The Shaman's Career Before Supernatural (1966 to 1999)
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 [F] Carlos Santana   ||  jalisco-- tijuana--sfmission || top artist (by USA album sales) lots of construction still to come



Latino Session (1993)
starring a jam between the two SF Mission guitar gods, Jerry Garcia and Carlos Sananta

check to see if any available. Reissue overdue


For over thirty years, Santana has been tirelessly creating his own unique fusion of passionate, guitar-powered music. He creatively blends potent rock 'n roll with blues-driven elements and sensuous Afro-Cuban rhythms. Santana's use of Afro-Cuban rhythms is, in some ways, his best-known stylistic trait; it's certainly what people remember best about such hits as "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va."

So. How is it possible that a ‘60s legend, with all the past-tense attributes that expression conveys, succeed in turning out music that appeals to almost mind-boggling numbers of people? How on Earth did this hippie veteran who is fond of quoting his ministering angels manage to turn so many heads - and so many younger heads - without singing, without acting up a storm on stage, or without looking like your average Ricky Martin “Latin lover” type? Carlos Santana is a jubilant 21st century man, and like the new century, he's just getting started.

Santana's Supernatural Career:

Carlos first began playing the strip in Tijuana at age of 11. But it was when he joined his family in San Francisco's Mission District at the age of 16 that he became truly inspired.

In San Francisco he discovered a thriving cultural scene with a diversity of musical styles, including jazz, blues, international folk music, and classical salsa by the likes of Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri. He began emulating the sounds of artists like B.B. King, T.Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. Santana had a musical revelation at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in 1966, where he saw B.B. King for the first time. This experience would inspire his own famous guitar tone.

"It was B.B.'s first time at the Fillmore, and he got a standing ovation before he even began playing," Santana told Guitar World's Alan DiPerna. "He was so moved that he started crying. And I remember, because of the way the light was hitting him, all you could see was the glitter of tears in his eyes and the diamonds on his rings when he put his hand up to his face. And when you were a kid who'd just come up from Tijuana and felt like you didn't know anything, that kind of thing really hit you. B.B. King hit the note and it changed everything for me. I said, `That's it. There's the sound I've been searching for.' I felt like a kid chasing the circus." Santana added that part of what King's playing taught him was to think in terms of the individual note. "A note is like a rose," he said. "It can be closed, or halfway open, or all the way in bloom. You have to know when to hit that note the right way-choose how each note is going to be. It's like being a gardener. You want to present the best possible bouquet."

Not long after that life-changing night at the Fillmore, Santana formed a band with his friends Gregg Rolie, Gus Rodriguez, Michael Carabello, naming it The Santana Blues Band. The group was the last major act to emerge from the psychedelic San Francisco music scene of the 1960s, and it enjoyed massive success at the end of the decade and into the early '70s.

The group made its debut in 1968 at the Fillmore Auditorium and became a favorite of influential West Coast promoter and Fillmore owner Bill Graham, performing there regularly to packed houses. The band played a triumphant four-night stand at the venue, portions of which have been released by Legacy Recordings in a two-CD set, Live at the Fillmore West.

Meanwhile, Santana was signed to Columbia Records and recorded a self-titled debut album. At this point, the group was a sextet consisting of Carlos (guitar), Gregg Rolie (keyboards and vocals; born June 17, 1947, in Seattle, WA ), David Brown (bass; born February 15, 1947, in New York, NY), Michael Shrieve (drums), Jose "Chepito" Areas (percussion), and Michael Carabello (percussion; born November 18, 1947, in San Francisco).

"Merging it didn't happen overnight," he adds. "What happened was that we were playing blues, and we were supposed to play at the Fillmore with Howlin' Wolf and Steve Miller-I remember because that was the biggest break we were going to get-but then something happened. They took me to the hospital for tuberculosis. I was there for three-and-a-half months, and I couldn't get out. It was like being in jail. They put me in this ward, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or something.

"And so we had to cancel. But people kept coming to see me from the band, and they would say, `Hey, just to keep the band together we hired a conga player.' I thought, `A conga player? That's different.' So when I got out, we started playing with this conga player called Marcus Malone. Before that, they played with Michael Carabella. Malone was the one who brought in `Jingo,' which of course belonged to [African drummer Babatunde] Olatunji,' and all those other songs."



  • Which albums inspire you?

    Tell everybody to hear Spellbinder by Gabor Szabo. That is a must for anybody who plays guitar. He's the person who I credit with pulling me out of B.B. King. B.B. had us in a headlock -- Michael Bloomfield, Peter Green -- we were all under his spell. Gabor played like a Gypsy, but different from Paco de Lucia. I first heard Gabor with [drummer] Chico Hamilton. The band had no piano player. It was just congas, timbales, and drums with Gabor and [bassist] Ron Carter. It sounded unbelievable.

