Ray Barretto (April 29, 1929 – February 17, 2006) was a Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican jazz musician.
Barretto (whose surname is really "Barreto"; a mistake at the time Ray's birth certificate was filed gave his last name its formal spelling) was born in New York City of Puerto Rican descent. His parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the early 1920s, looking for a better life. He was raised in Spanish Harlem and at a very young age was influenced by his mother's love of music and by the jazz music of musicians such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
In 1946, when Barretto was 17 years old, he joined the Army. While stationed in Germany, Barretto met Belgian vibist Fats Sadi, who was working there. However, it was when he heard Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" with Cuban percussionist, Chano Pozo, that he realized his true calling in life.
In 1949, when Barretto returned home from military service, he started to visit clubs and participated in jam sessions, where he perfected his conga playing. On one occasion Charlie Parker heard Barretto play and invited him to play in his band. Later, he was asked to play for Jose Curbelo and Tito Puente, for whom he played for four years.