Beny Moré

Benny More (Bartolome Maxmiliano More Gutierrez 24 August 1919 – 19 Feb 1963), also known as Beny, was a Cuban musician. He is considered the greatest Cuban pop singer. His natural musicality and fluid voice were a gift that he used to express himself with great expression. More was an expert in all genres of Cuban music including the son montuno and mambo as well as bolero and guaracha. It is not common for singers to excel at both fast rhythms (e.g. Guaracha and slower rhythms such as the Bolero. More was also the founder and leader of the most prominent Cuban big band in the 1950s. He died in 1963. More, the eldest of 18 children, was born Bartolome More at Santa Isabel de las Lajas, in the former province Las Villas in central Cuba. His maternal great-great grandfather Ta Ramon Gundo Paredes was believed to have been the son of the Congo king who was captured by slave traders, and then sold to a Cuban plantation owners. He was later freed and died at the age of 94. More began playing the guitar as a child. His mother said that he made his first instrument from a wooden board and a string ball. At seventeen years old, More left Las Lajas to live in Havana. There he sold damaged and bruised fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs. Six months later, he returned home to Las Lajas to work with Teodoro to cut cane for a time. He bought his first guitar with the money he had earned and Teodoro’s savings. More returned to Havana in 1940. More lived hand-to mouth, playing in bars, cafes, and passing the hat. More won a radio contest, which was his first breakthrough. The radio station CMQ hosted a program called “The Supreme Court of Art”, in which a variety of artists participated. It was broadcast in the 1940s. Unscrupulous businessmen gave contracts to winners who then exploited them. The poorer were subject to humiliation by a church bell that brutally ended their performances. More was barely able to sing at the time of his first appearance. Later, he competed again and was awarded the first prize. The Cauto conjunto, led by MozoBorgella, offered him his first steady job. He sang on the radio station CMZ, singing with the sextet Figaro de Lazaro Cordero. In 1941, he performed with the Cauto Sextet Mozo Borguella on Mil Diez (1010) his first radio appearance. Ciro Rodriguez of the famed Trio Matamoros heard More sing in El Temple and was impressed. Conjunto Matamoros, a group of musicians from the famed Trio Matamoros, was soon engaged to perform live for station 1010. Miguel Matamoros, however, was unable to perform and asked Mozo Cauto (director of Septeto Cauto) to lend him a singer. Borguella sent More who stayed with the Matamoros for several years and made a number of recordings. Miguel Matamoros was replaced by More, who dedicated himself to the leadership of the band. More traveled to Mexico with Conjunto Matemoros on June 21, 1945. He performed at two of the most renowned cabarets in the age, the Rio Rosa and the Montparnasse. He recorded several songs. Conjunto Matamoros returned home to Havana but More remained in Mexico. Rafael Cueto told him that he was fine, but that burros are “bartolo” in Mexico. Change your name, but stay. “Okay,” said More. “From now on, my name will be Beny, Beny More.” More was left homeless and received permission from the performing artist’s union to work. This enabled him to secure a job at Rio Rosa where he formed Dueto Fantasma and Lalo Montane. More recorded in Mexico City for RCA Victor with Perez Prado: Bonito y sabroso and Mucho corazon. Dolor Karabali was his most famous composition with Perez Prado. He never wanted to rerecord it. More never recorded “Bonito y Sabroso”, even though the famous composition he wrote in the months before he left Mexico was the main theme of his big band in Cuba. More was always reluctant record newer versions his hits songs because he believed “you can’t fix what isn’t broken”. More was recorded with the Prado Orchestra on at least 22 occasions. More also recorded with the orchestra of Mariano Merceron: Me voy pal pueblo y Desdichado”, “Mucho Corazon”,”Ensalada de Mambo”u003c “Rumberos de Ayer”, “Encantado de la Vida”, etc. He recorded with Conjunto De Lalo Montane (a Colombian singer-composer) in Mexico, where they formed a well-known duo called “The Phantom Duet”/”Dueto Fantasma”. He recorded with Mexican orchestras, especially the one under Rafael de Paz. They recorded Yiri yiri Bon, La Culebra Mata siguaraya Solamente una vez, Bonito y Sabroso. A song in which he praises the Mexicans’ dancing and says that Mexico City is sister city to La Habana. Benny recorded during this period with the orchestra of Jesus “Chucho” Rodriguez. El “Chucho”, who was impressed by Benny’s musical abilities, called him “El Barbaro di Ritmo”. More returned to Cuba in the spring 1952, around April. Although he was a celebrity in Mexico, Panama and Colombia, Brazil, Puerto Rico was almost unheard of. Bonito and Sabroso was his first Cuban recording. More started to alternate between performances at the Cadena Oriental, and trips to Havana for recording at the RCA studios. More was a radio presenter at RHC Cadena Azul in Havana. He worked with the orchestra of BeboValdes, who introduced “batanga” to the world. Ibrain Urbino was the presenter of the program and presented him as El Barbaro del Ritmo. He declined to record with Sonora Matancera because he didn’t like the sound of the group. Radio Progreso contracted More with the Ernesto Duarte Brito orchestra after the batanga was out of fashion. He also performed at cabarets, dances, and parties in addition to radio. People flocked to the Capitolio and sidewalks to hear him sing in Havana’s Centro Gallego. More recorded a 1952 recording with Orquesta Aragon, with whom he performed in dance halls. Orquesta Aragon, originally from Cienfuegos, was struggling to get into Havana. More helped them. More’s Banda Gigante (Big Band), performed their first performance in Cascabeles Candado on the station CMQ. The Banda consisted of sixteen musicians and was comparable in size to the orchestras of Perez Prado and Xavier Cugat. More was unable to read music but arranged the material by singing parts for his arrangers. The Banda Gigante was immensely popular between 1954 and 1955. It toured Venezuela in 1956 and 1957. It performed at El Sierra and La Tropical dance halls in Havana. It began performing nightly in 1960. He was offered more tours of Europe, including France, but turned it down because he was afraid of flying. Its original members were: Cabrerita, Miguel Franca, Santiaguito Pealver, Roberto Barreto and Celso Gomez; Saxophones; Chocolate, Rabanito, and Corbacho; Trombone and Trombone: Jose Miguel; Trombone and Bass: Alberto Limonta. Bateria (Drums),: Rolando Laserie. Bongos and Bongos, Clemente Piquero “Chicho”. Congas: Tabaquito. Vocals: Enrique Benitez and Fernando Alvarez. Many of Cuba’s most prominent musicians fled Cuba after the Cuban Revolution. However, More remained in Cuba with his “mi gente”, or people. More was an alcoholic and started to experience symptoms of liver disease in his 40s. An estimated 100,000 people attended his funeral when he died from cirrhosis. He was 43 years of age. Benny More received a star on Celia Cruz Park’s Walk of Fame in Union City, New Jersey on June 11, 2006. This park is a large Cuban-American community and has hosted multimedia lectures and musical presentations on the singer. More is honored in El Benny (2006), which is based partly on his life and features new versions of his songs performed and recorded by Orishas, Juan Formell, Chucho Valdes and Juan Formell. His name is also mentioned in books like the 2008 novel The Island of Eternal Love by Daina Chaviano, a Miami-based writer, where More appears as a character. Also, Wildman of Rhythm: The Music and Life of Benny More was published by the University Press of Florida in 2009. This book is the first English-language biography of More. Wikipedia

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