b. Mario Muñoz Salazar, Buena Vista, Cuba. Papaíto is an Afro-Cuban who possesses a captivating bittersweet voice that he effortlessly employs in his inspiraciones: the improvisational ingredient fundamental to traditional salsa singing. First and foremost he is a percussionist, and he worked with cha cha chá originator, Enrique Jorrín, in Orquesta América. He moved to Mexico, where he performed in various movies. While there, Papaíto joined the ‘staff’ of the legendary Cuban musical institution, Sonora Matancera, and remains a member up to the present day. He fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1960 and took up residence in the USA. His session work outside Matancera included appearances on two highly-regarded albums by compatriot Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdez: the 60s classic Patato & Totico, with Cuban vocalist/percussionist Eugenio ‘Totico’ Arango and tres guitar master Arsenio Rodríguez; and 1976’s Ready For Freddy. On the latter, Papaíto sang the lead vocals of his self-penned ‘La Ambulancia’. He performed on trombonist Mark Weinstein’s late 60s avant garde ‘underground culture hit’ Cuban Roots, which was produced by Al Santiago. He participated on Mongo Santamaría’s Up From The Roots in 1972. The following year, Papaíto sessioned on the solo debut, El Castigador, by singer Roberto Torres. In 1977 he contributed percussion to Israel ‘Cachao’ López’s famed descarga (Latin jam) outings on Salsoul Records.
Papaíto signed with SAR Records, which was founded by Sergio Bofill, Andriano García and Roberto Torres, and released five highly successful solo albums as a lead singer on the label between 1979 and 1984. Torres produced and performed on all five. On four of the albums, Papaíto was accompanied by a trumpet-led conjunto (group), augmented on some tracks by flute and violin. Three of these conjunto sets featured songs associated with Cheo Marquetti, a popular Cuban singer and composer of the 40s and 50s. Papaíto fronted a small charanga (flute, violins rhythm section and voices band), augmented by a tres, for his 1980 tribute to the great Cuban singer/composer Abelardo Barroso (1905-1972): Papaíto Rinde Homenaje A Abelardo Barroso - which was probably the best album to come out of the SAR stable. Papaíto became a member of the SAR house band, which recorded and performed under the name of the SAR All Stars. On 1981’s SAR All Stars Recorded Live In Club Ochentas, Album 2, he sang lead vocals on a notable descarga interpretation of the classic 1931 hit ‘El Manisero’ (The Peanut Vendor). He appeared on SAR recordings by singer/composer Linda Leida (b. Villas, Cuba), Henry Fiol and Torres. Other artists Papaíto has sessioned with, include vocalist Alfredo Valdés (ex-Septeto Nacional), his son, pianist/arranger Alfredo Valdés Jnr. and Peruvian singer/composer Melcochita. He made his UK debut in 1987 with a backing band that included Paris-based Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, who featured on Ready For Freddy and Papaíto (1982). In 1990, Papaíto was hired by composer/executive producer Victor Raúl Sánchez ‘Patillas’ to perform the lead vocals of two of his songs on Valdesa Records Presenta Vol. 1: Salsa Sudada.