THE LEGACY TOMMY OLIVENCIA He is another son of Villa Palmeras in whose essence beat strongly the cultural heritage, grifa and cangrejera (crabber’s bomba), of Gilberto Monroig, Cortijo, Rafael Cepeda, Pellín Rodríguez and Ismael Rivera. Angel Tomás “Tommy” Olivencia Pagán will be remembered as a visionary musician with a strong self-identity who, during four and a half decades, knew how to portray the desires of the working class neighborhood with his clinical eye and reveal them with tasteful and irresistible eloquence in the standard rhythms of the guaguancó, the bomba, the guaracha and the bolero.
After studying the trumpet, in March 1960, Crucita Sustache invited him to play in the Luis Llorens Torres housing project and after this experience, Tommy became interested in organizing his own orchestra. From the beginning, the orchestra’s singer was Chamaco Ramírez, a sonero with a nasal voice and a tenor register, developed in the tradition of Ismael Rivera. The first recording of La Primerísma, confirmed by Olivencia himself, was “Trucutú”. As a good businessman Olivencia told us that between 1961 and 1962 he sold “Trucutú” to the Frenchman Henry Debs, from the island of Guadalupe, who edited it in Europe using a French company. As he retained the master, Olivencia also sold a copy of “Trucutú” to a gentleman with the surname Ursichs who was partners with the Alvarez Guedes brothers, of Gema Records. And finally, he negotiated with Leovel Mojena, before editing the song with Inca Records. Chamaco Ramírez, who was also the lead singer of the Alegre All Stars, recorded on the albums La Nueva Sensación, Jala Jala y Guanguancó and Fire, Fire, sharing his repertoires with the bolerista Paquito Guzmán.
Personal problems obliged Chamaco to abandon the La Primerísma orchestra, leading to him being replaced by Sammy “El Rolo” González, another well-versed sonero who partricipated on the records A Toda Máquina, Cueros, Salsa y Sentimiento, Secuestro and Juntos De Nuevo. On this LP, produced by Ray Barretto in 1974, Olivencia once again joined up with the winning duo Chamaco and Paquito, editing with Ramírez the following year the classic Planté Bandera, with the singer José “Pepe” Sánchez performing the boleros. During the most effervescent stage of the orchestra, Chamaco once again left and Tommy substituted him with Lalo Rodríguez and Simón Pérez. Lalo only recorded one album and beginning in 1977, with the release of “El Negro Chombo”, Simón and Paquito established themselves as the perfect combination of La Primerísima, so much so that in 1976 and 1977 La Primerísima was the recipient of the prestigious awards Cordero de Oro, Agüeybaná de Oro and Buho de Oro .
In 1980, Chamaco returned to the orchestra, where he had a chance meeting with Frankie Ruiz, but his last departure would be a one way trip with no return because he was murdered in New York. The leader and founder of La Primerísima also left heading to heaven, but on earth the baton of his popular orchestra continues in the hands of his son Tommy Jr., whose mission is to disseminate and perpetuate the cultural endeavors of his father for the enjoyment of new generations. His musical legacy During almost five decades, La Primerísima has been the source of the best musicians, singers, composers and arrangers of salsa. This collection is a representative sampling of the orchestra’s transcendental artistic work as well as its valuable musical legacy. The musical legacy of Tommy Olivencia simultaneously encompasses a well-deserved recognition of the anonymous heroes of La Primerísima, such as the arrangers Máximo Torres, Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz, Luis ‘Café’ Nieves, Jorge Mollet, José Febles; the composers Tite Curet Alonso and Raúl Marrero and the musicians Frankie Revilla, Ismael Rodríguez, David ‘Cortijito’ Rosario, Endel Dueño, Carmelo Rivera and Papi Fuentes, among other indisputable talents. With this collection, the perennial applause of Olivencia to his singers resounds from the infinite, creators of a repertoire of the common folk, always in tune with the vibe of the street. The soneros Chamaco Ramírez, Paquito Guzmán, Sammy González, Héctor Tricoche, Simón Pérez, Frankie Ruiz, Gilbertito Santa Rosa and Lalo Rodríguez are chroniclers of the battles fought by the warrior who rises up after his falls; of the trickster from the barrio who invents things in order to make a dime; the partygoer who looks for any way he can to get into a soiree; of the unexpected events of a born loser who earns a living as a juggler in a circus until the day a lion desfigures him; of the man who, from prison, recalls with bitterness and without regret the betrayal of the sweetheart who he killed with a dagger driven into the heart; of the moaning in the face of rising gas prices; of the recognition of the great soneros of the genre and of their devotion, in the bomba rhythm, to the yoruba deity Changó.
We invite salseros from Puerto Rico and from around the world to rise up in prayer to the Almighty for the eternal rest of Angel Tomás “Tommy” Olivencia Pagán while listening, dancing and singing to themselves his hits “Pa’lante Otra Vez”, “Trucutú”, “Pancuco”, “Historia De Un Condenado”, “Como Sube La Gasolina”, “Cuero Na’ Ma”, “Periquito Pin-Pin” and others contained in the most comprehensive collection of his career. Urban poetry that, to the rhythm of the guaguancó, guaracha, bolero, bomba and son montuno, reaffirms the vision of Tommy Olivencia and the extraordinary contribution of his orchestra La Primerísima to the popular culture of Puerto Rico and to the salsa repertory of the world.
Written by Jaime Torres Torres