Happy birthday to the great Cuban tres player and son montuno legend, one of the founding fathers of salsa and mambo, Aresnio Rodríguez!! His 1940's & '50s conjuntos were major building blocks in creating the mambo style, adding conga, multiple trumpets, piano and tumbao basslines to the son cubano format, leading the way to mambo, salsa and timba to come.
Born Ignacio Arsenio Travieso Scull, he came from Matanzas, Cuba. His family were African descendants who practiced Palo Monte. He was blinded at 7 years old when a horse kicked him in the face. He was a professional musician by 1928 and he garnered his first hit record in 1937 ("Bruca Maniguá" by Orquesta Casino de la Playa with Miguelito Valdés on lead vocal). His conjunto was the most popular in Cuba for a long stretch, adding heavy African elements to his music. Indeed, he played tumbadora and was an authentic rumbero.
He was back and forth between Cuba and NYC from '47-'52, when he moved to New York permanently, continuing his career there and becoming a top attraction at the famed Palladium Ballroom at 53rd & Broadway. His conjunto certainly influenced Eddie Palmieri and Johnny Pacheco's groundbreaking pachanga bands in the early '60s. He went on to record some boogaloos before his passing. All told, he composed close to 200 songs, including guarachas, cha chas, rumbas, boleros, pregónes, guaguancos, son montuno, etc. He was a significant architect of not only mambo and salsa, but also of rock, soul & pop music of the '60s.