Tito Puente and La Lupe are two of the patron saints of salsa y sÃ¡bor.
Morris Levy, New York City’s mobbed-up Jewish record exec signed them both to his Tico label; and Henry Stone distributed their records for him in Florida and beyond.
Their old pal George Goldner was the original owner of Tico Records and had to sell it to Levy after he lost a bunch of money gambling on sports and horses. Morris took over and sunk his teeth full bore into the Latin American music market.
As noted in this Record World article from 1966, “In the early 1940’s, Latin American music was practically pop,” recalled Roulette Records President Morris Levy last week, “and I think that cycle is returning even bigger. Levy is in a mighty good position to know, too, heading up their recently reactivated Tico Records line plus the purchase (in February) of the Alegre label and last week’s acquisition of Mardi Gras label masters-including such artists as La Playa Sextet, Al Castellanos Orchestra and Joe Cuba Sextet. (Like Roulette’s other Latin American labels, Mardi Gras releases will be regular price packages.) ”About one half of our business is in Latin American music,” Levy informed Record World. ”We can build to $2,000,000 a year in full price business, and that’s better than $5,000 ,000 in the pop jungle we eliminate returns, discounts etc.” Roulette purchased Tico, its mainstay, in ’56 and reactivated it about a year ago. It claims the largest Latin American artist roster, and most of the recording is done in the states. In charge of the Latin American activities, is Morrie (”Pancho”) Pelsman, who came to Tico three years ago. Al Santiago, who owned Alegre Records, is producing LPs for Roulette, etc. ”Four years ago, you had acceptance with Latin American music in maybe two department stores,” Levy recalled. ”Today there are many big Latin American stores. There are three Latin American stations in New York now on WBNX and WADO.”