Polito Vega The King of Salsa Radio in New York

Polito Vega The King of Salsa Radio in New York

One of the most recognizable and influential voices in New York City has passed away. On March 9, 2023, at 84, legendary radio host Polito Vega passed away. He is credited with introducing salsa music to millions of listeners. We will also hear from some artists, celebrities, and politicians who have paid tribute to and shared their memories of him. Join us as we celebrate the life and achievements of Polito Vega, the king of salsa radio in New York. This article reflects Polito Vega impressive career, Latin music, cultural contributions, and love and gratitude-filled legacy.  

A pioneer in Latin music broadcasting

Vega was born in Puerto Rico on August 3, 1938.  He moved to New York City in 1959 and started his radio career on WEVD in 1960. Therefore, he was one of the first DJs to broadcast salsa music, playing songs by Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Machito. Later, he hosted a well-liked TV program called “El Club de la Juventud” from 1967 to 1970, featuring up-and-coming artists like Cheo Feliciano, La Lupe, and Willie Colón.  

A Mentor and a Tastemaker

Vega had a talent for finding and promoting up-and-coming musicians. He helped launch the careers of stars like Juanes, Alejandro Sanz, Laura Pausini, Luis Fonsi, Enrique Iglesias, Don Omar, and Gloria Trevi. In addition, he mentored a lot of aspiring DJs and broadcasters. His engaging voice, memorable catchphrases, and love of music made him well-known.

A Love and Gratitude Legacy

Vega is well-liked by his followers and peers. Throughout his career, he received numerous accolades and tributes. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2016.

Vega expressed his gratitude for his good fortune and the chance it gave him to “do good things for people who have less than me.” In response to his success, he claimed to feel “small and happy,” and he said he wanted to use some of his wealth to improve educational opportunities for children. He expressed gratitude for the assistance and advice he received from his friends, family, and money helpers. He also said he was “ready to face the hard and good things that come next.”


An Everlasting Voice

The Latin music scene and the radio industry suffer from Vega’s passing.  However, on social media and in interviews, many musicians, actors, and politicians have shared their condolences and admiration for him. They have lauded his accomplishments, his sway, and his generosity.

Some of the messages are as follows:

  • King, please rest in peace. We appreciate everything you did for us and will never forget you. – Alex Sensation, Colombian DJ and singer.
  • It is impossible to overstate Vega’s contribution to Latin music.  Since the tropical theme first gained popularity in the city in the 1960s and 1970s until now, he has been the essential tastemaker in the biggest market in the nation. – Leila Cobo, author, and journalist.
  • He was responsible for developing Hispanic radio on a global scale—La Mega 97.9 FM is owned by the Spanish Broadcasting System, which Ral Alarcón Jr owns.
  • He was a pioneer, a friend, and a legend. I always appreciate his support and direction because he gave me my first radio opportunity. He was a consummate professional and devoted adherent of his people. Despite being missed, he will always be remembered. – Luis Jimenez, radio personality and former colleague of Vega
  • He was a trailblazer who inspired and uplifted millions of listeners, making him a giant in our community. Furthermore,  he inspired many young Latinos who want to follow their passions and dreams. Using his position as a leader, he promoted social justice and education. We were proud of him because he was a hero. 


The radio host, Polito Vega, was more than that. He was a musical ambassador, a cultural icon, and a dear friend. He committed his entire life to educating listeners about his love of Latin music and culture. As a result of his exposure and advice, many of the artists he supported and mentored went on to become famous. He made an enduring impression on the Latin music and radio industries. In the annals of New York City history, he will be regarded as one of the most significant and illustrious individuals.


Q1: Who was Polito Vega?
Polito Vega, the radio host who brought salsa music to New York City, worked for several radio stations for over 50 years, most notably La Mega 97.9 FM. People called him “El Rey de la Radio” (The King of Radio).

Q2: How and when did he pass away?
At 84, he passed away on March 9, 2023. His family and station, La Mega 97.9 FM, announced his passing. His death’s cause was not made public. 

Q3: What was his signature voice and style?
He had a charismatic voice with a booming bass tone, which he used to deliver catchy slogans like “Andando, andando, andando” (Keep going) and “Polito Vega, el que te pega” (Polito Vega, the one who hits you). He also had a distinctive look: his Yankees cap, white guayabera shirt, white goatee, and fuzzy sideburns.

Q4: What was his 50th-anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden?
It was a sold-out event on September 12, 2009, to celebrate his 50 years in radio. It featured some of the biggest names in Latin music, such as Juanes, Alejandro Sanz, Laura Pausini, Luis Fonsi, Enrique Iglesias, Don Omar, and Gloria Trevi. Moreover, it was broadcast live on La Mega 97.9 FM and other stations.

Q5: What was his National Radio Hall of Fame induction?
The ceremony was on November 17, 2016, at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. Furthermore,  he was one of the six inductees that year, along with Delilah, Elvis Duran, Steve Harvey, Dan Patrick, and The Bob & Tom Show. He was the first Hispanic radio personality to receive this honor.

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