It was the first time that tickets for a show were sold outside of the coliseum. This was due to an arrangement that I made with a record store that still exists in Caguas, “Esto No Tiene Nombre,” owned by my friend Eddie Rosa. He got in the business thanks to me, and sold tickets for the Fania concert.
In order for the concert to be successful, I was entrusted with the mission of placing the Fania All Stars on the radio, and making radio programmers believe in these artists. The conglomeration of stars at hand helped, since I had already managed to turn all of its vocalists into radio hits: Cheo Feliciano, Bobby Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Ismael Quintana, Santos Colón, Justo Betancourt and Celia Cruz with her “Bemba Colorá.”
I remember that on this occasion, I had to hire the boys from the barrio in order to provide security for the artists. Some of them were Georgie “Gatillo,” Casablanca and Sánchez, who, to this day, visits my record store, Viera Discos, in Puerto Rico.
I produced this concert with a great sense of responsibility, knowing the ripples that the event would have on the salsa phenomenon. I engineered a new trend of "Faniamania," creating feelings of hysteria among fans, who wanted to experience and feel the Fania All Stars. The concert created a commotion. The fans broke the main gate of the coliseum, which was brand new. The Fania stars became something like the Latino Beatles.
In order to achieve such level of success, I used every promotional trick imaginable. Close to the central Puerto Rican offices of Fania Records, on Parada 15 in Santurce, was Puerto Rico's telephone company. I convinced 800 of its female employees to participate in the promotion of this concert. These 800 women would call radio stations, asking them to play Fania songs. In exchange, I gave them records and 8-tracks of the company's music. I made a deal with them, giving them a free ticket to the show, as long as they brought along a minimum of six ticket buyers. In addition, I gave away courtesy tickets to the 78 radio stations of the time, so that they could experience the musical phenomenon known as Fania All Stars.
All in all, there were 10,000 tickets sold, as well as 1,000 free tickets that I gave away. Over 2,000 people were unable to purchase tickets and stayed outside, watched closely by the fire department.
My earnings from all this totaled $200, given to me by the distributors of
Fania Records in Puerto Rico. I did not want to tell Masucci that I was never paid the dollar per ticket sold that was promised to me, even though I produced the concert with so much dedication. The biggest reward for me was the satisfaction that I felt by achieving something that everybody thought impossible, to fill up a coliseum of that size. I was also rewarded being named Director of Promotions. I made history in Puerto Rico with the Fania All Stars.
Everything that people talked about, felt and breathed was related to Fania. It was the beginning of something that to this day, has not been surpassed by anyone in Latin music. The Fania All Stars became a religion. Every radio station played the music, everyone danced to the sounds of “Quítate Tú” and “Estrellas de Fania.” Everybody enjoyed the friendly quarreling and battle of the words between the singers of the brotherhood that we created through the Fania All Stars.
I feel extremely proud to have created such a big success, being recognized in life as "The Tailor of Fania." Truth be said, the members of this group made me look good, and there will be Fania for a long time to come.
Liner Notes by Rafael Viera
Selections, transferred to pro-tools, edit and remixed by Bobby Marín. LESS >