New York Issue

My life experiences with a Latin Legend...

My first recollection of Miami Sound Machine was while I was in college in Cleveland, Ohio back in 1984.  I was heading  back to my apartment to study for a test with a friend, but I stopped by the record store on my way home from class, where I first heard “Conga”.  I immediately purchased the 12” vinyl and sped home to tell my friend and roommates.  As I burst through my apartment door, I announced, “I just found the record that’s going to change the face of pop music as we know it!!”  Little did I realize how impactful that statement I made was going to be with respect to my life, career and to the music industry in general.

The reason why I remember this story so well is that my girlfriend in college (who is now a teacher) STILL tells the story all these years later! I knew that this song was going to be a hit, based on how different it sounded and by that unmistakable voice of a then unknown Gloria Estefan.  Sure enough, “Conga” reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of ’84.

Fast forward to Los Angeles, 1987, where I was still trying to find my place in the world working four different part-time jobs—while at one of them, I hear on Power106 that there is an “open casting call” for the “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” video at a location not too far from my apartment.  Something in my gut tells me to go, and I make it as an extra.  After a grueling day as an extra in the crowd, we all get an opportunity to meet Gloria and receive a autographed 45RPM single of “Rhythm”.  I was so happy.

A few days later, I couldn’t get that experience (or the fact that I wanted to be a part of the music industry) out of my head or my heart.  While at one of my four jobs, I opened up a yellow pages to Record Labels and began calling them, asking if they were hiring for interns, starting with A&M.  When I got to Epic, they said that they were looking for interns and that I should go in for an interview.  I went in and was hired that day on a trial basis.   I soon was officially hired and eventually moved to NYC, to head up the Dance/Crossover department.

Not too long after Gloria’s miraculous recovery from the bus accident, I had the good fortune of running into Emilio Estefan, in the hallways at Epic, and invited him into my office for a hearty exchange about Gloria, her career moving forward and an idea that I had for revitalized club interest in his wife. He listened attentively, and he knew that everything I was saying, however truthful, came from an honest, caring place.  Together, we outlayed a strategy, in which both he and Gloria took active roles in as we began to rebuild her image and perception to the club djs, both Anglo and Latino.

Next stop, WMC 1993, and I had asked Gloria to be a “surprise” guest at a huge Billboard DJ function in the heart of South Beach, in which several record label promoters had assembled, including myself.   She showed up, shocking everyone, looking quite casual, in jeans, as I introduced her to all the djs in the room, taking photos, and personally signing her new single, “Go Away”, from her “Greatest Hits” CD.   The room was abuzz with Gloria’s appearance, and djs were truly reconnecting with her again.   That strategy led to her first Top5 club record in years on the Billboard Club Chart.  Later in the year, she capitalized on that initial club return two more successful tracks, “Mi Tierra” (#5), followed by the #1, “Tradicion” (which historically became the first Spanish-language #1 Club record on the Billboard Club Chart).

One day in early 1994, Epic President, Richard Griffiths (who was my “Simon Cowell”), came to me with a concept and asked me to spearhead it.  Originally, it was to be Epic’s followup to Columbia’s successful, “Red, Hot & Dance”—and my idea was to follow that with “Red, Hot & Disco”.  Within minutes, my first idea at the top of my page was ….Gloria Estefan- “Turn the Beat Around”.  After presenting the idea, I received a call from Emilio, who was ecstatic about the idea, informing me that they were demoing the track later that evening.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The next two years were followed by a slew of chart toppers: “Turn the Beat Around”(#1), “Everlasting Love”(#1), “Abriendo Puertas”(#3), “Tres Deseos”(#1), “Reach”(#2), “You’ll be Mine (Party Time)”(#2), “I’m not giving you up”(#5).   In 1996, Gloria was acknowledged as the first Latina to ever achieve the distinction of becoming #1 Dance Artist of the Year by Billboard magazine.

In 1998, the very exciting album project entitled, “gloria!”, was released, entirely comprised of dance tracks—an album which connects, according to Gloria, to her newest Anglo (and dance-oriented) album in over seven years, “Miss Little Havana”.  I am very proud to be working with the Estefan team again on various aspects of this project, hoping to bring her back to the pinnacle of the Billboard Club Chart once again with “Wepa”- which just reached #1- her first since “Oye” in 1998.

Even though I left Epic in 2000, worked select projects of Gloria’s independently over the last ten years, fate continues to reconnect me with this legendary Latina.   I guess the “rhythm is always gonna get me”.


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