Remembering Louie Ramírez


by Jackie Nuñez


Photo credit: Hal Wilson


Louie Ramírez was everything from a virtuoso classical pianist who favored Chopin, to the sultry salsa percussionist known as “El Genio de la Salsa” (the salsa genius). A native New Yorker, his mother Haydee was of Puerto Rican descent and his father of Cuban ancestry. Born February 24th, 1938, he left us way too soon, dying of a heart attack on June 7th, 1993 while en route home. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Ramírez’s passing.

Referred as the “Quincy Jones of Salsa," Ramírez was a composer, arranger, percussionist, vibraphonist and leader of top record-selling bands. His impressive ability to perform as an arranger, director, composer and producer on each of his own albums earned him the reputation of being one of the industry’s most prominent and talented musicians.

Ramírez’s ability to create such danceable arrangements, which showcased his talent and professionalism, was appreciated by orchestra leaders from Tito Rodríguez to Tito Puente. Fania Records president Jerry Masucci brought him aboard, putting him in charge of producing arrangements for bands signing with that label and its subsidiaries—and for sure, Ramirez did not disappoint.

“Conozca a Louie Ramírez,” Ramírez’s first recording in 1963, introduced him to the music world. Many renowned artists sang his songs, including Tito Allen, Jimmy Sabater, Adalberto Santiago, Cheo Feliciano, and Rudy Calzado, the latter singing "El Títere," a classic of his discography. Ramírez repeated his success with Rubén Blades, with whom he collaborated, recording the anthology “Louie Ramírez y Amigos.” Responsible for iconic hits such as “Bamboleo” by Celia Cruz and Cheo Feliciano, “Juan Pachanga” and “Paula C” by Ruben Blades, Ramírez subsequently recorded for Alegre, Fania, Atco, Cotique, L &T, United Artists Records, Mercury, Fresh Sound, Caiman, FNA and RMM Records & Video.

Among the most celebrated of his accomplishments were compositions for Celia Cruz and Johnny Cruz, earning him top billing—in sales and popularity. His arrangements varied—he craved to be different.

Ramírez played with Joe Loco in the fifties and joined Joe Cuba’s band in the sixties. He contributed to Johnny Pacheco’s first charanga album in 1960, co-writing and arranging “El Guiro de Macorina.” Ramírez was the arranger and timbalero on Sabu’s classic “Jazz Españole” that same year. In the mid-sixties, Ramírez and Pete Bonet recorded the “Beautiful People” LP (Fania). He also recorded “Vibes Galore” (Alegre).

In the early seventies, Ramírez co-led and arranged on an album with Tito Rodríguez, and was featured on its cover along with "The Rajah of the Mambo."

Ramírez wrote jazz arrangements as well, one for a notable album recorded in 1986, entitled “Tribute to Cal Tjader”(Fresh Sound). The music industry lost one of its biggest advocates with his sudden death, at the height of his career. He was, at the time, recording a third album with Ray De La Paz, “Preparate Bailador” (RMM). It’s interesting to note that Ramírez never abandoned his love for classical music and his favorites, composers such as Chopin and Tchaikovsky.

There was more to Louie Ramírez than music. He was one of the most hilarious and humorous indivduals you’d ever know. I believe he lost his calling as an actor/comedian. His stunts and jokes were incredible. (If you didn’t have a bladder problem, you would with him). The person I know who does the best impression of Ramírez is Ruben Blades. The former was known for chewing his tongue or sucking a pacifier, and his many other facial expressions spoke volumes. Ramírez’s friends and colleagues could tell humorous stories about him forever.

With a heavy heart, I must say that I still miss Louie Ramírez. I was with him a few hours before he died. I know in the heavens there is one big party going on, and he is up there playing with all of the other legends who have left us. To that great big band up in the sky, I say, let the music play! ◊◊◊

Jackie Nuñez is Director of Advertising & Marketing for Gotham Radio ( and Talk Show Host for the “EL” Show (Entertainment Latino).

In the late 80s, she worked at two major recording studios, Variety Recording, and Sound Ideas, the latter bought out by Latin entrepreneur Raul Alarcon who chartered the studio to Karen Records owner Bienvenido Rodriguez and Latin sensation singer Juan Luis Guerra (440).  Nuñez sold studio time, assisted in editing sessions, booked musicians, assisted sound engineers and promoted the studio.  In addition, Nuñez ventured into TV/Film production, freelancing for CNN and Spanish radio, writing commercial copy and news editing while attending the Center for the Media Arts in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Nuñez traveled with and road-managed many Latin and jazz stars while working with Landy Soba Management.  She managed and worked with artists from the Ralph Mercado Management, including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, José Alberto “El Canario,” El Gran Combo, Eddie Palmieri, Eddie Santiago, Junior González and Louie Ramírez.  She managed actors and acquired auditions and parts for movies, theater performances and shows for singers and musicians at the Rybin Talent Agency, casting many for commercials, theatrical, movies and musical performances. 

Nuñez worked in Marketing and Advertising for Univision, WXTV Channel 41 in Sales as Assistant Manager to the Director of New Business. There she created presentations with qualitative material to acquire new business for the station.  She researched and sold to advertisers and created the concept of the importance of advertising in the Hispanic market.  Through research and obtaining information on certain demographics, she was able to successfully deliver her concept and acquire the business for the station.  She also produced and wrote shows for many radio show hosts.

On her Gotham Radio “EL” Show, Nuñez interviews actors, musicians, singers and authors, discussing issues that affect Latinos and non -Latinos alike.  She is currently writing a book to be published in the near future.            





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