I first heard Jose Feliciano in 1962 or 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival. I was a small teenager trying to figure out too many puzzles in my confused life. I was struggling with mastering the guitar: a challenge that can take a lifetime, and deservedly so.
Needless to say Jose was great and a inspiration. At that point I was fixated on black guitarists of an earlier era such as Reverend Gary Davis and Big Bill Broonzy (and still am to some extent). But here was a man slightly older than me who played the hell out of whatever musical style he tried that day, some Latin songs and some familiar ballads. As I continued to study the guitar and started performing in Manhattan I caught an occasional set or performance by Jose. Since his career blasted off around then the venue were no longer intimate. He played at the Central Park Skating Rink in the summer of probably 65 or 64, it was a double bill I recall he was opening for a more famous act. And he dared to play one number on electric guitar which was a traditional mambo that became famous at that time via another act. But his skill on the classical guitar was just inspirational. His riffs were like precise layers of melodious sounds in the hot summer ether around us.
What sparked this recollection? I just heard a cut from “Jose Feliciano – Señor Bolero” on NPR and today picked up the CD. It is everything I love about this player and artist. He is still powerful as always to me, and speaks from the universal corazon.