Music & Nightlife

Latin music promoter

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) - Ralph Mercado, a Brooklyn native whose promotional skills helped spread the popularity of salsa music worldwide, died Tuesday. He was 57.

Mercado died at Hackensack University Medical Center. He was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. His publicist, Blanca Lasalle, confirmed his death.

For more than 30 years, Mercado staged Latin music events in the New York area and managed some of the biggest stars of salsa. He also developed a record label, RMM Records, a publishing company, and a video and film production company, and operated restaurants and nightclubs in New York.

He opened a management, booking and promotions company called Showstoppers, which promoted R&B acts, including James Brown and Aretha Franklin, and New York concerts that featured a fusion of salsa and Latin jazz.

In 1972, Mercado opened RMM Management, representing jazz star Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto. He continued to promote Latin dances and concerts, including events featuring the Fania All-Stars, an ensemble of musicians and singers who recorded for Fania Records, the leading salsa record company of the time.

Mercado later started his own independent Latin music recording company, RMM Records. Leading artists who recorded for the label included Marc Anthony, La India, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.

Mercado was honored with a lifetime achievement tribute by Billboard magazine in 1999.