African American Studies
Phil Newsum played in Latin ensembles in the 50’s and 60’s. He was not born in the Bronx nor was he raised there; however, his experiences in the Manhattan and Harlem music scene offers clarity to the Bronx music scene.
Phil talks about the difficulty of being accepted by a Latin community as a black man playing Afro Cuban music. Despite the difficulty, he persevered and eventually found mentorship in Tito Rodriguez, Mongo Chaquitto, Rodrigues Hungero and others. In order to fit in with the Latin crowd, and African American or Afro American musician would take on Latin names. This was the process of “latinization.”
Phil played in dance clubs throughout Manhattan and the Bronx. He remembers playing at the Blue Morocco and a venue called “Freddy’s”. Many of the venues in which he played were easy to get to by public transportation. The venues were often a few steps away from the exit of the subway stations. These clubs attracted kids between the ages of 16 and 20. Phil explains that black kids “took great pride in dress” back then
Phil did not make much money because his band did not play music that was popular amongst the masses. The music his group played was primarily consumed and popular amongst the black and Latin populations residing in the Bronx and Manhattan. Promoters would often make more than the artists in which they promoted. The artists and bands that created jingles also made money.
Newsum, Phil. 10 January 2006. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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