Born Ramon Jacinto Herrera in Limon, Costa Rica in 1928, he received his first guitar at the age of seven years. Later, he worked as a fisherman in Colombia, where he also launched his career as a professional musician. But it was after he moved to Cuba in 1953 that he was dubbed Ray Tico, a stage nickname that has stayed with him throughout the decades. And it was in Cuba in 1956 that he penned the bolero “Eso Es Imposible,” easily the most popular of the fifty-plus songs he has written. With this newfound notoriety, Ray relocated to the United States, performing often at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City as well as spending considerable time in Hollywood. In 1969, Ray Tico returned to Costa Rica, the hometown boy back from conquering America. He was forty-one years old.
Ray Tico has spent the following thirty-eight years of his life writing songs and performing them virtually everywhere and anywhere (including presidential inaugurations here), and basically doing all the things that have gained him a word-of-mouth legacy. In true form, Costa Rica’s premier music label, Papaya Music, has stepped up to the plate. One of their broad-reaching goals has been to preserve the country’s musical heritage, as they have recently done with the Walter Ferguson and Limon Legends CDs. The next logical move has been to capture the Ray Tico legacy on CD. The disc has been appropriately titled “Solo Para Recorder”. It begins and ends poignantly with live songs, the first being “Delirio”, complete with an enthusiastic audience. The CD then moves into the studio for Ray Tico classics, such as “Bienvenido” and a studio version of “Eso Es Imposible”. This song is a turning point on the CD. Whereas the first few songs are delivered in straight-ahead folkloric style, Ray seems to loosen up with his signature song. “Romance en Habana” follows and Sr. Tico lets it all cut loose as he accompanies himself on percussion, using his feet and even his fingers on the box of the guitar while he is also finger-picking the strings. Don’t ask me how he does that. Other highlights on the CD include “Cristo, Rio y Yo”, “Besame Amor” and the title track, “Solo Para Recordar”.
The final song, also a live recording, is actually a cuplet, starting out with the standard “Besame Mucho” and progressing into the disc’s second version of “Eso Es Imposible,” Ray’s signature song. The advance copy of the disc that I received from Papaya contains no liner notes, but I’m pretty sure that’s Manuel Obregon’s piano accompaniment on the song. It’s a nice duet and, unfortunately, the only one on the CD. It would have been nice to hear a few more songs with that arrangement. With over an hour of music on the disc, the listener definitely gets his money’s worth, and Ray is given a lot of room to display his amazing guitar work. While this disc may not be for everyone, it is nice to see Papaya Music give the nod to Ray Tico and the concept of preserving Costa Rican folklore. The Ray Tico and all Papaya CDs are available at Jaime Peligro in Tamarindo, where they will gladly sample the music for the customers.All comments concerning this article are welcome.