Ralph Mercado Legacy

Hello my name is Debra Mercado the eldest daughter of 5 children of Ralph Mercado.  I am writing this article as a tribute to the legacy of Ralph Mercado with the upcoming 10 year anniversary of his passing.  I wish to acknowledge his contributions to the Latin music industry and the lives he has touched as a result of his passion and dedication to such.  

As his firstborn I had the privilege of growing up with him as he explored his growth within the industry.  As the stories go…He began his legacy with “waistline parties” whereby womans waistlines were measured and charged 1 penny per inch to enter to his Brooklyn, New York basement parties.  These events eventually grew into the neighborhood 3&1 Nightclub, St George Hotel and then The NYC Cheetah where the filming the Fania All Stars was historically done.

Dad took me with him to the sound checks at the St George Hotel as he prepared for the nights event-one side Salsa and the other side R&B.  I was exposed to the best of all the artist in each genre…R &B artist James Brown, Chi-Lites, Stylistics, Moments…Salsa artist La Lupe, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriquez, Machito, Charlie and Eddie Palmieri just to name a few.  As he traveled worldwide with the Fania All Stars these artist became part of our extended family and neighbors.  So my life was full of lots of aunts and uncles within the music industry.

Mom-Dolores Mercado, myself and various family members assisted dad with all his administrative task to begin Ralph Mercado Management where he began booking and managing the above artist until he had an opportunity to grow into Ralph Mercado Presents presenting concerts at all major arenas worldwide.  These concerts culminated into 30 years of the annual New York Salsa Festival at Madison Square Garden. 

My parents instilled in me the importance of a solid education resulting in my attending and graduating from Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and being inducted into the Hall of Fame.  As a result of a full career that eventually lead me to become the National Director of Publicity and Operations of his newly created record label-RMM Records & Video Corp which developed, launched, created and introduced the careers of Marc Anthony, India as well as the continuous development of Multi Grammy award winning artist like Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Nieves just to name a few.

Additionally RMM Records became the home to 2 Publishing companies: Caribbean Waves and Crossing Borders, Sonero, RMM International, Merengazo, Sonero Records, Ralph Mercado Management, Ralph Mercado Presents, RMM Filmworks






September 29, 1941- March 10, 2009

Music impresario Ralph Mercado passed away today, Tuesday, March 10, at 4:30 pm at Hackensack University Medical Center surrounded by his beloved family. Mercado passed after sustaining a two year battle with cancer.

He is survived by his wife Cynthia and his five children, Debbie, Damaris, Melissa, Ralph Mercado III, Chanel, and his siblings, John Ayala, Richard Ayala and Angelica Kreiger, Jorge Sanchez, Naomi Santiago and his 6 grandchildren Deanna, Devin, Delisa, Dahvid, Damar and Riley with another on the way, numerous nieces, nephews and godchildren.

For more than 30 years, Mercado has been the most important figure in staging Latin music events worldwide as well as in building a record label, publishing company, a video and film production arm, and a catalog of award-winning international hits that transformed the Latin music industry.

Born in 1941, Mercado was organizing parties and dances as president of a neighborhood social club while still a teenager. He began by producing “waistline parties” where guys were admitted free but had to pay a penny per inch of their dates’ waistline. Mercado’s parties then moved from the basement to the second floor above a garage on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. He called this new hotspot the 3 & 1 Club. There he began booking local Latin bands such as Eddie Palmieri and Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, among many others. Shortly there after, Mercado began his first management, booking and promotions company called Showstoppers. He promoted R&B acts including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Stylistics, the Chi-lites, and others, starting a salsa/soul music trend.
From Brooklyn, Mercado ventured into Manhattan. He helped to expand the Fania All-Stars, promoted dances at the Cheetah Nightclub, and presented Latin jazz at the Red Garter and, later, at the Village Gate and other downtown venues. His partnership with Jack Hooke, the late Tito Puente’s longtime manager and confidante, that created the Salsa Meets Jazz Series at the Village Gate and the Latin Jazz Jam as part of the JVC Jazz Festival.

An astute judge of talent, Mercado opened RMM Management in 1972, representing Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto. He went on to manage virtually every name in the industry, including its two biggest stars, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. His promotions grew more popular, and by 1987, the wildly popular “Latin Tinge” nights at the Palladium on New York’s 14th Street were bringing 3,000 salseros to dance every Thursday night. Mercado managed these events until 1992, when he refocused his energies on the creation of a record label, RMM. He expanded his venture into numerous companies including RMM Records, RMM Filmworks, and two publishing houses. With over 140 artists signed to RMM Records, the label sold millions of recordings a year. The recipient of countless awards and proclamations, Ralph Mercado was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute by Billboard Magazine in 1999. Always an innovator, Ralph Mercado pioneered the presentation of salsa music in Africa, South America, Asia, and Israel. He was one of the first to bring Latin music concerts to such prestigious venues as Radio City Music Hall with Julio Iglesias’ New York performance; Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall; the Beacon Theater; and Madison Square Garden. In 1976 Mayor Abraham Beame presented Mercado with a proclamation establishing the September concerts as “Official New York Salsa Day.” Mercado’s events attracted corporate partners such as Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble, Phillip Morris, McDonalds’ and others.

Mercado’s organizational and management skills throughout did much to shape the growth of the music that would become known as salsa. Mercado’s efforts refined the concepts of promotion, performance and touring that would become the industry standard. Mercado personally discovered, mentored, and shaped the careers of young superstars Marc Anthony and La India, and made them world-famous. His knack for working with talent powered the careers of Domingo Quiñones, Tony Vega, José Alberto “El Canario,” Tito Nieves, and many others. And Mercado is responsible for developing the entrepreneurial spirit of today’s young promoters. With a keen understanding of his market, Mercado maintained a dense network of relationships with radio people, press outlets, distributors and retailers, and many others in the infrastructure of the Latin music industry.

In June 2001, Mercado returned to his passion of producing and staging Latin music events worldwide. As a restauranteur, Mercado opened the American themed steak house Alma Grill, the upscale Mexican Restaurnat Zona Rosa, and the Latino Nouveau Restaurant and Lounge Babalú in midtown New York. He also reopened the former Club Broadway as LQ (the Latin Quarter).

Mercado’s RMM Filmworks produced the internationally recognized and acclaimed documentary on the history of Latin music, Yo Soy Del Son A La Salsa, and his publishing companies, Caribbean Wave and Crossing Borders, provided music for major feature films, television and soap operas.

Above all, Mercado’s success stemmed from his feeling for the music. “In the very beginning,” said Mercado “I started RMM (Ralph Mercado Management) and the other companies because I loved the music. I still do.” Mercado first fell in love with the rhythms while at the Palladium Nightclub when he was only 16, watching the big bands of Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. “Right then I knew I would be involved with this wonderful music one way or another. And thank God I was never a musician.” he confesses slyly. “I would probably have been terrible and would have starved to death. I used to dance a little but nothing to write home about. My forte is as a promoter,” he proudly stated. “I’ve always been a promoter.”

Notwithstanding, this promoter of humble Brooklyn, New York roots and Puerto Rican/Dominican parentage rised to the top through sheer hard work, dedication and belief in the rhythms of his ancestors.

Never straying far from his urban roots, Mercado embraced his family in the business, as well as, in the home. Eldest daughter, Debra Mercado served RMM as National Director of Publicity and Operations for ten years. His next to eldest daughter Damaris was Production Manager and Art Director, while younger siblings Melissa and Ralph, Jr. have Closely connected to his family, described by the Daily News as, “Energized by his love of Latin music, Mercado, who also found time for his six grandchildren, has made our music the world’s delight.”