    So Spellbinder is one of those "Holy Grail" recordings?

    Exactly. Also "The Supernatural" by Peter Green, Bola Sete's At the Monterey Jazz Festival, and Wes Montgomery's Goin' Out of My Head. Unplug the phone, sit down with these, and you're in for a real surprise.

  • The debut album was named after Santana, and was an instant success, spawning such hits as "Jingo" and "Evil Ways". Santana, released in 1969, peaked in the Top Five, going on to remain in the charts over two years and selling over two million copies.

    Santana toured the U.S. prior to the release of the album, including a notable appearance in front of a half-million music fans at the legendary Woodstock festival on August 15, 1969. They performed a piece titled "Soul Sacrifice," written specifically for the event, which became a highlight of the documentary film Woodstock and its double-platinum soundtrack album, which appeared in 1970.

    The band's second album, Abraxas, was released in September 1970 and was even more successful than its first. It hit number one, remaining in the charts more than a-year-and-a-half and eventually selling over four million copies while spawning the #4 hit "Black Magic Woman" and the Top Ten hit "Oye Como Va." By the end of the year, the group had added a seventh member, teenage guitarist Neal Schon (born February 27, 1954).

    Santana III, released in September 1971, was another great hit, reaching number one and eventually selling over two million copies while spawning the Top Ten hit "Everybody's Everything" and the Top 20 hit "No One to Depend On." Santana III, marked the beginning of the wide collaboration with guest musicians in the recording studio by Carlos Santana, most notably percussionist Coke Escovedo, who played on all the tracks. The album also marked the end of the Woodstock-era edition of Santana, with Carlos retaining rights to the band name.

    After completing recording and touring activities in connection with Santana III, the original Santana band broke up, with Rolie and Schon leaving to form Journey. His first recording after the breakup of the original group was a live album resulting from a tour with singer and drummer Buddy Miles, released in June 1972 as Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live! Consistent with the success of the Santana band, the album reached the Top Ten and eventually went platinum.

    The fourth Santana band album Caravanserai, released in September 1972, featured individual musician credits on each track. From the previous lineup, Rolie, Shrieve, Areas, and Schon appeared, alongside pianist Tom Coster, percussionist James Mingo Lewis, percussionist Armando Peraza, guitarist/bassist Douglas Rauch, and percussionist Rico Reyes, among others. The recording peaked in the Top Five and was eventually certified platinum. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance with Vocal Coloring.

    "For pure guitar, listen to Caravanserai. Neal Schon and I played really well on that album. At the time, the Allman Brothers had two guitar players. I remember Miles was really upset with me because I had another guitarist, but I told him, 'I think Neal is a great guitar player, and that's what I hear right now.' I believe it worked. Later, Neal went to do his thing with Journey, and because I still craved to play with another guitarist, I played with John McLaughlin. Once I got that craving out of the way, I wanted to learn why I was so fascinated with Coltrane and that sky-church music, as Jimi called it. So I got together with [pianist and harpist] Alice Coltrane, and I found out why she writes, and how she writes those celestial strings. It's important for guitarists to listen to her and [tenor saxophonist] Pharaoh Sanders."

    Allmen Joy

    May 15-18, 1969
    Artist: Lee Conklin
    BG #173 Postcard

    After Caravanserai, Carlos formed a duo with John McLaughlin, guitarist for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The two shared a spiritual leader in guru Sri Chinmoy, who bestowed upon Carlos the name Devadip, meaning "the eye, the lamp, and the light of God." Devadip Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin's duo album Love Devotion Surrender was released in June 1973. It reached the Top 20 and eventually went gold. After releasing another Santana band project, Welcome, Carlos next teamed up with another religious disciple, Turiya Alice Coltrane, widow of John Coltrane, for a third duo album. Their collaboration, Illuminations, was released in September 1974; it spent two months in the charts, peaking in the bottom quarter of the Top 100. The Daily Page: CD Review: Carlos Santana, Divine Light

    Columbia released Santana's Greatest Hits in July 1974. The compilation peaked in the Top 20 and eventually went double platinum. The sixth new Santana album, Borboletta, followed in October. The band personnel for the LP featured Carlos, Shrieve, Areas, Coster, Peraza, a returning David Brown, saxophonist Jules Broussard, and singer Leon Patillo, plus guest stars Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, and Stanley Clarke. Borboletta peaked in the Top 20 and eventually went gold.

    Carlos steered Santana back to a more commercial sound in the mid-'70s in an attempt to stop the eroding sales of the band's albums. He enlisted Santana's original producer, David Rubinson, to handle the next LP. The band was streamlined to a sextet consisting of himself, Coster, Peraza, Brown, drummer Ndugu Leon Chancler (Shrieve having departed to work with Stomu Yamashta), and singer Greg Walker. The result was Amigos, released in March 1976, which returned Santana to the Top Ten and went gold. The band was back only nine months later with another Rubinson production, Festival, for which Santana consisted of Carlos, Coster, returning members Jose "Chepito" Areas and Leon Patillo, drummer Gaylord Birch, percussionist Raul Rekow, and bass player Pablo Telez. This album peaked in the Top 40 and went gold.


