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Tito Lara


Born Agustin Enrique Lara Olivencia on December 23, 1932, in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Lara was raised by his maternal grandmother and received primary education in Santurce. During his spare time, he taught himself to play the guitar. In 1942, when was only 10 years old, his grandmother realized that her grandson had musical talent and took him to WNEL, the local radio station, where he made his debut. In 1946, Lara enrolled at the Free School of Music in San Juan. There he continued his guitar studies and learned to play the trumpet.


Trio los Lirios

In 1948, Lara and eleven fellow students created an ensemble with Lara as lead singer. In 1949, Lara formed a trio called Trio los Lirios which became a regular guest on the WKAQ radio station. They were paid 2 American dollars per appearance.

His Recording Debut

Lara enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico to study Liberal Arts and joined the university's choir. In 1950, the owner of Mardí Records heard and was impressed by Lara's singing and asked him to form a quartet including a female voice. Lara did so, was signed by Mardí Records and dropped out of college in 1953 to travel with the quartet to New York City.

Lara also went solo in 1953 and scored a hit with a recording of the bolero Sollozo ('Crying'), which he followed up with Orquidas, a Spanish version of Orchids in the Moonlight by Vincent Youmans. That same year he met and married Nilda Maria Canino with whom he was to have three children, Agustin Jr., Maria and Jose Rafael. He returned to New York and performed at the Paramount Theater where Myrta Silva introduced him as "El Pollo que Canta" (The Handsome Singer).

Los Hispanos

In 1955, Lara joined one of Puerto Rico's renowned quartets Los Hispanos and made his television début with them and singers, Ida Claudio, and Sonia Noemí on "El Show Ford", broadcasted by Telemundo, the television station owned and operated by Angel Ramos. On January 11, 1965, the group began a seven-year participation in the televised part of the Sultana Festival, a show produced by Paquito Cordero. Lara and Los Hispanos travelled and performed in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, Venezuela and Chile.

Lara enrolled in the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico and in 1970 earned his Bachelors degree, specializing in trumpet-playing. He formed a duo with Maria Esther Ortiz called Los Dos and also founded the Allegro 72 group, which, among others, included Luis Antonio Cosme. Lara performed with Allegro 72 at Carnegie Hall, New York and at various television stations. Some members of Allegro 72 who went on to gain fame were Lunna, Angel "Cuco" Peña and Alice Garcia.

His Later years

Lara began to have problems with his health in 1978, suffering a stroke which was complicated by his diabetes. In 1979, he underwent an open-heart surgery procedure from which he recuperated and shortly after returned to Puerto Rico. There he underwent conversion to Christianity and joined a Protestant church. He was inactive in the music business for over six years.

In 1985, Lara participated in the Concierto de Navidad (Christmas Concert) held at the Luis A. Ferré Center for the Performing Arts in San Juan. In 1986, he held concerts in the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts and at the Hostos Center of Culture in the Bronx. That year he also recorded his last album, Los Cuatro Aces (The Four Aces).

In March 1987, Lara suffered a massive heart attack and was sent to the West Houston Medical Center in Houston, Texas. He died on June 23, 1987 and was laid to rest in Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan. Tito Lara is considered by many to be Puerto Rico's first television singing idol.


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