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Willie Bobo

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Willie Bobo
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Correa
Born(1934-02-28)February 28, 1934
East Harlem, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 15, 1983(1983-09-15) (aged 49)
GenresLatin jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, Boogaloo
Instrument(s)Timbales, conga, various percussion instruments

William Correa (February 28, 1934[1] – September 15, 1983),[2] better known by his stage name Willie Bobo, was an American Latin jazz percussionist of Puerto Rican descent. Bobo rejected the stereotypical expectations of Latino music and was noted for his versatility as an authentic Latin percussionist as well as a jazz drummer easily moving stylistically from jazz, Latin and rhythm and blues music.[3][1]

Early life


Born William Correa to a Puerto Rican family, Bobo grew up in Spanish Harlem, New York City, United States.[1][4] His father played the cuatro, a ten stringed guitar-like instrument. As a teenager, Bobo taught himself the bongos and later the congas, timbales and drums.[4][5] In 1947, Bobo started working as a band boy for Machito in order to gain entrance to the band's concerts, sometimes filling in on percussion.[4]

At age 12, he began his professional career as a dancer and two years later made his recording debut as a bongo player.[6]



He met Mongo Santamaría shortly after his arrival in New York and studied with him while acting as his translator.[1] In the early 1950s, Bobo recorded with Mary Lou Williams.[3] She is said to have first given the nickname Bobo.[7][6]

Willie Bobo at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay CA 9/2/79

From 1954 until 1957, Bobo played with Tito Puente's band as part of the percussion section alongside Santamaria.[4][1] Bobo joined George Shearing's band on the album The Shearing Spell.[1]

After leaving Shearing, Cal Tjader asked Bobo and Santamaría to become part of the Cal Tjader Modern Mambo Quintet, who released several albums as the mambo craze reached fever pitch in the late 1950s.[1] Reuniting with his mentor Santamaría in 1960, the pair released the album Sabroso! for the Fantasy label. Bobo later formed his own group, releasing Do That Thing/Guajira with Tico and Bobo's Beat and Let's Go Bobo for Roulette, without achieving huge penetration.[7]

After the success of Tjader's Soul Sauce, in which he was heavily involved, Bobo formed a new band with the backing of Verve Records, releasing Spanish Grease, the title track being perhaps his most well known tune.[1] Highly successful at this attempt, Bobo released a further six albums with Verve.[7]

In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles.[1] He again met up with his longtime friend Richard Sanchez Sr. and his son Richard Jr. and began recording in the studio. Bobo then worked as a session musician for Carlos Santana among others, as well as being a regular in the band for Bill Cosby's variety show Cos.[1] Santana covered Willie Bobo's Latin song "Evil Ways" (written by Clarence "Sonny" Henry) in 1969 on their debut album. In the late 1970s, Bobo recorded albums for Blue Note and Columbia Records.[7]

Personal life


Bobo's youngest son, Eric Bobo (Eric Correa), is a percussionist with crew Cypress Hill. He also performed on the Beastie Boys' 1994 album Ill Communication.[7] His grandson, William Valen Correa, is co-founder of the music-based non-profit organization HNDP Los Angeles.



After a period of ill health, Bobo died at the age of 49, succumbing to cancer.[6]



As leader


As sideman


With Nat Adderley

With Dorothy Ashby

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Dave Burns

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With Miles Davis

With Victor Feldman

With José Feliciano

With Benny Golson

With Dexter Gordon

With Grant Green

With Chico Hamilton

With Slide Hampton

With Herbie Hancock

With Eddie Harris

With Bobby Hutcherson

With Herbie Mann

With Les McCann

With Gary McFarland

With Buddy Miles

  • Chapter VII (Columbia, 1973)

With Wes Montgomery

With Oliver Nelson

With Dave Pike

With Tito Puente

  • Cuban Carnival (RCA Victor, 1956)

With Ike Quebec

With Terry Reid

  • River (Atlantic, 1973)

With Dannie Richmond

With Charlie Rouse

With A. K. Salim

With Mongo Santamaria

  • Mighty Mongo (Fantasy, 1962)
  • Viva Mongo! (Fantasy, 1962)

With Doc Severinsen

  • Rhapsody For Now! (RCA, 1973)

With Sonny Stitt

With Gábor Szabó

With Clark Terry

With Cal Tjader

  • Latino (Fantasy, 1958)
  • Cal Tjader's Concert by the Sea (Fantasy, 1959)
  • Cal Tjader's Latin Concert (Fantasy, 1959)
  • West Side Story (Fantasy, 1960)
  • Plays Harold Arlen (Fantasy, 1961)
  • Live and Direct (Fantasy, 1962)
  • Breeze from the East (Verve, 1964)
  • Soul Sauce (Verve, 1965)

With Don Wilkerson


  • 2008 Willie Bobo: King Conga


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 284/5. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ ""Willie Bobo - Herencia Latina"". Herencialatina.com. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Potter, Jeff (January 20, 2002). "Bobo, Willie". Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.j050000. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. Retrieved September 22, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott (2000). Afro-Cuban jazz. Internet Archive. San Francisco, CA : Miller Freeman Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-619-9.
  5. ^ Feather, Leonard Geoffrey (1966). The encyclopedia of jazz in the sixties. The Archive of Contemporary Music. New York : Horizon Press.
  6. ^ a b c "Willie Bobo, Drummer Who Led Latin Bands". The New York Times. September 16, 1983. Retrieved January 23, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d e Biography, AllMusic