Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: Friday, June 2, 2000

Release #203-00

Contact: Sunny Mindel/Edward Skyler (212) 788-2958


110TH Street & Third Avenue to Be Temporarily Named After Iconic Band Leader

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today announced that the City will honor musician Tito Puente by temporarily naming a street in his honor. The street to be named is on the site of his birthplace at 110th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. The Mayor will work with Peter Vallone and the City Council to make this permanent. Tito Puente died at age 77 on Wednesday night after suffering from complications following open-heart surgery. During his career, the legendary bandleader recorded 118 records and won five Grammy Awards.

"Tito Puente was not just a legendary musician, he was a legendary and lifelong New Yorker," Mayor Giuliani said. "A testament to how cultural diversity enhances all of our lives, Tito was more than a hero to the Puerto Rican community, he also was a musical ambassador. By seamlessly blending jazz and Latin music, he brought the music of his heritage into the mainstream and created a rich new sound that will be heard on the streets of New York City and all over the world for years to come."

A New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, Tito Puente was born at Harlem Hospital on April 20, 1923, and he grew up in East Harlem. Tito showed his musical aspirations at a young age, drumming on anything he could find and convincing his mother to pay for lessons. He became a professional musician at age 13, playing in one of the first bands that fused jazz and Latin music. He joined the Navy during World War II, fighting in nine battles, and he later received a Presidential commendation.

After the war, he studied at Julliard and started his first band, The Piccadilly Boys in 1948, although he later changed its name to the Tito Puente Orchestra. The band became a fixture in the New York nightlife and Tito Puente became the Mambo King, fusing cha-cha with more traditional big-band compositions. In the 1960s he continued his groundbreaking musical recordings and performances and even starred in a television program, "The World of Tito Puente."

A prolific artist, he embarked on new collaborations during the 1980s and 1990s, performing at times with symphony orchestras. When he died, he was at work on what would have been his 119th record.

Tito Puente became an icon of the Puerto Rican community. He was a fixture at the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and opened a restaurant on City Island in 1995. He is survived by his daughter, Audrey, a weather caster for Newschannel 4; his son, Tito Jr., also a musician; and his wife, Margaret.

The street sign will be present during next Saturday's Abrazo Fraternal 116th Street Festival. The Puerto Rican Day Parade takes place the following day.

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