His vocal abilities; in various genres, was cultivated from an early age. When Betancourt was 11 years old, he sang with a small band named after a beer, “Cabeza de Perros”, since the band was sponsored by the brewing company. By 16, he was singing with the a well known Cuban band, Guaguanco Matancero. In 1958, at age 18, Betancourt made his first singles recording as part of the band Conjunto Club.
Betancourt left Cuba and lived in Greece for a short time before settling in New York City in 1964. There, he worked for two years with bandleader/timbales player Orlando Marín, contributing vocals to their “Esta En Algo” album, released in 1967. The album reached the top ten and helped establish his name in the salsa community.
After a very short stint with Johnny Pacheco of only a couple of weeks, Betancourt joined the very well know band, Sonora Matancera. He also performed other famous salsa artists and bands at that time, including Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto.
In 1968, Betancourt released his debut album, El Explosivo, on the Fania label, and his next album, Los Dinamicos, in 1971. The albums were quality but Betancourt was little noted for the effort until his acclaimed third album, Pa Bravo Yo, in 1972, with the smash hit title song.
After almost 8 years in New York, Betancourt moved to Puerto Rico in 1972. It was a move that greatly helped his career, starting with the creation of a new band called “Borincuba”. Named to reflect the mixture of Puerto Rican and Cuban artists, the band recorded two albums with Betancourt as lead vocals: Distinto y Diferente in 1977 and Presencia! in 1978, with songs like Le Puso La Tapa. But the band had some problems, including the departure of Tito Rojas, who went solo for awhile before creating his own band, “Conjunto Borincano”.
There was a dry spell for some years until 1990 when Betancourt released Regresar on his own record label: RMQ. Eric Figueroa figured prominently in the release as producer, conductor and arranger for many of the songs on the album.
But apart from his own albums and performances, Betancourt has also performed with many of the best salsa artists of his day. In addition to being a part of the Fania All Stars he has worked with such notables as Mongo Santamaria, Roberto Roena, Cheo Feliciano, Willie Colón and Descarga Boricua and others.
The Best of Justo Betancourt (1993)
Lo Sabemos (1993)
Distinto y Diferente (1993)
Pa' Bravo Yo (1992)
Leguleya No (1992)
Justo Betancourt [Vol 2] (1992)
Justo Betancourt [Vol 1] (1992)
El Explosivo (1992)
El Bravo de Siempre (1992)
El Que Sabe Sabe (1972)