The History of Menudo All Male Singing Group
After his success managing Spanish teen-group La Pandilla from 1973-1976, Edgardo Diaz returned to Puerto Rico, and formed Menudo in 1977. The group's performers initially included two sets of brothers: Diaz's cousins Ricky Melendez, Carlos Melendez and Oscar Melendez, and Fernando and Nefty Sallaberry. At the group's second rehearsal D?az's sister entered the driveway of the house the group was rehearsing at, and puzzled by finding five young boys dancing and singing in the garage, she loudly exclaimed: "?Qu? mucho menudo hay aqui!" ("What a lot of young folk we have here!"); the phrase stuck, and the group was thus named Menudo.
In the next few years, Menudo toured Puerto Rico from shopping mall to shopping mall, from fiesta patronal (a citywide yearly celebration) to fiesta patronal. During this time, they scored a hit with "Los Fantasmas" and they were able to get a regular TV show on Telemundo canal 2 every Saturday night.
Menudo's real boom came during the 1980s, after the Sallaberry brothers and Oscar and Carlos Melendez were replaced with Rene Farrait, Johnny Lozada, Xavier Serbia and Miguel Cancel. This revolving-door policy made Menudo different from other pop acts: a member would be replaced when he reached his 16th birthday, his voice changed or got too tall.
The group became very popular throughout Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, including Brazil, a difficult place for Latin pop acts. During that time, Diaz was able to afford a Cessna jet airplane that had belonged to American President Richard Nixon and the Shah of Iran. The plane carried Menudo's name on both sides of the fuselage and made it the first boy band ever with its own private jet.
At that time, their songs included "Subete A Mi Moto", "Ella A-A", "Quiero Ser", a Spanish version of ABBA's "Voulez-Vous", and "Fuego". The group also had a fanbase in Spain and the rest of Europe. "Menuditis" became a faux medical term, a diagnosis for girls who needed medical attention after attending a Menudo concert. Fan reaction to the group, labeled "Menudomania" was quite similar to Beatlemania in the English speaking countries.
Eventually Rene, Xavier, and Miguel were replaced by younger Menudo members. Rene Ferrait was the first to leave, right in the middle of Menudomania. He was successfully succeeded by Rigoberto Mejia (aka Charlie Masso) who made millions of fans for himself. When he entered the group, they recorded Por Amor where he debuted his first lead song "La Chispa De La Vida;" and the soundtrack for Menudo's big screen adventure Una Aventura Llamada Menudo starring Gladys Rodr?guez as "Senora Mia", where they also sang classics like "Clara" and "Se?ora M?a".
In 1983, Xavier and Miguel left about 6 months apart from each other, being replaced by Ray Reyes and Roy Rosello respectively. Miguel was the first member to quit the band before his time was due to pursue offers in California. With Ray and Roy, Menudo signed a multi-million dollar contract with RCA International. Their American fan base grew, especially among the young, as they sang the theme song for ABC's "Rubik, the Amazing Cube" and performed regular music videos during Rubik's half-hour show. This was also the year that they released the Spanish album A Todo Rock.
In early 1984, Johnny Lozada was replaced by Robby Rosa (a.k.a. Robi "Draco" Rosa) who would later be the mastermind behind Ricky Martin's hits "Maria", "The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vida)" and "Livin' La Vida Loca." With Robby, Menudo released their first English album Reaching Out which featured the theme track "Like a Cannonball" for the Hollywood movie Cannonball Run 2 and their first Portuguese album Mania, both featuring versions of some of their Spanish hits. Tours took place in the U.S. and Brazil during the first half of 1984.
Unavoidably in December of 1984, it was Ricky Melendez's turn to leave, and he did so in a great concert in his birth town, Caguas, Puerto Rico, becoming the only Menudo member to last seven years in the group. He was replaced with whom would become the group's most popular alumnus around the world, Ricky Martin. Martin, along with Charlie, Ray, Roy and Robby, released the Spanish album Evoluci?n which produced hits like "Sabes A Chocolate" and "Amor Primero." By this time, Menudo's popularity reached parts of Asia including Japan and the Philippines.
