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Charanga America

The Bronx-based Charanga America was among the premier charangas in NEW YORK during the later ’70s and early ’80s, and even though the group’s profile waned over time as the dance fell out of style, the remained fitfully active on-stage in the decades that followed. Structured around bandleader/conguero George Maysonet and his wife Margie, the group was produced in 1977 and documented albums for Un Sonido Information (George Maysonet and Charanga America, 1978; George Maysonet and Charanga America, Vol. 2, 1979), Best Hits (Comiendose a Nueva York, 1980; Charanga America, 1981), Combo (Y Algo Mas, 1983; THE MOST EFFECTIVE, 1985), and Un Abuelo (Siempre con Sabor!, 1989). Their biggest strike was “Ayúdame San Antonio” (1978) while a cover from the Doorways’ “Light My Fireplace” (1985) was probably their most wondering one. Apart from several reissues, the Charanga America catalog was pretty much out of printing for years at a time, which, combined with the scarcity of the initial vinyl releases, still left the group’s legacy chiefly in the hands of record enthusiasts and historians. Blessed on Apr 19, 1938, in Cataño, Puerto Rico, Maysonet found its way to NEW YORK in 1949 at age group 11 and, over time in the barrio, shifted south Bronx, where he grew thinking about music, especially percussion. His 1st possibility to play inside a charanga — essentially an orchestra of piano, strings, vocals, flute, and percussion — arrived thanks to Alfredito Valdés, who employed him in the 1950s like a conguero. Maysonet consequently played in various bands throughout NEW YORK, including those of Joe Quijano, Willie Rosario, Willie Bobo, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri, Johnny Pacheco, Belisario López, Orquesta Book, and Orquestra Broadway. Through the past due ’60s he came back to Puerto Rico, where he performed in the rings of Rafael Brassero, Nacho Sanabria, and Johnny Segui. In 1971 he became a member of the brand new York-based Orquesta Book and in addition spent time playing in Orchestra Broadway before developing a charanga of his very own, Charanga America, in 1977. Furthermore to Maysonet, Charanga America was made up of his Margie (aka Margaret) on vocals, his kid George Maysonet, Jr., on tamboura, Eddie Drennon on violin, Frank Bello on piano, Rafael “Felo” Barrio (also an associate of Orquesta Broadway at that time) on business lead vocals, and Gene Hernández (aka Eugenio Hernández) also on business lead vocals. The group apparently decided to indication to Tito Rodriguez’s TR Information but instead decided El Sonido Information, a short-lived label overseen by Bobby Marín. Released in 1978, George Maysonet and Charanga America was their most effective record, spawning their biggest strike, “Ayúdame San Antonio,” compiled by Rafael “Felo” Barrio, who sung it with Gene Hernández. The group released one additional album on Un Sonido, George Maysonet and Charanga America, Vol. 2 (1979), before turning to Best Hits for a set of self-produced albums, Comiendose a Nueva York (1980) and Charanga America (1981), and to Combo for a set of Ralph Cartagena-produced initiatives, Y Algo Mas (1983) and THE MOST EFFECTIVE (1985), the last mentioned not officially a best-of compilation regardless of the billing. Finally, there is a 1989 record released on Un Abuelo, Siempre con Sabor!, that proclaimed the end from the group’s saving career, if not really the finish of the group itself.

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