Tito Lara

Last updated
Tito Lara
Birth nameAgustín Enrique Lara Olivencia
BornDecember 23, 1932
Río Piedras, Puerto Rico
DiedJune 23, 1987
Houston, Texas
Genres Bolero

Tito Lara (December 23, 1932  June 23, 1987), was considered by many to be Puerto Rico's first television singing idol.


Early years

Lara (birth name: Agustín Enrique Lara Olivencia was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. Lara was raised by his maternal grandmother and received primary education in Santurce. During his spare time, he taught himself to play the guitar. In 1942, when was only 10 years old, his grandmother realized that her grandson had musical talent and took him to WNEL, the local radio station, where he made his debut. In 1946, Lara enrolled at the Free School of Music in San Juan, where he continued his guitar studies and learned to play the trumpet. [1]

Trío Los Lirios

In 1948, Lara and eleven fellow students created an ensemble with Lara as lead singer. In 1949, Lara formed a trio called Trío Los Lirios which became a regular guest on the WKAQ radio station. They were paid 2 American dollars per appearance.

Recording debut

Lara enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico to study Liberal Arts and joined the university's choir. In 1950, the owner of Mardí Records heard and was impressed by Lara's singing and asked him to form a quartet including a female voice. Lara did so, was signed by Mardí Records and dropped out of college in 1953 to travel with the quartet to New York City. [1]

Lara also went solo in 1953 and scored a hit with a recording of the bolero Sollozo ('Crying'), which he followed up with Orquídeas, a Spanish version of Orchids in the Moonlight by Vincent Youmans. That same year he met and married Nilda María Canino with whom he was to have three children, Agustin Jr., María and José Rafael. He returned to New York and performed at the Paramount Theater where Myrta Silva introduced him as "El Pollo que Canta" ('The Handsome Singer'). [2]

Los Hispanos

In 1955, Lara joined one of Puerto Rico's renowned quartets Los Hispanos and made his television début with them and singers, Ida Claudio, and Sonia Noemí on "El Show Ford", broadcast by Telemundo, the television station owned and operated by Ángel Ramos. His extraordinary vocal range allowed him to replace any of the members of Los Hispanos when one of them was unable to perform. On January 11, 1965, the group began a seven-year participation in the televised part of the Festival Sultana, a show produced by Paquito Cordero. Lara and Los Hispanos travelled and performed in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Panamá, Perú, Venezuela and Chile. [2] Lara enrolled in the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico and in 1970 earned his bachelor's degree, specializing in trumpet-playing. He formed a duo with María Esther Ortiz called Los Dos and also founded the Allegro 72 group, which, among others, included Luis Antonio Cosme. Lara performed with Allegro 72 at Carnegie Hall, New York, and at various television stations. Some members of Allegro 72 who went on to gain fame were Lunna, Ángel "Cucco" Peña, Dagmar Rivera and Alyce Gracia. [1]

Later years

Lara began to have problems with his health in 1978, suffering a stroke which was complicated by his diabetes. In 1979, he underwent an open-heart surgery procedure from which he recuperated and shortly after returned to Puerto Rico. There he underwent conversion to Christianity and joined a Protestant church. [2]

After his conversion, he continued singing sacred music almost exclusively, collaborating with singers such as the magnificent mezzo-soprano Maribel Soto, recording with her a Spanish adaptation of Sandi Patty's "More than Wonderful" ("Maravilloso es"); singing in a choir put together by Wisón Torres, Jr. and Leyda E. Colón, founders and directors of the Puerto Rican Christian music group Peregrinos y Extranjeros, for the CD "Buscando aquella ciudad" ("Looking for that city") (Pilgrim Music), and recording two beautiful projects as a soloist. The first one was titled "Él" ("He"); the second one: "Señor Amigo" ("My Lord, my friend"). Most of the lyrics of his sacred songs talked about grace, eternal live, hope, and love for his Lord, Jesus Christ. When visiting churches to sing live or presenting concerts, he always said: "I sing happily because I believe in the words I sing". [ citation needed ] His version in Spanish of the Frankie Laine hit I Believe, titled "Tengo Fe", became his signature song.

He also participated in "Noche de Gala", a musical variety show hosted by T.V. personality Eddie Miró, for the celebration of Easter, singing the famous duet with Maribel Soto. In 1985, Lara participated in the Concierto de Navidad (Christmas Concert) held at the "Luis A. Ferré Center for the Performing Arts" in San Juan. In 1986, he held concerts in the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts and at the Hostos Center of Culture in the Bronx. That year he also recorded his last album, Los Cuatro Ases (The Four Aces). [1]

Personal life

Lara was married to Nilda Maria Canino from 1953 to his death. In addition to his wife, he was survived by his three children. [3]


External audio
Nuvola apps arts.svg You may listen to Tito Lara's "Si Me Preguntan" on YouTube.


In March 1987, Lara suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized at the West Houston Medical Center in Houston, Texas. He died on June 23, 1987, aged 54, and was laid to rest in Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan. [2]

See also

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