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Willie Bobo Biography

Raised in New York’s Spanish Harlem neighborhood, William Correa (1934 –1983) was a Jazz & Latin percussionist, most known for playing Afro-Cuban Jazz in the 1960s and '70s. After studying as a teenager with Mongo Santamaría, Correa joined Tito Puente’s band at the age of 19, where he was supposedly given his stage name, Willie Bobo, by piano virtuoso Mary Lou Williams during a recording session.

In 1955, Bobo was given his first mainstream exposure after playing on the George Shearing album The Shearing Spell. Bobo later joined Cal Tjader Modern Mambo Quintet during the peak of the 1950s Mambo craze, before finally assembling his own group and subsequently releasing three, only relatively successful albums. However, he continued to record with Cal Tjader, and after the successful release of Tjader’s Soul Sauce album, Bobo was offered another chance to record an album under his own moniker for Verve Records, releasing the highly successful Spanish Grease. The success of this album led to seven more albums with the label.

After moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s, Bobo worked for Latin Rock icon Carlos Santana. He also worked as a musicians on Bill Cosby’s variety show Cos, before his health began to suffer. In 1983, at the young age of 49, Willie Bobo succumbed to cancer. The father of Eric Bobo, the percussionist with the Hip Hop group Cypress Hill, Willie Bobo’s life was cut tragically short, depriving the world of years of music from one of the most influential infusers of Latin, Jazz, Rock and Popular music.