2011 44¢ Tito Puente
Latin Music Legends
Issue Date: March 16, 2011
City: Austin, TX
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
At the start of World War II, Tito Puente (1923-2000) was just a high school kid, but was playing with the hottest Latino bands in New York City. He was already a talented musician and excelled at sight-reading – able to play music at first read. Puente attended high school and played with well-known acts like Machito’s Orchestra, Los Happy Boys, and the Brothers Morales Orchestra on weekends. This was interrupted when he was drafted into the Navy.
Puente played saxophone and drums for his ship’s band during the war. A pilot helped him learn how to arrange music. After the war, Puente studied music theory, conducting, and orchestration at the Juilliard School of Music. He still played regularly, usually on the timbales – a pair of shallow drums with a cowbell or cymbals. Puente formed a new group, the Piccadilly Boys, and soon rose to the top of the mambo/salsa scene.
There are stories told how Puente won the title “King of Latin Music” after his band beat one led by Perez Prado in a competition. Also known as “King of the Mambo” and El Rey del Timbal (“King of the Timbales”), Puente was usually just called “the King.” In 2000, the Library of Congress named him a “Living Legend.” For over 60 years, Tito Puente ruled the Latin music scene.