In 1985, Ray Reyes was forced to leave the group due to a sudden growth spurt. He was replaced by Raymond Acevedo. With Raymond, Menudo recorded their second English album, their self-titled album Menudo [aka 'Hold Me/Explosion'), which scored the hit "Hold Me." Menudo also made English commercials for Pepsi, Scope, McDonald's and Crest during that time. Later that year, the group recorded their next Spanish album Ayer Y Hoy (Yesterday & Today). A full Portuguese version was also recorded, A Festa Vai Come?ar (The Party's Going To Start) to coincide with another successful tour in Brazil.
The Brazilian tour in 1985 was really successful, with more than a million fans, mostly teen girls, attending, but it was poorly organized. In a concert in Rio de Janeiro, the capacity was 60,000 but 70,000 tickets were sold and two women died. In S?o Paulo, a 100,000 capacity stadium was sold-out with 200,000 people. And in a stadium in Campinas, a city of S?o Paulo, it rained and the concert was delayed for 4 hours. In Fortaleza, the group had the same number of police around them as the Pope, when he visited the city.
In 1986, Roy Rosello was replaced by Sergio Blass (aka Sergio Gonzalez). With Sergio, Menudo recorded their only Italian album Viva! Bravo! with versions of earlier Spanish and English hits like "No Te Reprimas," "Hold Me," "Sabes A Chocolate," among others. They made a moderate splash in Italy. As usual, Spanish, Portuguese, and English albums Refrescante (Refreshing), Menudo (portuguese), and Can't Get Enough respectively, were released during this time.
Menudo later went on to perform the new theme for Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea on Nickelodeon.
Then came 1987, which by this time was what some fans described the beginning of the fall for Menudo. In January, it was time for Charlie to leave Menudo. He'd been singing and dancing with them for the past 5 years (and was the only member left from the golden era.) He was replaced by Ralphy Rodriguez. With Ralphy, Menudo was preparing for a Summer Tour through the U.S., but without warning, Robby became the second member ever to quit the group. Apparently, he had written a song and presented the idea to management. They turned him down and supposedly mocked him. Insulted, Robby decided to leave. The management filled Robby's absence with Ruben Gomez. Charlie was asked to come back one more time for the tour, which was quite successful, but it was apparent that the group's popularity wasn't the same.
With Ruben Gomez, Menudo also went through a complete image makeover. They began to be portrayed with a more rough, rugged, rockish look. This was also applied to their music which was described before as bubble-gum pop. They released the Spanish album Somos Los Hijos del Rock (We are the Sons of Rock), followed by an English-Tagalog album for the Philippines titled In Action. The Philippine tour proved successful, but the fans missed Ray, Roy, Charlie, and Robby. It wasn't the same with the Philippine fans, and Menudo never returned after that tour.
In 1988, with only a year in the group, Ralphy Rodriguez left the group. Menudo performed without Ralphy for a few months, then Angelo Garcia joined the group. With Angelo, Menudo released the English album Sons of Rock, on which Menudo scored an international Engish hit "You Got Potential". Concert tour promoter and record executive Darrin McGillis promoted Menudo on a widely successful, forty city U.S. tour with the release of the new English album Sons of Rock on Sutra Records. After the release of the LP, Raymond Acevedo quit the group and again Menudo perofmed as a for a few months. Robert Avellanet was added, and the Spanish album Sombras & Figuras (Shadows & Figures) was released. This album put Menudo at the top of the charts in Latin America.
In July 1989, after 5 years with the group , Ricky Martin (the most famous Menudo member) left and was replaced by Rawy Torres. Ricky Martin's last concert with Menudo was in the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. With Rawy, Menudo recorded the Spanish album Los Ultimos Heroes (The Last Heroes). This production re-solidified Menudo's popularity in Latin America, especially in Venezuela, where a 5-part miniseries was shot to promote the album. (This lineup would reunite years later as "Los Ultimos Heroes" for a series of concerts in Puerto Rico and Latin America.)
