Pérez Prado

Perez Prado, universally known as the King Of the Mambo was the most prominent musician in the massively successful Latin dance craze. Although it is not clear if he created the rhythm, it is evident that he developed it into a vibrant, swinging style that was appealing to dancers from all walks of life. Prado’s mambo featured piercing high register trumpets, undulating counterpoint saxophone saxophone saxophone, an atmospheric organ, and harmonic ideas derived from jazz. Although his percussion arrangements were limited in their ability to allow for improvisation, they were precise and focused. This made it easy for dancers follow the underlying syncopations. Prado was a pianist, but he was more at home as the center of the audience’s excitement. He jumped, kicked and danced with his musicians, exhorting them with a dynamic stage presence that would put shame on more serious conductors and bandleaders. Prado’s blueprint was a key to bringing mambo into mainstream pop music. He inspired many others and scored two number one singles in the pop charts, though the style was less popular than the original. He was a major star in most of the Western Hemisphere in the 1950s. Even after his popularity declined in the United States, his reputation remained in Latin America, particularly in his home country of Mexico. Prado’s commercial, softer work is what most people remember. It has a charming kitschiness that appeals to modern lounge-revival hipsters. His true credentials in Latin dance music have been obscured by his commercial work. He is still underappreciated today. Damaso PerezPrado was born in Matanzas (Cuban), on December 11, 1916. He used to give his birth date as five years later. His father and mother were his last names. His first recordings were released under D. Perez Prado. However, the “D” was dropped from his American releases. In 1955, Perez Prado became his legal name. Prado began studying classical piano in his childhood. By the time he graduated from high school, he was able to play organ and piano professionally in local clubs. Prado moved to Havana in 1942, and worked as a freelance musician for several smaller orchestras during the following year. He was primarily a pianist at this time, but he also got an arrangement job with Gapar Roca de la Peer. This company sometimes provided material for the popular Orquesta Casino de la Playa. Cascarita, the orchestra’s vocalist, was impressed by Prado’s music and hired him as an arranger and pianist. Prado had this early platform to create his own arrangement style. After-hours jam sessions in Havana were also influencing his rhythmic ideas. Prado experimented with American jazz hard swing to add more excitement to the rumba rhythm. He was particularly influenced by Stan Kenton’s harmonically sophisticated big band music. Prado also tried to create new Afro-Cuban rhythms, including the mambo. Its origins can be traced back to Orestes Lopez and Arsenio Rodrigo. Cuba’s conservative musical community resisted Prado’s ideas and reacted with hostility to his innovations. He was unable to find work as an arranger and left Cuba in 1947 to seek his fortune in Puerto Rico. He joined a traveling group that traveled through Argentina, Venezuela and Panama and became their star attraction. He moved to Mexico City in 1948 and started his own orchestra with a core group of Cuban expatriates. Beny More was one of them. He performed and recorded with Prado and several other bandleaders through 1950. The association made Prado’s orchestra a top-drawer in Mexico City and helped More become one of Cuba’s most beloved singers. In 1949, RCA’s Mexican division signed Prado to be an artist. His first 78 rpm album, “Que Rico el Mambo”, b/w “Mambo No. It was a huge hit in Latin America. It was reissued by RCA in the U.S. in 1950 with the title “Mambo Jambo” being changed. It had moderate success there as well. Prado released many singles in Mexico over the years. Most of them were named in honor of a wide range of occupations and social classes, which made them extremely popular. Prado also appeared in many Mexican films as himself, often starring on stage. Prado was busy in the early 1950s, when he organized a series of international tours. The mambo sound became so popular that it spread like wildfire. To no discernible effect, Catholic authorities in Peru threatened to deny forgiveness to anyone who took part in mambo dancing. Prado’s 1951 first U.S. trip was with Beny More as his companion. Because of the union rules of musicians, he had to often hire local musicians to replace his Mexican staff and train them in English in a short time. However, the tour was a huge success on the West Coast and RCA began to release his records on their main RCA Victor imprint rather than resigning them at a specialty subsidiary. Prado was deported to Havana by Mexican officials in late 1953. Rumours of kidnapping arose from his sudden disappearance. He was taken to a backstage dressing area and then he resurfaced to say that he had forgotten his visa renewal. In 1954, Prado was back in the U.S. and embarked on a second hugely successful tour along the West Coast. After that, he made his way to New York where his orchestra performed in several high-end venues. This helped mambo become a fad among the upper and lower classes. Mambo night in clubs all over the city was a catalyst for mambo becoming a pop phenomenon.

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