Don Armando's 2nd Av. Rhumba Band


Don Armando (Sonny) Bonilla was born (08/09/1946) and raised in East Harlem, NYC, the eldest sibling of a family composed of five sons of a Puerto Rican father and a Colombian mother. After completing a tour of duty with the United States Air Force, he graduated from New York University with a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science, and later he acquired a Master's Degree from the Manhattan School of Music. He did a brief stint at the Children's Workshop's « Sesame Street » before joining on percussions the band Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band.

A pair of Haitians in the Bronx, Stony Browder Jr. on guitar and piano and his brother Thomas on bass formed « Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band » 1974 with Stony’s girl friend on vocals. Then came Mickey Sevilla on drums, and Spanish Harlem's own Andy Hernandez on vibes. Andy became «The Sugar Coated » Andy Hernandez. Stony's girlfriend changed her name to Corey Daye, and Tommy became August Darnell. Bonilla wrote and arranged the band's 1975 hit single « Cherchez La Femme », which snagged a Grammy nomination.

Three years later, he went on to form Don Armando's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band. Former Savannah band members Andy Hernandez (producer/arranger) and August Darnell (executive producer) aided him and also introduced him to a new vocalist they were working with. Fonda Rae, a talented singer from New York, would later surface on Kid Creole & The Coconuts albums for the duo. As a secessionist she would record, and have a variety of hits, under the banners Wish, Rainbow Brown and finally her own name (« Over Like A Fat Rat »).

ZE Records release « Don Armando's 2nd Ave. Rhumba Band » would score one major hit with the 12" single of « Deputy Of Love » in 1979. The song with it's bouncy melody and clever lyrics seemed tailor made for mixing with another Savannah Band related release at the time, Cory Daye's « Pow Wow ». The album contained some other notable tracks such as « I'm An Indian Too », « How To Handle A Woman » and « Para Ti ». Future Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola was the band's manager.

One reason that, after scoring a major hit, Don Armando's 2nd Ave. Rhumba Band never released another album or single is that it was an off-shoot of Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. Another is that the lead vocalist, Fonda Rae, was already busy on other projects. The album was a creative one shot deal.
Bonilla also worked as a studio musician in New York, playing sessions with James Brown, Ashford and Simpson, Patio La Belle, Harold « The Prince » Batey, Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba and many others. He sang on Kid Creole and the Coconuts' 1980 album « Off the Coast of Me ».

He prematurely died on 2002 at the age of 56.

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