Xavier Cugat

Xavier Cugat, Spanish-Cuban bandleader (January 1, 1900 – Oct 27, 1990), was a musician from Spain who many believe had more to do than any other musician with the introduction of Latin music to American popular music. Perez Prado was a follower of Cugat. Cugat was born Francisco de Asis Javier Cugat Mingall de Bru y Deulofeo, Girona. He immigrated to Cuba with his family when he was just five years old. Cugat was a classical violinist who played in the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional, Havana. Cugat moved to New York sometime between 1915-19 1918. He played in a band called “The Gigolos”, during the tango craze. Cugat later became a cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times. His caricatures were eventually syndicated nationally. He formed another tango group that was successful in short musical films in the 1920s. He began to appear with his group in feature film productions as early as the 1930s. Cugat brought his band to New York to help open the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It became the hotel’s resident band. For the next 30 years, Cugat travelled between New York City and Los Angeles, alternately appearing on radio and in hotels. He recorded Perfidia in 1940 with Miguelito Valdes, which was a huge hit. Cugat was a keen observer of trends and made records for the conga (mambo), the cha-cha cha-cha and twist, when they were fashionable. Abbe Lane was his first marriage, in 1952. They performed together until their divorce in 1964. On August 7, 1966, he married Charo, a salsa dancer. They were the first to marry at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Cugat didn’t lose sleep over artistic compromises. “I would rather have my swimming pool and play Chiquita Banana than starve and starve,” he said. Cugat, a Catalonian native, died from heart failure in Barcelona at the age of 90. Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

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