EDDIE "GUA GUA" RIVERA
By Linda Novit
Eddie "Gua Gua" Rivera
radiates love and spirituallity. "When I came to Miami I
found Christ". He plays Gospel in Church every Sunday. But
let's go back to the beginning.
Eddie Rivera was born of Puerto Rican parents in New York
in 1948 (he's even older than me).He grew up in New York city.
As a budding teenager he joined the Junior High School band playing
trombone and baritone horn. Also the All City Orchestra. But
that wasn't enough. So on the side he formed the Caribbean Combo
which included many young talented musicians such as ERNIE AGUSTO
who went on to form LA CONSPIRACION, NICKY MARRERO who later
joined FANIA ALL STARS and PABLITO ROSARIO who then went on to
play with among others CHARLIE PALMIERI.
Eddie then joined WILLIE COLON. By this time he had made his
transition to becoming a bass player. He made his first recording,
"EL MALO" in 1966. At 17 he joined the CHARLIE PALMIERI
BAND. Playing with Charlie was to become the best school he had
ever had. "Charlie taught me how to read, how to play
and how to be a man. He's also the one who g ave me the name
"GUA GUA". We were in the Catskills and as he was my
guardian we split a hotel room. I was coming out of a steamy
shower when he stared at me (I was a fat kid) and said "You
look like a bus coming out of the London fog! That's it, your
Gua Gua, Eddie Gua Gua!" And it stuck.
Eddie stayed with CHARLIE PALMIERI until he was drafted in
1968. He was a gunner. One day while fooling around on his bass
he was heard by a recruiter for the army band. He was told he
would have to audition on a marching instrument. Luckily Eddie
still played the baritone horn. He became a member of the handpicked
elite 84th army band, the only member who had been drafted. Instead
of being sent to Vietnam he toured all of Europe playing for
the officers. This lasted 2 years.
When Eddie came home he worked with Pete Bonet and the late
Louis Ramirez in New York. Then Ray Barretto and Mongo Santamaria
with whom he toured worldwide and got his jazz chops. Then he
stayed in New York for a while playing with LARRY HALOW, JOHNNY
PACHECO and EDDIE PALMIERI. All this before his mid 20's!
Eddie decided he wanted to try some rock and roll and joined
the RASCALS (remember "GROOVIN'") touring with them.
Back in New York and on the Latin scene he played on many
Fania recordings, then traveled with GATO BARBIERI for 3 years.
One of their stops was Miami and Eddie met his wife to be (she
In 1980 he moved to Puerto Rico to form the band BATACUMBELE.
He discovered GIOVANNI HIDALGO, CACHETE MALDONADO and ERIC FIGUEROA.
They were together for 4 successful years. Very Avant Garde!
In 1984 he settled in Miami. He was soul searching. He worked
locally with Nestor Torres and Hansel and Raul. Giovanni Hidalgo
called him for recordings and to film an instructional video.
Larry Halow and the Latin Legends call him for world tours.
3 years ago tragedy struck. While undergoing exploratory surgery
he had complications. He was given tainted blood during transfusions
and put on life support. He has had to endure chemotherapy. But
today EDDIE GUA GUA is glowing! (I hope it's not the radiation)
He is now musical minister of the FAITH CHRISTIAN CENTER, a Pentacostal
Church "full of the holy ghost".
In 1996 he formed THE LATIN JAZZ CREW
along with musicians JORGE LUIS SOSA, FERNANDO DIEZ, EDWIN BONILLA
and LUDWIG ALFONSO. The band is currently very successful and
has 2 CDs on the SUNSET label, "AUTHENTICITY" and "BRIDGES
CROSS". Miami's proud to have him. We love you EDDIE GUA