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Tito Puente who was formally born Ernest Anthony Puente Jr was born on April 20 1923 He was born and raised in a section of New York City known as the Spanish Harlem His father Sr worked in a razor blade factory while Ercilia Puente Titos mother noticed his sons musical talent as she enrolled him in piano lessons for 25 cents when he was seven As child he also went to dance lessons and played baseball until he injured his ankle in a bicycle accident Although Puente started in his musical talent in piano his true love was in percussion His idol Gene Krupa who was a drummer influenced Puente to become a drummer and he did so by studying drums by the age of ten In his early teens Puente started to play at gigs near his home By the age of 15 Puente had dropped out of high school to play with the Miami Beach Band where he played Americanized rhumbas and a variety if Latin-American rhythms including tangos waltzes and paso dobles After returning to Manhattan Puente was hired to play drums with the orchestras of Noro Morales and Jose Curbelo the latter of whom would become Manhattans first mambo king Puentes first big break then came when the United States entered WWII the drummer of Machito Afro-Cubans was drafted into the war and Puente was chosen to fill his spot Puente helped revitalize the band because he played the drums standing up rather then sitting down This drumming job then came to halt when Puente himself was drafted into the military he served for 3 years on a US Navy aircraft carrier in the South Pacific While being in the military Puente had many positive experiences he was able to teach himself the saxophone and he improved his education through the GI Bill He then enrolled in New Yorks Julliard School of Music where he studied composition orchestration and conducting
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