Armando Peraza has long been considered one of popular music's top percussionists - a master of both the conga and bongos. In addition to being a long-standing member of Santana, Peraza has guested on numerous recordings by other popular recording artists.
Born in Havana, Cuba, on May 30, 1924, Peraza lost both parents at an early age, and by the age of 12, was living on his own, supporting himself around this time as a vegetable vendor, semi-pro baseball player, boxing trainer, and a loan shark.
It wasn't until Peraza was 17 years old that he got his start with music; One day at a baseball park, Peraza overhead local bandleader Alberto Ruiz (a brother of one of Peraza's teammates) say that he was in dire need of a conga player for a performance that night, as part of one of Havana's most popular bands at the time, Conjunto Kubavana.
Although Peraza had no musical experience, he was able to convince Ruiz to give him a shot, and after practicing for just several hours that afternoon, pulled off the performance with flying colors. After relocating to the U.S. (first New York City, and then San Francisco), Peraza became an instantly sought-after musician, playing over the years with such renowned artists as Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, Eartha Kitt, Wes Montgomery, Peggy Lee, John McLaughlin, and Harvey Mandel, among others.
But it is his work with Santana that he is best known for, playing on most of the group's recordings from the early '70s through the late '80s.
In July 2006, Peraza, at 82 years of age, made a rare appearance with the Santana Band for a three show performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. This was the first of a number of summer live appearances. Later, in August 2006, Peraza appeared at the San JosÈ jazz festival in California, sitting in with the Julius Melendez Latin Jazz Ensemble, as well as giving a drum clinics throughout California with Raul Rekow and Karl Perazzo, both currently with Santana. Also in 2006, Peraza recorded with Bay Area pianist Rebeca Mauleon's album "Descarga en California" (Universal/Pimienta). He also co-wrote a tune on the album titled "Cepeda Forever", honoring his longtime friend and baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
In January 2007, Peraza received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Voices of Latin Rock. The tribute show was held at the historic Bimbo's nightclub in San Francisco, California and was attended by Carlos Santana, who presented Peraza with an award. Also attending and performing were members of the group Malo and a reunion of the original Santana band, with Chepito Areas, Mike Carabello, Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve. Every January, The Voices of Latin Rock, present the "Armando Peraza" award for achievement in the San Francisco/Bay Area.
In February 2010, Armando was interviewed in his home for Japanese television. In January 2011, the BBC from London came to interview Armando for a documentary they are filming on the music of Santana, specifically, the early to mid-1970s, when Armando first joined the band.
He died of pneumonia on April 14, 2014 at the age of 89