Coke Escovedo

Coke Escovedo

Coke Escovedo
Birth name Joseph Thomas Escovedo
Born (1941-04-30)April 30, 1941
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Origin Oakland, California, U.S.
Died July 13, 1986(1986-07-13) (aged 45)
Montebello, California, U.S.
Genres R&B, jazz fusion, soul, disco, funk
Occupation(s) Percussionist
Instruments Percussions, timbales, congas, bongos, tambourine, vocals
Years active 1958–1986
Labels Mercury Records
Associated acts Santana, Azteca, Pete Escovedo
Notable instruments
Latin percussion

Joseph Thomas "Coke" Escovedo (April 30, 1941 – July 13, 1986) was an American percussionist.

Escovedo grew up in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area and developed an early interest in jazz and Latin music through exposure gained from his father, an aspiring big band singer, and eventually gravitated to drums and Latin percussion. Coke's older brother, fellow percussionist Pete Escovedo, recruited Escovedo for a local Latin jazz combo led by pianist Carlos Federico. The Federico combo evolved into the Escovedo Brothers Band, which also counted Pete, bassist brother, Phil Escovedo, saxophonist-flautist Mel Martin and trombonist Al Bent among its regular members. Escovedo began to gain some notoriety in the San Francisco Bay Area Latin jazz scene and worked with jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader (some of his finest work can be found on Tjader's album Agua Dulce). Escovedo rose to even greater prominence in early 1971 when he first became a member of Santana, initially as a replacement for timbale player Jose "Chepito" Areas, who had been sidelined with medical issues. Escovedo was featured on Santana's Santana III album. Escovedo co-authored a hit song from that album, "No One To Depend On", which peaked at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Years later the song would be covered by Vitamin C as part of her 1999 hit "Me, Myself And I" (#36 on Top 40 Mainstream chart). While in the Santana band, Escovedo performed at many high-profile concerts, including the historic closing of the Fillmore West (appearing on the live recording and documentary film from that event). Santana drummer Michael Shrieve has credited Escovedo for showing him how to incorporate some Latin percussion figures into his drum set playing during their time together. During Carlos Santana's transition period between the original and "New" Santana bands, Escovedo also performed with the Carlos Santana/Buddy Miles group, appearing on the 1972 release Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live!

Escovedo had been, along with Jose "Chepito" Areas, pioneering a new style on the traditional Cuban timbales. Though drawing on the influence of the extroverted timbale showman Tito Puente, Escovedo took the explosive power of the Cuban drums even farther, adding spice to rock and soul music recordings by artists such as Boz Scaggs, Cold Blood, It's A Beautiful Day, and Malo (with whom he was a featured soloist on their debut LP), as well as to freer jazz experiments with artists such as trumpeter Luis Gasca. In early 1972 Coke, following his vision of putting together "a band that could play anything", formed Azteca along with his brother Pete Escovedo. The band signed to Columbia Records and released its self-titled debut album in December 1972. It reached No. 38 on the R&B chart in 1973. A second album, Pyramid of the Moon, was released in the fall of 1973. Both albums prominently featured Coke's timbale playing and some of his compositions, as leader of an all-star cast of musicians, many of whom would become prominent solo artists. Despite garnering critical acclaim and playing high-profile concert tours, the big-band Azteca lineup was difficult to sustain. Second release Pyramid of the Moon failed to chart and by 1974, Escovedo Escovedo left Azteca. In 1975 he began work on the first of his three solo albums, simply titled Coke. This 1976 solo debut featured a spare, sophisticated soul/funk/jazz/Latin blend highlighting the talents of vocalist Linda Tillery (formerly of The Loading Zone) and keyboardist-composer Herman Eberitzsch. A Top 100 R&B single, "Make It Sweet", resulted, along with a TV appearance on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Escovedo recorded two more albums: the pop-oriented Comin' at Ya! (featuring former Azteca vocalist Errol Knowles) in 1976. 1977's Disco Fantasy proved critically and commercially disappointing and became the last album of solo material he released. Escovedo continued to perform in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond at the helm of a band that included former Malo guitarist Abel Zarate in pursuit of a new record deal which never materialized, and also continued to do session work and to tour with the likes of Santana, Herbie Hancock and his niece Sheila E, finally relocating to the Los Angeles area in the 1980s. Escovedo died at the age of 45 on July 13, 1986.


  • Personal life 1
  • Discography 2
    • Studio albums 2.1
  • References 3

Personal life

Escovedo has many family members involved in the entertainment industry. His brothers include Pete Escovedo, who also was a percussionist with Santana (and father of Sheila E), and Alejandro Escovedo, who is currently a prominent recording artist working in the Americana style of music and formerly led the 1990s band the True Believers, a band which included brother, Javier Escovedo (of pioneering punk rock band, The Zeros). Older brother, Phil Escovedo, played bass alongside Coke and Pete in the Escovedo Brothers Band, and also on sessions with Latin Jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader. Youngest brother, Mario Escovedo, fronted critically acclaimed San Diego rockers The Dragons. Escovedo's niece is Prince collaborator Sheila Escovedo (a.k.a. Sheila E.) and his son is Paris Escovedo of the Escovedo Project.


Studio albums

Year Album Chart positions[1] Record label
1975 Coke 195 44 Mercury Records
1976 Comin' at Ya! 190 37
1977 Disco Fantasy 195


  1. ^;; Voices of Latin Rock: The People and Events That Created This Sound (Jim McCarthy with co-author Ron Sansoe, 316 pages, Hal Leonard Corporation, June 2005, ISBN 0-634-08061-X);;