Celebrating 60 years as a Personal Manager – Booking Agent and Promoter
This agency has been organizing events throughout the United States, Europe, South, and Central America. It has been organizing events for more than 50 years in Japan.
For a period of 50 years, Richie Bonilla has been a force that has contributed to the continuous growth of the Latin music industry. He has been directly responsible for the success of many of our biggest names in the Latin business.
In 1962 Richie Bonilla signed an unknown artist named Pete Rodriguez. As a result of his effort and contant dedication, Pete Rodriguez became the hottest recording artist of that time and one of the all-time drawing artists. He was crowned “King of Boogaloo”
During the same period, Richie Bonilla signed another unknown artist, a young boy, 17 years old who had only one LP to his credit. Once again because of his persistence this young artist named Willie Colon is now a living legend.
The stories of his accomplishments are endless. Other Boogaloo/Salsa artists which had success under Richie’s guidance and management were Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Ismael Rivera Mongito El Unico, Victor Aviles, Eddie Santiago, and Frankie Ruiz.
During the Boogaloo era in the early ’60s, Richie Bonilla management company was the main booking agency in New York City, He also managed the hottest artists of that period. They were Ralfi Pagan, Pete Rodriguez, Orq Flamboyant, TNT Boys, La Conspiracion, Orq Colon, Joey Pastrana, King Nando, Ralph Robles, Ray Jay, Lat-Teens, Willie Colon with Hector Lavoe, Johnny Zamot, Kako y Su Combo, Joe Acosta, The New Generation, Landy Nova, Sonora Borinquen, Latin Souls, including merengue bands like Primitivo Santos, Eddie Bastran, Dominica and Hugo Perez.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Bonilla Management controlled 90% of the music going to Panama for the carnivals and other national holidays. Other countries in which he was successful in developing prior to the Fania Era were Venezuela, Curacao, Aruba, Martinique, Guadalupe, St.Thomas, and St. Cruz.
When Richie Bonilla opened his booking agency in 1962, during that time very few orchestras were traveling out of the United States. He was one of the first promoters to bring salsa music to places such as Chicago, Ohio, Boston, Washington, Philly, Connecticut, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Richie Bonilla has always been available to anyone who needed help, advice, or encouragement. Vitin Aviles has always thanked him for giving him the confidence needed to go out as a soloist. Orchestra Broadway’s first trip to Venezuela was booked by Richie. Ralph Mercado’s first trip out of the country, to Curacao as an agent for Eddie Palmieri, was also booked by him.
Jelly Bean Benitez’s first DJ booking at a club was also done by Richie Bonilla. When Pete Rios, the original founder of Latin New York Magazine, only had visions of such a magazine, Richie Bonilla took him by the hand and introduced him to everyone in the industry, including Izzy Sanabria.
After the first Latin awards night was discontinued, Richie Bonilla sponsored a Latin awards night at the Cheetah Club in 1972 at his own expense, because he felt it was important to recognize our Latin artists and give them credit for their accomplishments.
During the early and late 50’s the Bronx was the birthplace of the Salsa(Mambo). Most of the best musicians and future name artists resided in the Bronx and so did Richie Bonilla. He started promoting salsa dance parties in the apartments and finished basements. Then he graduated to ballroom dances such as Hunts Point Palace, Club Cubano Inter-Americano, Tropicana, Calgate Gardens, New Terrance Gardens, and Bronx Casino.
During the ’60s there were very few bands residing in Puerto Rico. Richie was the connection for the New York bands to travel to Puerto Rico. They would perform for all of the graduation dances, Fiestas Patronales, Secretary Day, and club dates all over the island. He was one of the first persons to promote Salsa music in Puerto Rico with two associates, Alby Diaz and Fernando Lopez.
During the exotic period of salsa music, He signed another unknown artist named Eddie Santiago and promoted him to stardom, managing his career for 3 years. During the same period, he also managed and booked Frankie Ruiz and Lalo Rodriguez.
Then in 1989 history was made again, Richie discovered Orquesta De La Luz, an all-Japanese Salsa orchestra residing in Toyko, Japan.
Some of his friends in the salsa industry had told him that he was wasting his time with this attraction and once again because of his dedication to commitment and devotion to Latin music, Orquesta De La Luz‘s success all over the world is well documented.
Because of Orquesta de La Luz popularity and his influence in creating a Japan Salsa Festival.
Japan has been a great market for our artists and record sales. Richie was directly responsible for the following artists performing in Japan: Marc Anthony, Tito Nieves, Jose Alberto, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Los Hermanos Moreno, Milly Jocelyn y Los Vecinos, The New York Band, Ernie Agosto y La Conspiracion, David Cedeno, Elemento 10, Joe Cuba, Carmen Jimenez, Stacey Lopez Dancers, Cubarama Afro-Cuban Jazz Band, Crissy I-cee, Alexa, and DLG.
In recent years Richie has been promoting legendary artists and orchestras such as Israel “Cachao” Lopez, The Machito Orq, and Cubarama Afro-Cuban Jazz Band (formally the Mario Bauzer Orq). His dedication of keeping the Old Big Band School alive is because having knowledge of strong musical roots will always maintain the growth of our Latin music.
To name some of the many awards that Richie has received for his love, dedication, and contribution to the Salsa Latin music industry are:” THE UNITED NATION PEACE MEDAL” for promoting Orquesta de La Luz , who drew all different kinds of nationalities under the same roof in concert halls all over the world. Also, Mayor Dinkins Proclamation contributed to improving Latin relationships in NEW YORK CITY.
President Clinton’s Commendations letter, keys to the City of Cartagena, and recipient of the “SALSAWEB’S LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD” at their Second International Convention. Also “DR. SALVADOR F. SOLA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD” in 2000, ALBERT TORRES WEST COAST CONGRESO LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD in 200I and in 2002 he was also inducted into THE INTERNATION LATIN HALL OF FAME “SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD”
2006 New York Salsa Congress
Life Time Achievement Award
Received at the New York Hilton Hotel
2007 Received the Honor to be inducted as
One of the Musketeers in the French organization
“Compagnie Des Mousquetaires D’ Armanc”
during the “Temp Latino Festival” in
Vic Felesac, France
Richie Bonilla has always conducted himself with honor and integrity and has brought style and grace to our industry. He is quick to flash a warm smile and a strong handshake to his friends, associates, and clients.
Richie feels that no matter the problem Latins must hold their heads up high in order to see the right direction to pursue.
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