La Palabra was born and raised in the small coastal town of Caimanera, Oriente, Cuba when the Hirakiri dance was at the height of its popularity; other rhythms like el Mozambique, Paca, Joropo, Changui, and Mozan-Cha were commonplace and the sounds of Orquesta Aragon, Estrellas Cubanas, Pello el Afrokan, Tataguini and Chapotin occupied the airwaves. At the age of 11, La Palabra began taking piano lessons from his grandmother, and inspired by Neno Gonzalez song El Café, tried his hand at arranging for the first time. After winning the Department of Education panel of judges over at an amateur competition, La Palabra was offered an invitation to attend a state controlled school of music in Havana. La Palabras grandmother turned the opportunity down, however, for fear that La Palabra would not be able to leave Cuba if she accepted. A few years later, Palabras family obtained their visa to leave Cuba. Palabra, his sister, aunt and uncle left Cuba for New York City in 1966.
At the tender age of 15, La Palabra broke into the music scene joining the sextet Lalo y La New Yorkina. With the Hippie Movement, Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War at full throttle, La Palabra rode the waves of the times adjusting to the cultural changes and alternating with acts Richie Ray, Eddie Palmieri and Joe Cuba (who was later invited to make an appearance on the popular television show American Band Stand due to the overwhelming popularity of the quick-beated Boogaloo). During this time La Palabra recorded for the first time when Lalo y La New Yorkina recorded their first 45 track entitled Rompe Tu Pared, with Hector Casanova on vocals and La Palabra on piano. La Palabra continued playing with Lalo y La New Yorkina for several more years until 1968 when his mother decided to move the family to Detroit so La Palabra could attend high school.
As a student of Cooley High School, La Palabra became involved with as many aspects of the music department as possible including the Glee Club (the mens choir), the orchestra and the big band. Most importantly, La Palabra founded Cooley High Schools first integrated band, The Blazers, which beat The Sons of Soul out of first place at the 1969 Detroit State Fair (at which The Jackson Five was the main act) with its compelling performance of Son of Ice Bag. While La Palabra continued to burn up the stage playing high-powered R&B cover tunes with the likes of Hugh Mazakela, Chicago, Tower of Power, B.B. King and Hubert Laws, he began writing his first romantic song arrangements, lyrics and orchestrations including his first-to-be-recorded salsa song Amor de Juventud, which was later recorded by Ricardo Lemvo in the early 1980s.
By 1974 la Palabra had outgrown the high school music scene and began playing at El Sol Supper Club. The 18 year-old performer and arranger dazzled audiences week after week with his quick-finger piano playing and romantic Spanish ballad-style singing of English cover tunes including Morris Alberts Feelings and The Beatles Eleanor Rigby. Most impressive of this 18 year-olds accomplishments at that time, however, was his introduction of a new genre of Latin music to Detroit called Salsa Rock and Salsa Soul, Palabras own mixture of Cuban guaguanco/salsa and American rock and roll. Salsa rock and salsa soul caught on immediately with Detroit audiences making El Sol Supper Club Detroits hottest nightclub and placing La Palabra at the center of attention. That same year La Palabra recorded an album entitled Earthquake on the Strata Records label, an affiliate label of John Sinclair (a personal friend of John Lennon of The Beatles). Earthquake contained a combination of guaguan rock and ballads and was set to be released in February of 1974. However, Strata Records closed that same year due to insufficient financial backing and as a result Earthquake was never released.
For the next several years, La Palabra continued playing the Detroit club circuit, alternating between Stanley Mitchell and the Peoples Choice, Brainstorm, the Five Specials and Norma Belle and the All Stars while sharing the circuit with Earl Klu, Chapter 7 (with lead singer Anita Baker) Dennis Koffe and Lyman Woodard and the Organization. In 1977, La Palabra went on tour with Brainstorm (who later appeared on Soul Train) and the Five Specials. The tour included Kool and the Gang, the Average White Band and Fat Back Band, etc. Once the tour finished, La Palabra joined Norma Belles band, with whom he played until 1979 when [he] received an invitation on behalf of Stevie Wonder to move to Los Angeles and join the band, Phoenix Rising, the band Wonder was producing at the time. Believing the Phoenix Rising project would serve as a launching pad for his career, La Palabra accepted the offer immediately and headed for the West Coast.
La Palabra arrived in Los Angeles in September of 1979 and seduced by its warm climate, laid back culture and vast array of opportunities in entertainment, the then-29 year-old immediately fell in love with Los Angeles and all that it had to offer. He began gigging as a piano player with various local groups and patiently waited to receive word from Wonder. Several months later, in 1980, American pop singer, Lionel Richie, obtained across-the-board success with his hit single Lady, (originally performed by Kenny Rogers) and Spanish balladeers Roberto Carlos and Emanuel enjoyed their status at the top of the Latin charts with their respective hits Cama y Mesa and Todo Se Derrumbo. Palabra, caught up in this web of romanticism, fell in love and under the influence of the romantic ballads and their lyrics, began experimenting with the rhythms of his Cuban roots and the beat of American pop music beginning to develop the idea of a new style of music that combined high-energy salsa with romanticism a style La Palabra referred to as Ballada en Salsa (and was later and very appropriately coined Salsa Romantica).
