Joe Quijano was born on September 27 th 1935 at Puerta De Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The versatile Latin band leader, vocalist, percussionist and composer Quijano was seven years of age when his family settled in the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA. In 1950, while at school he sang and played maracas with a teenage group organized by Orlando Marín (b. 1934, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA, of Puerto Rican parentage; timbales) and pianist Eddie Palmieri. Three trumpets were later added and they became the Orlando Marín Conjunto. Marín assumed leadership after Palmieri’s departure to Johnny Seguí’s group. Accounts conflict about the next stage in the band’s history. Quijano states he inherited the outfit when Marín was drafted into the US Army, whereas Orlando maintains that Joe left and was replaced by another vocalist prior to his military stint. In 1956, Quijano travelled to Cuba, where he saw and met many of his idols. He later recalled, ‘… I also heard a different sound – the Senen Suarez Group, that comprised one trumpet and a flute, as a free form… I returned with an idea for a new sound for the band. I worked with my friend Charlie Palmieri, and asked him if he could make musical arrangements using a combination of two trumpets, flute, and a rhythm section playing a charanga feel with the singers in unison… Charlie argued that since the two instruments tune differently, there would be a clash, but I insisted, and he persisted, and a few months later, he came up with the instrumental version of ‘Amor’. It was then that the sound of the Conjunto Cachana was born…’ (quote from sleeve notes to La Pachanga Se Baila Asi, 1990). He named his band ‘Cachana’ after his grandfather’s nickname. He persuaded his employers, who ran a wholesale record distributors, to finance the recording of a single with pianist Héctor Rivera. The success of the release led to an album deal with Spanoramic Records. Conjunto Cachana’s two releases on the label, A Cataño and Volvi A Cataña, were big hits in Latin America.
In 1960, Quijano managed to secure a contract with Columbia Records. He made three albums on the label between 1961 and 1963. The lyrics to the title-track of the first, La Pachanga Se Baila Asi, co-written by Quijano and Charlie Palmieri, were intended to end the confusion dancers made between the terms ‘pachanga’ and ‘charanga’: ‘There is a lot of discussion in the Latin communities that everyone is dancing the pachanga. There is talk that a charanga is the orchestra that plays it… that everyone is dancing the pachanga, the dance rage of the moment…’ (translated lyrics from the article ‘Remembering Charlie Palmieri’ by Max Salazar). Quijano’s lead vocalists at this stage were Paquito Guzmán and Willie Torres. Guzmán later joined Tommy Olivencia’s band in Puerto Rico, where he also recorded with the Puerto Rico All Stars and now works as a solo artist. In 1965, Quijano participated in the second descarga (Latin jam session) album by the Alegre All-Stars. Quijano founded his own Cesta Records label, named after the basket used in the game of Jai-Alai. Two notable releases on the label were the Cesta All-Stars descarga workouts, Live Jam Session and Salsa Festival, both directed by Charlie Palmieri and featuring Cheo Feliciano, Kako, Louie Ramírez, Willie Rosario, Orlando Marín, and others. Quijano also had the distinction of being the first artist to record a composition by the great Puerto Rican composer, Tite Curet Alonso. The song was titled ‘Efectivamente’, and was re-recorded by Quijano for Cositas Sueltas in 1980.