“I’ve been through peaks and valleys in this business,” Cuban musician & producer Johnny Aguilo told me right before he walked on stage. I first became aware of the Grammy-nominated Latin band, Conjunto Progreso, when I moved to Miami. Attending the first show at the now-closed Van Dyke Cafe, I became an instant fan of their group.
As I began to learn about Johnny and his family’s long music history, his words of inspiration that he chose to pass on made complete sense to me: “Never let go of your dreams.”
“Johnny’s music career started very early, being the son of legendary Cuban Band leader Rolando “Ruso” Aguilo and Grandson of Cuban Bass player Mario “Chicho” Aguilo. The Aguilos we’re one of the biggest musical families from Matanzas, Cuba. His great Grandfather Arturo Aguilo was a poet, playwright and musician and his great uncle Arturito Aguilo was a singer and credited as the first vocalist of the Cuban Music genre “Danzonette”.
In the early 80’s Johnny met Juan Diaz, Fro Sosa (Nuclear Valdez) Al Perez (Erotic Exotic) and formed the band “Edge of Glass.” In 1983 he got a job working for radio Station I-95 and then went on to work with TK Records’ Henry Stone where he discovered and managed artist “Connie” “Funky Little Beat.” In 1985 he and Al Perez along with Gus Caveda, Mario Gil and Eric Thompson formed Erotic Exotic. Erotic Exotic was signed to Atlantic Records and the band had great success in the U.S. as well as abroad with 4 top 50 Billboard Dance Chart Hits. They toured across the U.S. and S. America.
In 1989 he formed the band “New Religion” and was signed to legendary music mogul Henry Stone’s Hot Records label and released the single “For You”.
In the early to mid 90s Johnny played with a few local bands including Cruz Azul, Red Road, The Baboons and also joined “Young Turk” who were signed to “Virgin Records.” Young Turk toured and opened for major acts including Ingwie Malmsteen, Foghat, Paul Rodgers, Catherine Wheel. In 1998 together with former Erotic Exotic member Al Perez, he produced and played with the Latin House Band “Los Sucios”.
In 1999 Johnny founded Conjunto Progreso and has been leading the band since. In 2005 Conjunto Progreso was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album”, given a Proclamation by the City Miami and were Editors’ choice for “Best Latin Band” 2010 Miami New Times.”
Johnny added that “My father is my biggest influence” and these people have significantly influenced him as well: his Grandfather Mario Aguilo; the former singer of Conjunto Progreso Rolando Perez; and also the founder of TK Records, Henry Stone.
Johnny is the 23rd subject in my next photography exhibit #YouWowMe – the first-ever photography project to combine portraiture and personal words of inspiration which are passed to the next person — i.e. a “pay it forward” of inspirational photography.
To view more #YouWowMe portraits, go here.
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