We sadly report the passing of legendary guitarist Yomo Toro (full name: Victor Gillermo Toro Vega Ramos Rodriguez Acosta). He died of kidney failure on June 30, 2012 in New York. Born in Ensenada, Puerto Rico on July 26, 1933, he was a beloved guitarist and one of Puerto Rico’s most famous cuatro players, recognized internationally as “El Rey del Cuatro.”
He was a great friend of NiLP and was a frequent featured artist at our annual benefit dances, the last time being in 2005 playing with Larry Harlow and Willie Colon. He was always very supportive of our work and the nicest person we ever knew, who had a special affection for our Myra Estepa. There will never be another like him.
His musical career spanned five-decades as one of New York City’s most revered Latin musicians. Toro’s instrument of choice was thecuatro, which is a Puerto Rican 10-string guitar-like instrument descended from the Spanish Vilhuela.
After first arriving in New York in 1953 with his band, Los 4 Aces, he embarked on a series of tours of the Caribbean, finally settling for good in the Tremont section of the Bronx in 1956. He played with Trio Los Panchos in the early ’60s and recorded four albums with them, including one featuring Eydie Gormé.
Soon after that he began recording with the legendary Fania label, eventually joining their world-famous house band, the Fania All-Stars. During the late ’60s and early ’70s he hosted a TV show called the Yomo Toro Show on New York’s Channel 41. The show, which featured interviews and entertainment from a host of Latin personalities, was on for seven years.
1969 was an especially fruitful year for Toro at that time, when he recorded Tribute to Arsenio with the Larry Harlow Orchestra — an incredibly influential salsa album. He also got to hook up with some legends in 1970 when he recorded the classic Asalto Navideño with Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, combining the new sounds of New York salsa with traditional Puerto Rican Christmas music. The album was one of Fania’s best-selling of all time.
In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s Toro’s career continued non-stop. He appeared on over 150 albums, recording over 20 solo albums for Fania, Island, Rounder and Green Linnet Records. He broke back into television and film, playing in commercials for several major international companies and working on the soundtracks for several films, including Crossover Dreams with Ruben Blades and Woody Allen’s Bananas. He broke out into many different genres, recording with Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, Linda Rondstadt and David Byrne. In 1994, however, he returned his focus to a single band, playing in the Latin Legends with Larry Harlow and Aldaberto Santiago.
The 78 year old legend was survived by his wife Minerba, his daughter Denose, his sisters Irma, Iris and Milagros, and his brothers Juan, Angel and Arcangel.
Funeral arrangements and viewing will be announced shortly. On behalf of the Toro family we wish to thank everyone for their well wishes and outpouring of love and emails and especially for their request for privacy during this time.