    Woody Herman & His Orchestra
    A.B. Skhy
    Ike & Tina Turner
    Blues Image

    June 17-22, 1969
    Artist: David Singer

    BG #178 Postcard

    Never having issued a live album in the U.S., Santana made up for the lapse with Moonflower, released in October 1977. The band consisted of Carlos, Coster, Areas, Rekow, Telez, returning member Greg Walker, percussionist Pete Escovedo, drummer Graham Lear, and bass player David Margen. The album peaked in the Top Ten and eventually went platinum, its sales stimulated by the single release of a revival of the Zombies' "She's Not There" that peaked in the Top 20, Santana's first hit single in nearly six years.

    Moonflower was followed by Inner Secrets, released in 1978.  In February 1979, he finally released his first real solo album, the half-live, half-studio Oneness/Silver Dreams - Golden Reality, actually credited to Devadip. Like Illuminations, it spent a couple of months in the charts and peaked in the bottom quarter of the Top 100. After that came another gold Santana band album, Marathon (1979).

    While the Santana Band was still a top concert draw, it seemed that Carlos' days as a major force on the album charts had severely waned. In 1980, he produced a more straight-ahead jazz album, The Swing of Delight, with former Miles Davis sidemen (and stars in their own right) Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.

    Santana experienced a mini-comeback with the release of 1981's Zebop! The album became his first to crack the top 10 in several years, and produced a top 20 single in "Winning." Santana credited Bill Graham with his return to his musical roots, according to an interview Graham gave Robert Jasinski in the New York Daily News in 1982. "I told Devadip Santana that people wanted to hear the street sound that made them dance and sweat and that they associated with the band," said Graham.

    The band followed up the success of Zebop! with Shango in 1982, and the 1983 solo effort, Havana Moon, which included collaborations with country star Willie Nelson, R&B legend Booker T. Jones, and blues-rockers The Fabulous Thunderbirds. At the same time, Santana discontinued his association with Sri Chimnoy. He and his wife would later convert to Christianity in the early 1990s.

    On July 20, 1986, the Santana Band celebrated their 20th anniversary with a concert in San Francisco, reuniting all 17 past and present members on stage. The following year found the guitar master contributing to the score of La Bamba, the film about Mexican-American rock 'n' roll pioneer Ritchie Valens. That same year, he participated in the Rock 'n' Roll Summit, the first-ever joint US-Soviet rock concert. A Santana Band album, Freedom (1987), was quickly followed up with Carlos' solo effort, Blues For Salvador (1987). Though Blues for Salvador sold poorly, it did earn Carlos a Grammy.



    Jefferson Airplane
    Quicksilver Messenger Service
    It's A Beautiful Day
    Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

    February 23, 1970
    Artist: Randy Tuten

    BG #222 Postcard


    After a final Santana band album for Columbia Records, Spirits Dancing in the Flesh (1990), Carlos left the label and signed to Polydor, which gave him his own custom label, Guts and Grace. The first Santana band album for the new company was Milagro. John Swenson in Rolling Stone called Santana's effort "one of the finest sessions he's done," and added, "The album reaffirms Santana's position as the standard-bearer for fusion music."

    Milagro was followed by what was projected to be a series of releases of tapes from Carlos' own collection of his favorite musicians, Live Forever: Sacred Sources 1, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and John Coltrane. Then came a Santana band live album, Sacred Fire - Live in South America in 1993, and in September 1994, Carlos released Santana Brothers, a trio album featuring his brother Jorge Santana and their nephew, Carlos Hernandez. It charted briefly and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

    In 1993, he toured with folk icon Bob Dylan, and in 1996 with guitar great Jeff Beck. On August 14, 1994, Santana and his band performed at Woodstock II, 25 years after their breakthrough performance at the original festival. In 1996, Santana received Billboard magazine's Century Award for lifetime achievement. Two years later, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Also in '98, señor Santana and wife Deborah created the Milagro Foundation, which supports educational efforts to help youngsters live healthy, literate and culturally enriched lives. The guitarist's personally designed line of footwear, "Carlos" by Carlos Santana, appeared in stores around this time. A portion of the proceeds from shoe sales was donated to the foundation.

    Despite all the accomplishments and accolades, Santana seemed spent as a commercial force by the mid-'90s. While he still sold seats at concerts, he noticed that radio stations were only playing his old hits. It wasn't until the release of Supernatural that he would be launched back to the forefront of pop culture.


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