The Lebron Brothers OrchestraThe Brooklyn Bums (Fania Original Remastered)
“We heard a song by Johnny Colón called ‘Boogaloo Blues,’” recounted longtime pianist and composer, José Lebron in a 2009 Tripeosalsero video interview. “and then someone said to us, ‘you guys can do that!” and so, José, who along with his fifteen-year-old bass-playing brother angel had started a band a couple years earlier in 1965, got the bold idea to contact the renowned producer of Colón’s smash hit, george goldner, and invite him to Brooklyn’s Las Vegas Club where the brothers’ band—angel Lebron and his orchestra—had a regular gig. ...MORE >
“We heard a song by Johnny Colón called ‘Boogaloo Blues,’” recounted longtime pianist and composer, José Lebron in a 2009 Tripeosalsero video interview. “and then someone said to us, ‘you guys can do that!” and so, José, who along with his fifteen-year-old bass-playing brother angel had started a band a couple years earlier in 1965, got the bold idea to contact the renowned producer of Colón’s smash hit, george goldner, and invite him to Brooklyn’s Las Vegas Club where the brothers’ band—angel Lebron and his orchestra—had a regular gig. Called by many “King george,” goldner—who had founded tico records and roulette records, and was also a monster hit-maker across musical genres with such acts as the Shangri Las and Frankie Lymon and the teenagers—clearly liked what he heard. “they auditioned us,” José continued, “and then the next week they recorded us.” all they had to do was change the band’s name.
the year was 1967, and the resulting debut LP for Cotique records, Psychedelic Goes Latin, by the freshly minted Lebron Brothers orchestra, positioned the young brothers atop a musical wave that was cresting above New york City and beyond—Latin boogaloo. Indeed, no one was riding higher than the aforementioned Colón, whose multi-million-selling hit would fill Cotique’s coffers for years to come. “really, it was the new bands like mine, the Lat-teens and the Lebron Brothers who were filling the clubs at the time, not the older acts,” says Colón, who initially knew the Lebron Brothers from the club scene. “and one thing about King george was he always had his finger on the pulse of what was happening.” to help make the Lebron sound “happen,” goldner tapped Colón to lend his (uncredited) production hand to Psychedelic’s tunes, the majority of which were Lebron originals. “We were the young guys, and when we arrived, the Latin music scene was tired; it was hurting,” Colón contends. “and the Lebron Brothers were good. We called them the Brooklyn Bums because they were a band of brothers, literally, and they were from Brooklyn.”
But they weren’t always Brooklyn Bums. Born in aguadilla, Puerto rico, the Lebron brothers moved to Brooklyn at a young age, some years before Walter o’Malley forever engendered the borough’s bitterness and fury by infamously transplanting the original Brooklyn Bums—the beloved Dodgers—to a sunnier coast three thousand miles west. Whether the Lebrons were Dodger fans is unknown, but it’s clear the brothers became smitten by music early on, particularly rock and roll. “We started with our father buying us a guitar and sheet music,” recalled José in the video interview. “angel and I and two cousins started an orchestra—well, more like a small band [that played] rock and rhythm and blues—Black music. From there, we heard Joe Cuba’s hit “Bang, Bang”; it was Latin music mixed with american music. So from there, we started to integrate Latin music.” José would also hone his tipica chops by playing piano whenever needed in Sonora arecibeña, an ensemble featuring the vocals of the eldest Lebron brother, Pablo. More than a decade older than his brothers, Pablo would consistently provide vocal stylings rooted in more traditional sounds of Puerto rico and Cuba for the younger brood’s budding tastemakers.
and though many of the giants of Latin music would decry the artistic merit of the Latin boogaloo phenomenon, José remembers the rookie band being well received by the scene’s proverbial all-stars. “What I always remember is that at our first show, tito Puente, Santos Colón, La Lupe, richie ray, Joe Cuba, ray Barretto were all there. We were nervous, ’cause it was the first time we were doing a show for these incredible folks. and these people just helped us; they kept asking, ‘What do you need, do you need this, do you need that?’ they helped alleviate our nerves, calmed us down. and I’ve never forgotten that.”
Not wanting his new group to be forgotten amidst the still-strong Latin boogaloo craze, and encouraged by the relative success of Psychedelic Goes Latin, george goldner wasted little time in getting the Lebron Brothers orchestra back into midtown Manhattan’s Mirasound Studios for their sophomore effort. “Mirasound was a clanky, raunchy, funky kind of recording studio,” recalls Johnny Colón, who’d also recorded his early LPs there. “It was in an old hotel and looked like it might’ve been a small ballroom or something, and they were able to cut it up into rooms and lay some rugs down.” the funky vibe found its way onto the multitrack reels again for what would become The Brooklyn Bums, whose album cover prominently displayed the Lebron posse’s starting lineup. a Nuyorican mix of boogaloo, psychedelic soul, and descargas, and featuring the English singing of Eliot rivera and the Spanish vocals of Pablo Lebron, seven of the nine cuts are cleanup hitter José Lebron originals and would reinforce the Lebron Brothers orchestra’s status as formidable newcomers.
after The Brooklyn Bums, the Lebron Brothers would churn out more than two-dozen full-length recordings for the Cotique label. and while most Latin boogaloo acts would begin to fade as the ’60s ebbed into the ’70s, the Lebron Brothers would prove they didn’t need goldner’s golden touch to remain all- stars, as they would put their own platinum stamp on the next Latin dance scene that was all the rage. the aptly named million-plus seller Salsa y Control, from 1970, demonstrated the group’s ability to hit it out of the park, though their former skipper, who would die from a heart attack in the spring of the same year at the age of fifty-two, wouldn’t get to see them truly go deep.
the Lebron Brothers Orchestra The Brooklyn Bums (Cotique 1015)
Remastered by Alex Abrash/Wax Poetics Mastering
Liner notes by Matt rogers