Don Tosti, a musician and composer who blended elements of jazz, boogie and blues to create the Latin "Pachuco" sound of the 1940s-era Zoot Suit culture died yesterday (Aug. 2) at his Palm Springs, Ca
Don Tosti, a musician and composer who blended elements of jazz, boogie and blues to create the Latin "Pachuco" sound of the 1940s-era Zoot Suit culture died yesterday (Aug. 2) at his Palm Springs, Calif., home. He was 81.
Doctors diagnosed Tosti with advanced prostate cancer in May, according to his sister, Marylin Martinez Wood.
Tosti began playing music as a boy and forged a career spanning several decades and styles, from classical to jazz to rhythm and blues. He was best remembered for his Pachuco-style compositions like the hit "Pachuco Boogie." Recorded in 1948, it was the first million-selling Latin song.
The Pachuco sound, meanwhile, gave rhythm to an emerging Mexican-American youth culture inspired by the Zoot Suit scene. "He was very influential," said Chris Strachwitz, president and owner of Arhoolie Productions, who released a compilation featuring Tosti's work in 2002.
Tosti was born Edmundo Martinez Tostado in El Paso, Texas, and by age 9 was playing violin for the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. He moved to Los Angeles a few years later, switched to the upright bass and began studying jazz.
At 19, jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden offered him a job with his orchestra, and Tosti hit the road. He went on to play with some of the major swing bandleaders of the post-World War II era, including Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Barnett and Les Brown.
He later concentrated on writing and performing his own material and formed his own band, the Pachuco Boogie Boys. In the 1960s, he moved to Palm Springs and became an orchestra leader at hotels. In recent years, he taught piano lessons out of his home and was a highly valued session musician.
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