Olivencia, Tommy

Salsa singer, musician, and bandleader, Tommy Olivencia was born during the depression era in the Villa Palmeras section of Santurce, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Olivencia started his musical career as a singer when he was only 16 years old and was a bandleader when he was 22.

Olivencia was bandleader for more than 35 years of an orchestra that spawned many notable salsa artists, including Paquito Guzmán, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Lalo Rodríguez, Frankie Ruiz and Héctor Tricoche. Despite this apparent success, he was rarely considered among salsa’s greats. Apart from his longevity, what distinguished Olivencia was his trademark combination of swing and melodic styles together with a strong brass contingent in the band. From the late 1970’s onward, the band’s brass section consisted of two trombones and four trumpets.

Olivencia’s early vocalists included Sammy González, Chamaco Ramírez and Paquito Guzmán. González left after the 1972 release of Secuestro to join Roberto Roena‘s band Apollo Sound. Reinaldo Jorge, Olivencia’s first trombonist, left the band, after Juntos De Nuevo was released in 1974, while Ramírez’s last recording with Olivencia was Planté; Bandera in 1975. Heavy drug addiction destroyed his health and ultimately killed the talented singer.

With only two exceptions (in 1975 and 1976), Guzmán was co-lead singer on all of Olivencia’s albums between 1972 and 1979, although Guzmán also released several solo albums on Inca Records, during that same period. The talented trumpeter and arranger Luis “Perico” Ortiz produced, performed on and contributed some excelllent arrangements to Olivencia’s albums between, around that same time, between 1975 and 1979.

In 1976, 18-year-old singer and composer Lalo Rodríguez, who had previously worked with Eddie Palmieri, joined Simón Pérez as co-lead vocalist on the Introducing Lalo Rodríguez & Simón Pérez album. The success earned Olivencia the award for the best band in Puerto Rico that same year. Rodríguez then left the band but Pérez remained for three additional albums.

In 1978, Olivencia won the Puerto Rican music industry’s Diplo award but the following year saw yet more changes in the band’s makeup. Pérez was replaced in 1979 by Gilberto Santa Rosa on the album Tommy Olivencia y Su Orquesta after which Santa Rosa left to join Willie Rosario‘s band.

Olivencia the brought on two new young lead singers for the 1981 album, Un Triángulo De Triunfo!: Carlos Alexis and Frankie Ruiz.

Olivencia signed as a solo performer with TH Records shortly later and after releasing “El Caballero De La Salsa” in 1983 and “Paquito Guzmán Con Trio” in 1985, he became one of the first artists to record in the salsa romántica style, starting with his 1986 hit album, Las Mejores Baladas En Salsa. The new style suited Olivencia well and help lift his career. He had equal success with Tu Amante Romántico in 1987 and Aquí Conmigo in 1989.

Alexis was succeeded by Héctor Tricoche, in time for Olvencia’s release in 1984 of his Celebrando Otro Aniversario album. It also happened to be Ruiz’s last album with Olivencia. He was replaced by Paquito “Junior” Acosta on Olivencia’s 1985 release of Ayer, Hoy, Mañana y Siempre!. That same year, Olivencia oversaw the production and his band provided the accompaniment for the veteran Colombian singer Nelson Pinedo on the album “Desde Puerto Rico”.

Unfortunately, those successful albums were followed by the not so stellar releases of Peligroso Amor in 1990 and From Puerto Rico in 1991.

Olivencia celebrated three decades as a bandleader in 1987 with the hit album 30 Aniversario, which reached the top of the charts with smash hit “Lobo Domesticado”, performed by Héctor Tricoche and arranged by Máximo Torres, and an anniversary medley of past hits. Olivencia mixed salsa romántica style songs with his usual searing salsa his El Jeque, in 1988; his last record on the TH-Rodven label. Typical of the songs in these recordings is 12 Rosas.

Tricoche left the band in 1990, the same year that Olivencia signed with Capitol/EMI Latin Records and that singer Héctor “Pichy” Pérez left Sonora Ponceña to join Olivencia as Tricoche’s replacement. Pérez made his recording debut with the band on Enamorado… y Que! in 1991.


40 Aniversario (2002)

Serie 32 (2001)

La Nueva Sensacion Musical de Puerto Rico (2001)

La Sensación de Tommy Olivencia (2000)

Lo Mejor de Tommy Olivencia (2000)

Serie Millennium 21 (1999)

Exitos, Vol. 1 (1999)

30 Aniversario (1999)

Vive la Leyenda (1998)

Oro Salsero 10 Exitos, Vol. 2 (1998)

Oro Salsero 10 Exitos, Vol. 1 (1998)

Cantan: Frankie Ruiz & Carlos Alexis (1998)

Coleccion Mi Historia (1997)

Show (1996)

Oro Salsero: 20 Exitos (1996)

Secuestro (1993)

Salsa Cueros y Sentimiento (1993)

La Primerisima (1993)

Juntos de Nuevo (1993)

Introducing Lalo Rodríguez and Simon Pérez (1993)

Ayer Hoy Manana Y Siempre (1993)

Tommy Olivencia [RCA] (1992)

Sweat Trumpet (1992)

Plante Bandera (1992)

Haciendo Estrellas (1992)

Fiesta de Soneros (1992)

El Negro Chombo (1992)

Un Triangulo de Triunfo (1991)

Tommy Olivencia [T.H. Rodven] (1991)

Tommy Olivencia Y Su Orquesta (1991)

Tommy Olivencia, Vol. 1 (1990)

Enamorado...Y Que! (1990)

El Jeque (1990)

Celebrando Otro Aniversario (1990)

Tommy Olivencia and Orchestra (1979)

12 Grandes (1979)

The Best of Tommy Olivencia (1975)

A Toda Maquina! (1970)

Fire-Fire/Fuego Fuego (1969)

Jala Jala y Guaguancó (1968)