Polito Vega, an exuberant announcer with a booming bass voice and a finely attuned ear whose Spanish-language exhibits popularized salsa music in New York within the mid-Sixties, died on March 9 in North Bergen, N.J. He was 84.
His loss of life was introduced by his household. No trigger was given.
After abandoning his goals of turning into a singer, Mr. Vega started his broadcasting profession in 1960, shortly after transplanting himself from Puerto Rico to New York. He rapidly distinguished himself on air along with his signature voice, his perky epigrams like “Andando, andando, andando” (“Preserve going”) and his adventurous playlists. He additionally distinguished himself in particular person, at live shows and dances, along with his ubiquitous Yankees cap, starched white guayabera shirt, white goatee and fuzzy sideburns.
The disc jockey and recording artist Alex Sensation described Mr. Vega on Instagram as “the architect of Hispanic radio at a world stage.”
In an obituary in Billboard journal, Leila Cobo, the creator of “Decoding ‘Despacito’: An Oral Historical past of Latin Music” (2020), wrote: “Vega’s significance to Latin music can’t be overstated. He was essentially the most influential tastemaker within the nation’s prime market, relationship again to when tropical music first grew to become widespread within the metropolis within the Sixties and Seventies and stretching all the way in which to the twenty first century.”
He was heard on two New York AM stations, first WEVD after which WBNX, and eventually on WSKQ (Mega 97.9 FM) — which started broadcasting as a full-time Spanish-language format in 1989 and has typically been rated No. 1 in that market. He additionally grew to become the station’s program director.
When Mr. Vega started broadcasting, he recalled, he was struck by the disconnect between the comparatively temperate bolero music that dominated Latin broadcasting and the feverish salsa he was encountering in nightclubs. He was among the many first radio personalities to acknowledge the marketplace for salsa, figuring out promising expertise and mentoring gifted musicians.
“It was two totally different worlds in these early days,” Mr. Vega stated advised The New York Instances in 2009. “On the dance halls and up within the Catskills you’ll hear the Tito Puente and Machito orchestras tearing issues up, however on the radio the sort of factor you heard was romantic trios, except you have been tuning in to Symphony Sid” — the distinguished jazz D.J. who started enjoying Afro-Cuban music within the Sixties — “late at night time.”
The trombonist Willie Colón, who grew to become one among salsa’s largest stars, recalled that the primary time he heard Yomo Toro, the maestro of the 10-string guitar generally known as the cuatro, with whom he would later collaborate on a number of recordings, “was on Polito’s present, enjoying together with listeners who would name in and sing over the phone.”
Within the late Sixties, Mr. Colón obtained a break when he was invited to seem on “Membership de la Juventud,” an “American Bandstand”-inspired TV present that Mr. Vega hosted on the Telemundo community from 1967 to 1970.
Among the many different musicians whose careers Mr. Vega helped promote have been Celia Cruz, Tito Puente and Ismael Miranda.
Hipólito Vega Torres was born on Aug. 3, 1938, in Ponce, on the southern coast of Puerto Rico. His father was a bus driver, and the younger Hipólito bought newspapers on the seaside to complement his household’s earnings.
He started calling himself Polito as a teen after profitable an beginner singing competitors, solely to be advised by the competition’s grasp of ceremonies that he would by no means change into a star with a reputation like Hipólito.
In 1957 he moved to New York Metropolis, the place he lived with an uncle close to Van Cortlandt Park within the Bronx and labored as a transport clerk whereas attempting to get a break within the music enterprise.
“I got here to New York as a thin little child with a wisp of a mustache, hoping to make it as a singer,” he stated in 2009.
Johnny Pacheco, the Dominican-born flutist, bandleader, songwriter and producer, knew Mr. Vega in these days. “Even earlier than Polito obtained a job, he was already an announcer,” Mr. Pacheco, who died in 2021, advised The Instances. “He used to go to a barbershop owned by a compadre of mine, and I keep in mind how he was at all times joking and kidding round there, imitating announcers and singers and speaking as if he have been already on the air.”
One night time in 1960 he was serving to a good friend who was internet hosting “Fiesta Time,” a half-hour present on WEVD; as his good friend’s sidekick, he learn listeners’ names and report requests on the air. The station’s proprietor heard his voice and employed him as an announcer.
“Radio fever obtained into my head,” Mr. Vega recalled.
When WEVD expanded to 24-hour programming not lengthy after that, he was provided the midnight-to-6 a.m. slot.
“The present,” he later stated, “was so profitable and I felt that liberty to precise myself that I’ve maintained to at the present time.”
Mr. Pacheco, who co-founded Fania Data in 1964 as New York was supplanting Cuba as a middle for rising Latin music, described Mr. Vega in 2009 as “a part of the entire salsa motion, one among its pillars.”
“As we have been constructing the corporate,” he added, “he was there with us. I’d carry him the LPs, he’d pay attention and say, ‘I like this music, I’m going to push it,’ and he’d play the hell out of it.”
Mr. Vega later moved to WBNX, the place he grew to become generally known as “El Rey de la Radio” — the King of Radio — and the place he met Raúl Alarcón, the senior program director. Mr. Alarcón went on to change into head of the Spanish Broadcasting System, the place Mr. Vega was for a few years govt vice chairman in command of programming.
In 2009, Mr. Vega was honored at two all-star Fiftieth-anniversary live shows at Madison Sq. Backyard. Three years later he was celebrated at Citi Discipline in Queens by a lineup that included Gloria Estefan and Daddy Yankee.
Mr. Vega’s spouse, Judith, died final 12 months. His survivors embody two sons and a daughter. Two different sons died earlier than him.
In a press release, his household requested that his followers not mourn however “have a good time his legacy,” including: “Polito continues to reside within the music that he cherished and shared, in addition to the influence he left within the Latin group. Polito lived happiness, smiles and love. We want for all his followers to reside life to the fullest, as he did.”