Around the age of 8, Santana "fell under the influence" of blues performers like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. He also credits Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield and Peter Green as important influences; he considered Bloomfield a direct mentor, writing of a key meeting with Bloomfield in San Francisco in the foreword he wrote to a biography of Bloomfield, Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues-An Oral History in 2000.
In 1966, he gained prominence by a series of events all happening on the same day. Santana was a frequent spectator at Bill Graham's Fillmore West. During a Sunday matinee show, Paul Butterfield was slated to perform there but was unable to do so as a result of being intoxicated. Bill Graham assembled an impromptu band of musicians he knew primarily through his connections with the Grateful Dead, Butterfield's own band and Jefferson Airplane, but he had not yet picked all of the guitarists at the time. Santana's manager, Stan Marcum, immediately suggested to Graham that Santana join the impromptu band and Graham assented. During the jam session, Santana's guitar playing and solo gained the notice of both the audience and Graham. During the same year, Santana formed the Santana Blues Band, with fellow street musicians, David Brown and Gregg Rolie (bassist and keyboard player, respectively).
With their highly original blend of Latin-infused rock, jazz, blues, salsa, and African rhythms, the band (which quickly became known simply as Santana) gained an immediate following on the San Francisco club circuit. The band's early success, capped off by a memorable performance at Woodstock in 1969, led to a recording contract with Columbia Records, then run by Clive Davis.
In 1970, the group reached its early commercial peak with their second album, Abraxas, which reached number one on the album charts and went on to sell over four million copies. Instrumental in the production of the album was pianist Alberto Gianquinto, who advised the group to stay away from lengthy percussion jams and concentrate on tighter song structures. The innovative Santana musical blend made a number-four hit out of the English band Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" and a number-thirteen hit out of salsa legend Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va". Source: Wikipedia
For much more info:
Official Santana Site: http://www.santana.com/
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Santana
Happy Birthday to Carlos Santana - A Bit of Groovy!