Miami Sound Machine
(Read about The Miami Sound Machine after the video)
Miami Sound Machine was an American band of Latin-influenced music featuring the vocals of Cuban-born Gloria María Fajardo García (later Gloria Estefan). The band was established in 1975 originally as Miami Latin Boys by Emilio Estefan Jr. and became very successful after joining Gloria García (Estefan) in 1977.
The band had a number of albums and a string of hit singles until 1989. The band's 1985 album Primitive Love credited the band whereas their follow-up album Let It Loose in 1987 adopted the name Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine. The latter was also repackaged as Anything For You with new cover art in the international release in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, starting in October 1988 through early 1989. In 1989, the group's name was dropped altogether, and Estefan continued as a solo artist. None of the original members of Miami Sound Machine currently perform with Estefan.
In 1975, Emilio Estefan Jr. formed a group they named the Miami Latin Boys. In 1977, for a public performance at a Cuban wedding at Hotel Dupont, vocalists Gloria María Fajardo García and her cousin Merci Navarro joined in. The two singers impressed the band so much that they were invited to join the band permanently with the band's name changing to Miami Sound Machine.
Starting in 1977, Miami Sound Machine began recording and releasing various albums and 45s on the Audiofon Records label in Miami, Florida. The group's primary lineup now consisted of six Cuban-born Americans: Emilio Estefan, Jr. (percussion and accordion); Gloria Estefan (formerly Fajardo-Garcia, lead vocals and hand percussion); Gloria's cousin, Merci Murciano (formerly Navarro, lead vocals), Merci's husband, Raul Murciano (keyboards); Enrique "Kiki" Garcia (drums); and Juan Marcos Avila (bass). The first album, released in 1977, was called Live Again/Renacer and was released with two different covers. The group had several more releases on the Audiofon label, the RCA Victor label, and subsequently Miami Sound Machine's own label MSM Records. In 1979, they added American guitarist and native Miamian, Wesley B. Wright, and Cuban-born Fernando Garcia on trumpet (no relationship to "Kiki" Garcia). At the end of 1979, the band was signed to Discos CBS International and released several albums, 45s, and 12"s beginning with the 1980 self-titled album Miami Sound Machine. The combination of traditional Latin rhythms and American R&B grooves (along with the songwriting talents of Gloria Estefan, "Kiki" Garcia, and Wesley B. Wright) would produce a ground-breaking, Latin crossover powerhouse that would set the musical standard for the next two decades to come, and open the door for future crossover artists in both America, and the rest of the world.
In 1980, MSM added a more complete horn section primarily consisting of trumpet players Fernando Garcia and Victor "Papito" Lopez, plus trombonist Louis Perez. The permanent addition of a full horn section added a new dimension and would become a future MSM musical trademark. Early 1982, a second keyboardist, Roger Fisher was added, as well as the virtuoso harmonica player Gustavo Lezcano. But at the end of 1982, Gloria's cousin Merci and her husband Raul Murciano left the band, just prior to the recording of the third CBS International LP Rio. Once painfully shy, Gloria was now the lone lead vocalist on stage and in the studio, and began to both systematically and stylistically evolve on all levels. Fisher stepped up to Murciano's piano duties. At the same time, Betty Cortés was brought in as replacement for Fisher's second keyboardist role and to sing background vocals live and occasionally in the studio. During the same time period, Elena Stracuzzi was brought in to sing background vocals for live performances. In 1983, Leo Villar was added as second trumpet to replace Fernando Garcia who had left the previous year.
MSM was now quite a large ensemble. With both an expanding and sometimes changing lineup, MSM was now being focused around the primary core founding members: Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Enrique "Kiki" Garcia, Juan Marcos Avila, and frequently, founding guitarist Wesley B. Wright. By the early '80s, MSM had established themselves as major musical artists in Latin America with a strong presence in both the media and on the radio. The next major hurdle was conquered in early 1984 when a Dutch DJ began playing "Doctor Beat" in Amsterdam. Garcia's catchy lyrics, Gloria's sassy vocals, Wright's funky guitar, and Emilio's infectious conga drums took Europe by storm with the tune eventually reaching #1 in the UK and most of Continental Europe, finally causing record labels in the US Market to take notice of the group's strong musical prowess.
In late 1984, the group released their first Epic/Columbia album, Eyes of Innocence, which contained the Garcia-penned classic, previously released, single and dance hit "Dr. Beat" as well as the ballad "I Need Your Love".
Rise of mainstream popularity
With the popularity of a string of Miami-based '80s movies such as Scarface or Invasion USA, along with the enormously successful television show Miami Vice, the city of Miami was gaining a reputation as being both exciting and notorious. South Beach and the rest of Dade County was becoming the place to be seen in. University of Miami National Football Championships were becoming commonplace and young NFL Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was breaking all the records in the book and adding to the Miami mystique. What better band to ride the crest of the "perfect wave" coming out of South Florida other than home-grown Miami Sound Machine! They were already international ambassadors, why not have them carry the torch throughout the rest of America? Miami Sound Machine had "arrived".
