Armando PerazaView in iTunes
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Armando Peraza was long considered one of popular music's top percussionists -- a master of both the conga and bongos. In addition to being a long-standing member of Santana, Peraza guested on numerous recordings by other popular recording artists. Born in Havana, Cuba, on May 30, 1924, Peraza lost both parents at an early age, and by the age of 12, was living on his own, supporting himself around this time as a vegetable vendor, semi-pro baseball player, boxing trainer, and a loan shark. It wasn't until Peraza was 17 years old that he got his start with music. One day at a baseball park, Peraza overhead local bandleader Alberto Ruiz (a brother of one of Peraza's teammates) say that he was in dire need of a conga player for a performance that night, as part of one of Havana's most popular bands at the time, Conjunto Kubavana. Although Peraza had no musical experience, he was able to convince Ruiz to give him a shot, and after practicing for just several hours that afternoon, pulled off the performance with flying colors. After relocating to the U.S. (first New York City, and then San Francisco), Peraza became an instantly sought-after musician, playing over the years with such renowned artists as Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, Eartha Kitt, Wes Montgomery, Peggy Lee, John McLaughlin, and Harvey Mandel, among others. But it was his work with Santana that he was best known for, playing on most of the group's recordings from the early '70s through the late '80s. ~ Greg Prato