September 15 – Happy Birthday Alex Torrez

Alex Torrez y Los Reyes Latinos
Alex Torrez y Los Reyes Latinos

Today’s featured Amsterdam Birthday celebrant is the most popular Latino resident in the city’s history. Unfortunately he doesn’t live here anymore. Alex Torrez came to Amsterdam with his family from the Bronx when he was just 14 years old. He credits his Mom for his love of music because she played the radio in their Bronx apartment 24/7, always tuned to Latino music channels that featured the the music of Latin legends like Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.

Then the family moved upstate to Amsterdam. For a community noted for its large Latino population, Alex was shocked by the total absence of the music he loved so much. He could not believe that there was no radio station or local music store he could turn to so he did the only thing he could. He decided to form a band of his own. This was in 1980 and though their were plenty of Latinos living in Amsterdam, very very few of them were musicians so in addition to teaching himself how to play bass guitar, Alex became a music teacher, introducing some of his neighborhood friends to the music and musical instruments needed to evolve into a Latino band. And when he couldn’t find fellow Latinos he called on some of his Anglo friends to join his group. They started practicing their instruments individually and then jamming and rehearsing together as a group from the time they got out of school till they had to get home for dinner. In addition to keeping them off the streets and out of trouble, they started sounding pretty good. They called themselves Alex Torres y Los Reyes Latinos and began accepting gigs at any and all kinds of community functions…

You can read the rest of my story about this talented band leader in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.


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