A couple of years ago, while in NY, I made it a point to check out Chico Alvarez's band "Palo Monte". They were playing every so often at Sob's, so I decided to head out there one Friday after work. While the band was cookin' I admit I really only went for one reason, Gene Golden.
I had followed Gene ever since getting into the music, but had still not had the opportunity to see him play live. It really was a real treat watching this seasoned pro play the tumbas with the energy of a 20 year old. At this particular gig I had approached Gene about doing a little interview, he politely obliged and we went downstairs.
Unfortunately time did not permit a proper interview but I did get some information that I will share in the meantime.
RD: Gene how did you get started playing congas?
GG: Well, my mother would run me out of the kitchen because I used to like to play on the pots and pans. Alot of drummers started out that way. When I was about 8 years old my godfather would come to the house and my mother would talk to him about m my interest in playing the drums, so one day he bought me a conga drum. So I started playing, I was playing in the streets, in the parks. I would stay with my grandmother alot of the time and she lived on 107th between 5th and Madison Aves. She was from St Croix and she spoke Spanish. Alot of people in the neighborhood were Latino, so there was that influence. Then I moved back to 150th between Convent and St. Nicholas, thats when I really started to get into it. I was a little older then and was starting to play in little local bands.
(Quinto Mayor- Gene on tres golpe, Pedrito Martinez on tumba, Roman Diaz on quinto, Barry Cox and Max on coro, Joe Gonzalez on guagua, ? on guiro, Video Credit:Jicamocubano)
GG: I met a guy named Joe, who used to play with alot of Bebop bands. He was trying to put conga drums in bebop music. I used to like his drums because they were all painted pretty, I was like, "where'd you get a drum like that?", he said, "c'mon I'll take you..." So he took me down to 116th st off of Lenox Ave. The place was a bakery, this guy used to make drums there so I got one from there.
(Gene Golden, Photo Credit: justsalsa)
As you can see I didn't get to ask him many questions. Gene started talking and there was no way I was going to interrupt him as he was giving me such great information. Soon after we started talking he was called up to start his set. I stayed to watch the band and left soon after they finished. I've called Gene afterwords to try and finish the interview but have never been able to hook up with him again. Hopefully I will be able to do so in the near future.
* Barry's site has a great post about Gene, and a great video link as well