Changes in Lineup
Their more successful follow-up album Primitive Love was released in 1985. While members of the horn section were featured on prominent cuts, guitarist Wesley B. Wright was the only member of the core rhythm section to actually record on that LP. On all previous LPs, members of the band almost exclusively recorded the original studio tracks. That same year would bring the beginning of personnel changes. Phenom session percussionist Rafael Padílla, who performed on some of the LP's tracks, was now a permanent member. Chicago native Jim "Sport" Trompeter replaced Betty Cortés, now named "Betty Cortés Wright", on second keyboards, and Venezuelan jazz saxophonist Ed Callé performed on the LP and was added to the horn section. The successful LP launched three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: the Garcia-penned, "Conga", reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Estefan (Gloria)-penned, "Words Get in the Way", reaching number 5, and "Bad Boy" reaching number 8 became follow up hits in the U.S. and around the world. "Words Get in the Way" reached number 1 on the US Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, establishing that the group could perform pop ballads as successfully as dance tunes. At the end of 1985, the stalwart horn section was now in flux, with session player Dana Teboe filling the trombone position in place of the original trombonist, Louis Perez. By early 1986, Victor "Papito" Lopez, with his iconic jet black Cuban mustache, was subsequently replaced by Randy Barlow. By the end of 1986, Teddy Mullet became the "official" trombonist of the band.
In the media
In 1985, MSM began to have numerous and multiple appearances on most of the more iconic popular, American '80s television shows: The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Solid Gold, American Bandstand, CBS Morning News, Disney specials, and frequent spots on MTV. The band was twice the musical guest artist on the television presentation of the Miss Universe Pageant (1984 and 1986). The song "Hot Summer Nights" was also released that year and was part of the soundtrack for the film Top Gun and the song "Suavé" was also recorded as part of the soundtrack for the Sylvester Stallone film Cobra. MSM also made a cameo appearance in the ABC Sunday Night Movie, Club Med. The band's music was featured throughout the film. The band's dream of becoming a household name in the states was finally now a reality and the final major puzzle piece in their quest for world popularity.
Because of that popularity in both the United States and around the world, the group would continue recording and issuing various works for Discos CBS International through 1985.
1987 and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
Following a massive world tour that lasted over a year (mid 1985-late 1986), tensions and rifts between original core members and zealous new members had taken their toll. Following that tour, both original MSM guitarist Wesley B. Wright and founding bassist Juan Marcos Avila had left the group, along with keyboardist Roger Fisher. Emilio was now taking a behind-the-scenes producer role and no longer performing live. What was left of the current MSM, plus new members (Jorgé "George" Casas on bass, Clay Ostwald on keyboards, and guitarist John Defaria), returned to the studio in early 1987. With only one other core member, "Kiki" Garcia, remaining, Gloria Estefan was given top billing and the band's name was changed to Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine to jump on the sudden success of Gloria's unique vocal ability and bubbly personality on TV.
In late 1987, they released their next album, Let It Loose, and it went multi-platinum, with three million copies sold in the US alone. It featured the hits "Anything for You" reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, "1-2-3" making it to number 3, "Betcha Say That" to number 36, "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" to number 5, and "Can't Stay Away from You" to number 6. "Can't Stay Away from You", "Anything for You" and "1-2-3" were all top charting singles on the Adult Contemporary hits as well.
Another world tour began and the group traveled for the first time to Europe, South America and an even more extensive tour in the United States, culminating in a finale with massive sold-out concert in their hometown of Miami, Florida, which was recorded and later sold on VHS. By 1988, founding member "Kiki" Garcia quit. With no other core members remaining other than Gloria herself, the "Miami Sound Machine" moniker would be eventually dropped altogether and Gloria was now officially considered a solo artist.
In 1988, after the worldwide chart success of single "Anything for You", her Let it Loose album was repackaged overseas as Anything for You. It became the band's first UK number 1 album, selling over a million copies. It was the biggest selling album of the year in The Netherlands, staying at number 1 for 22 weeks. The album also took top honors in Australia and Canada, launching Gloria Estefan to superstar status.
1989, Gloria Estefan, breakup of the original band and beyond
By the end of 1988, the group's name was officially dropped completely, and Estefan has been credited as a solo artist ever since. None of the original members of the group that once was Miami Sound Machine perform with Estefan any longer.
Miami Sound Machine had a brief reunion in 2002 with a new eponymous album and a completely different lineup consisting of Lorena Pinot, Sohanny Gross and Carla Ramirez, with Emilio Estefan producing the album. Without Gloria's signature vocals or any real connection to the original MSM lineage, the new project was only met with a moderate success in a few select European countries and failed to chart significantly in the United States.
Gustavo Lezcano, Havana-born harmonica player and longtime member of Miami Sound Machine, died on May 28, 2014, at the age of 59.
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