Problems continued to plague Menudo at the turn of the decade. In 1990, Angelo Garcia left the group unexpectedly and broke his contract with Menudo. Angelo's parents found a loop hole in Puerto Rico Law that makes contracts with minors null and void if you do not get a work permit from the Department of Labor of Puerto Rico. With a clear release of the contract he signed with World Wide Entertainment Co under the direction of international record executive Darrin McGillis, (receiving a $37,500.00 signing bonus). Angelo released his first solo release on McGillis Records titled "Don't Keep Me Holding On" with the dance mix a huge success due to Chicago's Bad Boy Bill Deep House Mix. Angelo Garcia was replaced by Cesar Abreu, however he lasted about 7 months only to be replaced by the first non-Puerto Rican member Adrian Olivares of Mexico. With Adrian, Menudo recorded their first Portuguese album in four years, Os Ultimos Herois and the Spanish album No Me Corten El Pelo (Don't Cut My Hair).
In probably the most embarrassing incident for Menudo, in November, 1990, Ruben Gomez and Sergio Blass were detained at Miami International Airport with possession of marijuana. The management immediately fired these two members. Months later, in 1991, Edward Aguilera from Spain and Jonathan Montenegro from Venezuela joined the band. With these new additions, the group was working on recording a new Spanish album.
In 1991, all the members (except Adrian) held a press conference announcing that they were quitting the group due to a defect in their contracts that made them invalid and were signing with Music Producer Papo Gely. 'Rawy' & 'Robert' would go on to form the Puerto Rican quintet 'Euphoria,' while 'Johnathan' went on to star in Latin-American soaps (telenovelas.) Meanwhile, management scrambled to find four new members: Alexis, Ashley, Andy and Abel. With this brand new lineup, the Spanish album Detras de tu Mirada (Behind Your Stare) was released. Also in 1991, New York Photographer Bolivar Arellano, was arrested and later convicted in San Juan, Puerto Rico, of libeling the name of Menudo's management on television shows. He was ordered detained by the San Juan Court until he provided the Judge with proof that he had placed a Half Page advertisement in a San Juan Newspaper stating his libelous statement were false. Mr. Arellano had stated that Menudo Management had sexually harassed Menudo members.
In 1992, there were no changes in the group. "The A-Team" (as they were called by Edgardo Diaz due to all their names beginning with the letter A), recorded an English single "Dancin, Movin, Shakin," which would be the first of several English recordings under the direction of Darrin McGillis Music Company World Wide Entertainment Co. After reports that Edgardo Diaz was authorizing the manufacture of pirated music CDs and cassette tapes of recordings made under the McGillis Records label, Darrin McGillis (armed with a court order and assisted by armed marshalls) embargoed a Sold Out Menudo concert in San Juan, Puerto Rico; he also confiscated all the money and merchandise to compensate for incurred losses.
In late 1992, Menudo recorded a Spanish album celebrating Menudo's 15 years in the music industry, entitled 15 A?os. The group continued to travel through Latin America and had a reasonably good fan base even though it wasn't like their golden years in the 80's.
In 1993, Adrian left the group, and Ricky Lopez joined. With Lopez, Menudo recorded another Portuguese album Vem Pra Mim featuring new versions of Spanish songs released from 1991 and 1992. In 1993, the second English single on McGillis Records called "Cosmopolitan Girl" was also released. The same lineup in 1994 released the next Spanish album Imaginate....
In 1996, Ashley and Ricky Lopez left the group and were replaced by Anthony Galindo from Venezuela and Didier Hernandez of Cuban descent. With Anthony and Didier, they released their last Spanish album as Menudo, entitled Tiempo De Amar which was one of their biggest CD's to date.
In 1997, the name Menudo was sold to Venezuelan investors. The band changed the name to MDO although in 1993, at the beginning of the McGillis Records release of the hit song Cosmopolitan Girl they had started to use the name MDO. Along with the new name, Andy left the group and Daniel Rene Weider of Miami, became MDO's first member to join under the new name. A self-titled Spanish album was released, increasing the group's popularity in Latin America and the U.S.
In 1998, former Menudo members Rene, Johnny, Miguel, Ricky, Charlie, and Ray reunited to perform the songs that Menudo popularized during their era. Because of legal issues, the comebackers could not perform as Menudo, so they were known as El Reencuentro (The Re-encounter) instead. Their world tour was a wild success, proving that, to Menudo fans, Menudomania lives on.
