The Raleigh Hotel, in South Fallsburg, was one of the better-known resorts in the Catskills. While not as large as the Concord or Grossinger's, The Raleigh was well-known for music, which, in the '50s and into the '60s, was Latin. The hotel was sold in 2005, reopening soon after under the management of the Bobover Chassidic sect. David Hersher grew up in the Raleigh, and became the bass player in the popular charanga Orquesta Broadway.
I was born in Brooklyn, 1941, my brother [Ira] is three and a half years younger. That’s where we grew up, and because of the Raleigh Hotel affiliation that’s really what gave us the background in Latin music. All the hotels in the Catskills in those days -- we’re talking about the ‘50s and ‘60s -- all had a Latin house band along with the so-called American band which was really a show band — the band which played for the shows and played not a lot of dance music. Tito Puente was at, I think, the President Hotel or one of those…Machito was the house band at the Concord… Alfredito was also a Jewish guy. I think he was at one of the hotels as well, but every hotel had a house band. The Raleigh Hotel—it was called the Ratner Hotel to begin with, the name was changed in the early '50s to the Raleigh.
That was the name of my grandparents' partners in those days. It was the Ratner family and my grandparents. No longer after that, I’d say the late ‘40s, it was the Ratner family, then it was my family alone. The Raleigh hotel had a mambo show, a late night mambo show, on Thursday nights in those days which started at about 1 or 2 in the morning. All the Latin musicians from all the other hotels in the Catskills would come into the Raleigh Thursday nights after they had finished playing their night at their respective hotels. And there was a mambo show late night dance show at the Raleigh and the La Playa Sextet would do the reception, and then all the other Latin musicians would sit in. So it turned out to be a 10-15 piece jam session. Along with whomever the dancers brought. There were a lot of non–Latin people and Latin people involved in these dance teams. Characters such as Millie Donay, the Mambo Aces (those were 2 Puerto Rican guys), the Cha-Cha-Taps — they were Cuban teens. There were lots of Latin dancers.
Actually the highlight of those mambo shows was in the August of 1960, when an orquesta
arrived from Cuba
, played at the Raleigh
That was probably August of 1960, and that was eight months after Fidel came in, New Year’s Day of ‘59. Andy Vasquez who was one of the dancers in the Mambo Aces, he brought Aragón. They would play in New York City
and other places, and he brought them up here for one of the Thursday night late mambo shows.
Everybody who was into Latin music in NYC was up here at the Raleigh Hotel that night.
That night is a legend! And it was my brother’s and my first experience with Cuban music.
We knew of Latin music, but we didn’t know much about the Cuban bands.
That was our first experience with a Cuban band and we taped it, actually.
We still have five or six tunes on tape from 1960, that night. Yeah it was a fabulous night!
I mean if you run into any one of these people now,
of course they are now in their 50s and 60s, and who were there that night, will remember that night fondly.
Labels: Catskills, David Hersher, Orquesta Broadway, Raleigh Hotel