Nicolás Marrero Jr. “Nicky Marrero” was born in the Bronx, New York, on June 17, 1950, to a Puerto Rican father and mother (born in San Germán and Corozal, respectively).
He had formal studies in drums during his adolescence, but more could the sounds of Tito Puente and Willie Bobo, his major influences.
He debuted in music with a high school ensemble called Orquesta Caribe.
However, his first recording session was at the age of 15 with the original band of another teenager born in 1950: Willie Colón.
Curiously, at the time of these sessions, three pillars of the Alegre All-Stars, Charlie Palmieri, Louie Ramirez and Kako, were present in the studio, and young Nicky was invited to participate as a timbalero.
In 1968 he was recruited by Eddie Palmieri, who by then, as a consequence of internal problems, gradually disbanded his original orchestra: La Perfecta.
Nicky Marrero joins the orchestra shortly after recording the album “Champagne,” the album “Justicia” (1969), where, still under the powerful voice of Ismael Quintana, Nicky begins to explore his own sound (listen to his solo in the song “My Spiritual Indian”),
The decade of the 70’s opens for him with three important events: the classic album “Vámonos Pa’l Monte”, his participation with Patato in the album “Portrait Of Jennie” by Dizzy Gillespie and the beginning of his career as a percussion teacher, as a member of the faculty of the East Harlem Music School, the school of Johnny Colón, legendary pianist and one-time pioneer of boogaloo.
At this institution Nicky gives his first lessons to a 13 year old boy named Jimmy Delgado.
In 1972 Nicky is invited to participate in the Afro-American Music Festival. 1975 he joins the troupe of the Wonderful Jew, Larry Harlow, then he is part of the Revelation Orchestra, two years with the Novel Orchestra.
In fact, thanks to his internship with Harlow’s band, Nicky was already part of Fania Records’ staff of musicians, recording as timbalero, bongos player and even drummer (and one of his first assignments for that label as a studio musician was the album “Pa’ Bravo Yo” by Justo Betancourt, produced by Harlow himself in 1972).
In 1973 he was included in the Fania All-Stars, replacing Orestes Vilató.
Marrero received an invitation from Pacheco to make his debut with them at Yankee Stadium in August of that year. Ironically, despite the events that separated Vilató from the stellar orchestra, he remained part of Fania’s studio staff. In fact, Vilató and Marrero crossed paths on countless sessions for various artists on the label between 1973 and 1980, in most cases with Marrero on timbales and Vilató serving as bongos player.
His multiple sessions for Fania (Ismael Miranda, Ismael Quintana, Héctor Lavoe’s first solo album (“La Voz”), Justo Betancourt and others), he also participates in “Sun Of Latin Music,” Eddie Palmieri’s classic par excellence and the first album to win a Grammy in the then debut category of “Best Latin Album.”
He is also invited to participate in the first of several rock sessions, this one specifically as an all-around percussionist for the group Electric Flag: “The Band Kept Playing”.
He travels with Fania to the African continent, later Jerry Masucci gets a potentially lucrative contract for the Fania All-Stars with Columbia Records, for recording purposes the orchestra is reduced to a sextet: Pacheco, Barretto, Nicky, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentin and debuting with the orchestra, Papo Lucca.
This is how Nicky, without being a band leader, not only became a star member of the Fania All-Stars, but also an “exclusive artist” of the Fania label. And as such, he appears on several albums that are not necessarily Latin and travels with Fania to Europe (the first of several subsequent visits) and Japan. Together with Harlow, Vilató on bongo, Eddie “Guagua” Rivera on bass, Frankie Rodríguez on congas, Harry Viggiano on guitar and Pablito Rosario on percussion, he recorded an album of downloads for the Japanese market under the curious group name of Belmonte (“Olé”). [This album is very difficult to obtain.
1977 he joins Tipica’73, an orchestra which he joins shortly after the release of the previous album: “Rumba Caliente,” ironically replacing Vilató once again. The album in question, for which Nicky alternated between his timbales set and the drums proper, is “The Two Sides Of Tipica’73,” the band’s most progressive album.
Nicky introduces drum toms to his rhythm kit (the only drum component Nicky overlooks in his regular timpani set is the hi-hats).
Nicky even recorded his first drum solo on the song “Yo Bailo De Todo” on that album. By this time, production at the Fania label and its subsidiaries was exhausting and the salsa boom in New York was in full swing.
Exhausting tours with the Fania All-Stars, he travels with Tipica’73 to Havana, Cuba, the first time in 20 years of economic blockade and open political friction that a New York Latin orchestra performs in the home of son, Nicky’s visit with La Tipica and Orestes Vilató’s own visit the following year, replacing him with the Fania All-Stars, helped to restore the timbal and bongo to the importance they should never have lost in Cuba.
To this day, Nicky remains healthy and active in music.
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