In 2000, MDO released their album Subir Al Cielo with critical success. The album lead track "Te Quise Olvidar" topped the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks for several weeks and became the group signature' song. The group follow-up singles "Sin Ti" and "Me Huele A Soledad" also went top 10 in the U.S., showing that they are a real group.
In 2002, former members Sergio, Ruben, Robert, Angelo and Rawy reunited under the name "Los Ultimos Heroes" giving numerous concerts in Venezuela.
In early 2003, MDO officially broke up on amicable terms. The members wanted to pursue other projects. Edgardo Diaz introduced the new MDO in January 2005.
In 2004, Edgardo Diaz announced that he will be bringing a new group with the Menudo formula into the music industry. Initially expecting this new group to be named Menudo, he surprised the press and general public by naming them Tick Tock.
Also in 2004, former Menudo members Roy, Raymond, Ruben, Sergio and Andy Blasquez reunited under the name and banner: Menudo: La Reunion. They were based and focused primarily on a series of 'Brazilian' tours. Sergio left due to his prior commitment with "Los Ultimos Heroes," and was replaced with 'Anthony Galindo.'Andy would later be replaced by former MDO member 'Caleb Aviles' before disbanding in late 2005, early 2006.
In January 2005, producer Edgardo D?az introduced the new MDO with four new members: Daniel Rodr?guez, Luis Montes, Elliot Suro, and Lorenzo Duarte. The first three were among the contestants of Puerto Rican reality/talent show Objetivo Fama. This latest incarnation of the group achieved great success with their single "Otra Vez" which took them all across Latin America.
Also, in 2005, former Menudo members Rene, Johnny, Miguel, Ricky, Charlie, and Ray reunited once again to perform the songs that Menudo popularized during their era under the name & banner El Reencuentro: Momento del Adios making this their farewell tour. Plans are on the way to bring this production to Latin American and the U.S. Also in 2005, Sergio, Angelo, Robert, Rawy and Adrian Olivares reunited again under the name Los Ultimos Heroes after their successful reunion concerts in 2002.
In 2006, former Menudo: La Reunion members, Anthony and Ruben reunited and formed the duo Blacksheep and continue touring in Brazil. To date the duo has grown a large fan base in both Brazil and Latin America.
In October 2006, Menudo Entertainment LLC will launch its first set of auditions to create the "New Menudo" in New York City. Plans are underway to hold auditions in Chicago, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico and Miami. Their sound will have an urban/pop feel in English and Spanish. The new group has already signed a multi-album contract with Epic Records and it's planned that the formation of this new group will be filmed as a reality show in Telemundo. The management company stated that the formula used for the Old Menudo will remain: at the age of 16, or when the voice or height changes, that member is to leave giving way to a new member. The new members will be chosen next year commemorating Menudo's 30th anniversary.
Set for release in January 2007, on McGillis Records is the release of Triple Threat DVD/CD Combo. The box set includes the MENUDO film "The Making of Dancin, Movin, Shakin" for the first time on DVD. Also included is Volume One of the Music CD "Latin Teen Stars" featuring hit songs by MENUDO, ex-menudo members Angelo Garcia, Ruben Gomez, The Cover Girls, Explosion, Joel. The last CD included in the 3 disc set is "DANCE MUSIC ALL NIGHT LONG" containing dance mixes of the hottest traxs by Menudo and ex-menudo members mixed by the famed American music producers: Bad Boy Bill, Lewis A. Martinee of Expose fame and New Yorks very own Mickey Garcia.
Trivia: The jet used by Menudo while on tour is in a storage yard at an Eagan, Minnesota heavy equipment company. Parts have been heavily scavenged from the jet over the years, however, the custom paint on the fuselage with the name "Menudo" is still intact.
In 2007, MTV Tres will begin holding four casting sessions during March and April in Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and New York to find new members for a newly revamped Menudo band. Celebrity judges along with renowned music manager Johnny Wright, will be at the auditions to see who has the singing and dancing chops needed to be in Menudo, and the charisma that made the group so widely adored. MTV Tr3s will later air an original reality series "Road to Menudo", documenting the the trials and tribulations that transpire as the fifteen finalists compete for a spot in the new Menudo.
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