In December of 1979 La Palabra partnered with Jesus El Niño Alejandro to form Orquesta Versalles. Because both La Palabra and El Niño were accomplished arrangers and performers at that time, La Palabra was given a dose of healthy competition for the first time in his career. La Palabra and El Niño showcased their new arrangements weekly, packing such popular nightclubs as Club Candilejas in Los Angeles, Club Riviera in Eagle Rock and the Marina Hotel in Las Vegas. Several months later at the beginning of 1981, La Palabra (a.k.a. Fito Foster) and El Nino, released a 45 under Orquesta Versalles (a.k.a. Orquesta Candilejas) that contained El Niños arrangement of Me Voy Pa Puerto Rico on side A and La Palabras arrangement of Todo Se Derrumbo on Side B. Side B became the hit. Todo Se Derrumbo became such a hit that Orquesta Versalles club audiences requested Versalles to play it three to four times a night! La Palabra continued showcasing his repertoire of salsa romantica arrangements, including Cama y Mesa, Yo Te Amo and Lady, creating waves throughout the industry for several months.
Towards the end of 1981, La Palabra was approached by Joni Figueras, a frequent visitor of Club Candilejas and large fan of Versalles, who had fallen in love with La Palabras arrangements, particularly his version of Todo Se Derrumbo. Figueras proposed to La Palabra that she and La Palabra record/produce a CD that featured La Palabras arrangements and introduce the concept of ballada en salsa/salsa romantica to the commercial market. At precisely the same time, La Palabra began receiving calls from Wonder and his team requesting La Palabras presence to discuss plans for moving forward with the Phoenix Rising project. Figuera continued to approach La Palabra on many occasions wishing to discuss the project. La Palabra was faced with a difficult decision although very interested in Figueras project, he ultimately remained committed to Wonder and hence moved forward with Wonder. Several months later (during which time Figuera was unable to reach La Palabra for further discussion of the salsa romantica project), Louis Ramirez and Ray de la Paz came to the West coast and under the guidance of Figueras (by then a representative of K-Tel Records), released the CD, Noche Caliente, for which Ramirez and de la Paz were given the token names the pioneers of salsa romantica and which gave rise to the trend of salsa romantica in the commercial music industry.
In 1982 Wonders team decided to abandon the Phoenix Rising project. The demise of the project hardly affected La Palabras career however - the following year Orquesta Versalles was deemed one of Los Angeles pioneering salsa bands releasing self-titled album on Profono Records (then a division of CBS Records) that contained La Palabras classic rendition of Lady." Lady became an overnight success, blowing the lid off of charts from coast to coast and maintaining first place in the underground circuit within the United States and abroad for several years.
la Palabra took Versalles to Miami in 1984 believing Miami was the heartbeat of the Latin music industry and would serve as a springboard for his career. He enjoyed success with Versalles in Miami for several months, never fully aware of the impact Lady was making on Latin music around the rest of the world. Believing Profono Records failed to meet their expectations as a record label, La Palabra left Profono Records in 1984.
In 1985, la Palabra (a.k.a. Fito Foster) began to officially use the artistic name, La Palabra, and using the former members of Versalles, made a new group called Sensation 85, who later that year released a self-titled LP that featured Nestor Torres on flute and gave Luis Enrique, the musician from Nicaragua, the opportunity to transition from bongo player to (salsa) singer for the first time. Sensation 85 kept Miami dancing for several months, filling such popular nightclubs as the Riviera Lounge (later renamed Club Capri), Maxims Supper Club, the Copacabana and Salsa 2000 and provided La Palabra the opportunity to travel outside of the United States for the first time (including a trip to Guantanamo Bay located just a few miles away from Caimanera) since [he] first came to the United States. In 1986, Luis Enrique accepted a sign-on deal with CBS Records (then Sony Records) and left Sensation 85. Shortly thereafter, Lefty Perez left Alex Leon y Los Leones de la Salsa to join Sensation 85 as Enriquez replacement. Perez sang with Palabra until he accepted a sign-on deal with T & H Records in 1988. By this time La Palabra was the only artist left standing without a record deal! Devastated, he decided to leave the music industry and for the next five years salsa became nothing but a sauce.
In late 1999, La Palabra moved back to Los Angeles and with the help of Chuck Neustein began recording a CD entitled Rap-A-Salsa. Halfway through the recording, George Balmaseda, who La Palabra knew from the Versalles days, introduced Mel Morrow of Morrowland Records to Palabra. Morrow, who had also fallen in love with the style of La Palabras arrangements, offered to finance the formation of a band with La Palabra. La Palabra abandoned [his] Rap-A-Salsa project and joined Morrow in the formation of the band, Orquesta La Palabra, with George Babaloo Balmaseda and Angelo Pagan on vocals. With Morrow as executive producer, La Palabra and Morrow began the recording of the CD On Fire. The recording reached completion a year later and featured La Palabras versions of Todo Se Derrumbo and Lady. Lady became a hit all over again, being played throughout the United States and abroad including Europe, Asia, Israel and Latin America - putting La Palabra back on the map.
With a clear vision in mind and Orquesta La Palabra in tow, La Palabra left Morrowland Records in 2001; and in 2002, with the assistance of Tornillo Records, a Los Angeles-based Latin music and hip hop record label, began production of a new CD entitled Breakthrough. Similar to Palabras other CDs, Breakthrough will feature a well-balanced variety of tropical Latin music genres as well as some American crossover influence. It will be the first CD to include American hip hop and give La Palabra the well-deserved credit of Executive and Musical Producer. La Palabra, more excited about Breakthrough than any of his other productions, plans to redefine tropical Latin music once again and truly break through its barriers once and for all!