Bliss Rodriguez was born in NYC on April 2, 1945 to Dominican immigrant parents. He grew up in Hamilton Heights, between Harlem and Washington Heights, on the west side. Bliss was born visually impaired, having no vision in his right eye and partial sight in his left. At the age of 17 he became completely blind.
He attended the only school in NY at the time for the visually impaired, a Catholic grammar school run by nuns. The sisters wanted their charges to be well rounded, so as a child Bliss received ballroom, tap dance, music and drama lessons in addition to a standard primary education.
His parents bought him a piano at age nine, and he began playing it by ear. By high school he met fellow musician José Feliciano, and together they formed an instrumental trio ( guitar, piano and drums.) They gravitated musically to whatever was popular on the radio at the time: jazz influenced pop tunes like Back Home in Indiana and Steppin’ Out With My Baby, as well as R&B and early rock and roll melodies championed by the likes of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. The trio got their fifteen minutes of fame when they appeared on television’s “The Amateur Hour” hosted by Ted Mack ( still viewable on You Tube!,) before Feliciano was “discovered” and went on to his own pop recording career. Bliss’ musical world was turned on it’s ear, literally, at the age of seventeen when he first heard John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things and Bill Evans’ classically informed jazz harmonies. He would never again hear or create music in the same way.