Betty Pino, 'Queen of Latin Radio,' Dies

Radio DJ and personality Betty Pino, a presence in Latin radio for over 30 years, died early Tuesday morning following a bacterial infection that had left her hospitalized for nearly a month. The Ecuadorean-born Pino, a glamorous figure with jet-black hair and sultry dark eyes, had the voice to match. For decades, her voice was a fixture on Spanish-language radio where she championed the rise of a steady stream of pop acts, from Julio Iglesias and Roberto Carlos to Shakira and Carlos Vives.

Although Pino had not been in the programmer’s seat for several years, she remained a presence on the airwaves holding court daily from 10 am until 3 p.m. on Univision Radio station Amor 107.5 FM in Miami, where she hosted her own music and entertainment news show.

“Goodbye to our dear Betty Pino, the ‘Queen of Radio,” Univision posted in its Uforia Music page. “Radio is in mourning with the departure of Betty Pino, who was an essential piece of U.S. radio for so many artists that garnered fame in this country.”

Julio Iglesias said in a statement, “My friend, I didn’t expect you to leave us so soon, but we will see each other again. You were lovely with me and I always adored you. Life won’t be the same for all the artists who you helped so much. “

Betty Pino arrived in Miami in the early 1970s from Ecuador, a slight, dark-haired young woman with an executive secretary’s degree, a burning desire to work in radio and virtually no experience in the field.

By the end of the decade, Pino was established as one of the top doyennes of Spanish language radio in the United States. And up until the time of her death, she was arguably the most recognizable female voices on Miami’s Spanish radio airwaves.

And while Pino was open to a variety of music, her passion was Latin pop, and from her onset, she became a champion of acts like Julio Iglesias, Raphael and Juan Gabriel.

“I grew up with these artists, starting in the 1970s,” she told Billboard in 2006, when Billboard commemorated Pino’s career with a special issue.   “On the AM stations, the sound was either a very local Cuban sound or talk shows. With the exception of an occasional Raphael or Julio Iglesias track, you didn’t hear that international sound I was used to and I knew existed worldwide. I began as a receptionist at an AM radio station here in Miami . . . and when my boss purchased an FM station, I told him, “There is a lot of music that isn’t played here . . . Let’s make a station of only ballads. The audience is thirsty for this music.”

That was the beginning of FM 92, [Miami’s first Spanish-language FM station], on Nov. 1, 1974.  Pino would eventually become PD—a post she kept until 1990—and she largely shaped the station’s pop format, a first in the city. As a result, many acts like Julio Iglesias, Dyango, Roberto Carlos, Juan Gabriel, Rocío Durcal, Raphael, Luis Miguel and José Luis Rodriguez, saw their popularity directly affected by Pino’s support.

Pino would subsequently work as PD and DJ at Miami’s 95.7 FM-Radio Ritmo (FMDJ) Radio Ritmo (yoday, that station is WXDJ, owned by SBS), Clásica 92 (the former FM 92.3) and Romance 106.7 FM (WRMA) before taking her current post in Amor in 2000.

Although Pino’s power waned after she stopped programming, she remained a respected personality who hosted top acts on her show.

By all accounts, Pino’s longevity in the business had as much to do with her work in radio as it did with a genuine interest in developing a Latin music market.

In the same special, concert promoter Arie Kaduri said he owed his entry into that market to Pino.  “The first time I wanted to work with Spanish acts, I called her and said, ‘My name is Arie Kaduri, I don’t speak Spanish, but I’m a concert promoter and I want to work in the Latin market,” remembered Kaduri, who at that point was a veteran with clients like Tony Orlando, Johnny Mathis and Jackie Mason.  “She went and spoke on my behalf.” 

Jorge A. Pino, VP Music for Venevision International and an executive who has known Pino (no relationship) for the past 20 years, praised her “immense passion for music. Through the years, she has been involved with some of the greatest names in Latin music, helping take their careers to greater heights in the U.S. market.”

Betty Pino lamented the changes in the industry that had led to a “Colder” atmosphere. “It isn’t like before, where there was a more personal relationship with the artists, both on our part as programmers, and on the artists’ side,” she said.  “Today, with few exceptions, the relationship [of] artist [and] radio is more standard.”

Her advice to new acts, however, remained unchanged: “Get guidance from people who really know about music. A song can make or break an artist. The song is first, second and third. When you have that good song, you hit in radio and the label is happy and takes care of you. Today, artists aren’t as well-taken care of because perhaps they’re not recording the hits they should be recording.  Be focused and have stations accept you as you are. It is a problem when an artist changes his style to fit into a format that isn’t his. He doesn’t gain an audience. He loses it.”