Perez Prado

Perez Prado (b. December 11, 1916, Cuba - d. September 14, 1989, Mexico City, Mexico) was a Cuban bandleader, musician (singer, organist and pianist), and composer. He is commonly referred to as the "King of the Mambo". His son, Perez Prado, Jr., continues to direct the Pérez Prado Orchestra in Mexico City to this day.

Born as Dámaso Pérez Prado in Cuba, his mother was a school teacher, his father a newspaper man. He studied classical piano in his early childhood, and later played organ and piano in local clubs. For a time, he was pianist and arranger for the Sonora Matancera, Cuba's best known musical group. He also worked with casino orchestras in Havana for most of the 1940s, and gained a reputation for being an imaginative (his solo playing style predated bebop by at least five years), loud player. He was nicknamed "El Cara de Foca" ("Seal Face") by his peers at the time.

In 1948, he moved to Mexico to form his own band and record for RCA Victor. He quickly specialized in mambos, an upbeat adaptation of the Cuban danzón. Pérez Prado's mambos stood out among the competition, with their fiery brass riffs and strong sax counterpoints, and most of all, Pérez's trademark grunts (he actually says "¡Dilo!", or "Say it!", in many of the perceived grunts). In 1950, arranger Sonny Burke heard "Que rico mambo" while on vacation in Mexico and recorded it back in the United States as "Mambo Jambo". The single was a hit and Pérez Prado decided to profit himself from the success and tour the U.S. His appearances in 1951 were sell-outs and he began recording U.S. releases for RCA Victor.

Pérez Prado is the composer of such famous pieces as "Mambo No. 5" (later a UK chart-topper for both Lou Bega in 1999 and animated character Bob the Builder in 2001) and "Mambo No. 8". At the height of the mambo movement, in 1955, Pérez hit the American charts at number one with a cha-cha version of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" (composed by French composer Louiguy). This arrangement, featuring trumpeter Billy Regis, held the spot for 10 consecutive weeks. The song also went to number one in the UK and in Germany. Pérez had first covered this title for the movie Underwater! in 1954, where Jane Russell can be seen dancing to "Cherry Pink". In 1958, one of Pérez's own compositions, "Patricia", became the last record to ascend to #1 on the Jockeys and Top 100 charts, both of which gave way the following week to the then newly introduced Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song also went to number one in Germany and in Great Britain it reached number eight.

However, since the Castro government took over Cuba, it prohibited any existing recordings of him and his orchestra from being put into a record compilation for many years, for this reason, phony or secondary versions of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" and "Patricia" were put into the compilation instead, disappointing a lot of Prado fans.

His popularity in the United States matched the peak of the first wave of interest in Latin music outside the Latino communities during the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. He also performed in films in the United States and Europe, as well as in Mexican cinema, always with his trademark goatee and turtle-neck sweaters and vests. With the end of the 1950s, his success waned, and the years gave way to new rhythms, like rock 'n roll and then pop music. His association with RCA ended in the 1960s, and his recorded output was mainly limited to smaller labels and recycled Latin-style anthologies.

In the early 70s, Pérez Prado permanently returned to his apartment off Mexico City's grand Paseo de la Reforma to live with his wife and two children, son Dámaso Pérez Salinas (known as Perez Prado, Jr.) and daughter María Engracia. His career in Latin America was still strong. He toured and continued to record material which was released in Mexico, South America, and Japan. He was revered as one of the reigning giants of the music industry and was a regular performer on Mexican television. In Japan, a live concert recording of his 1973 tour was released on LP in an early 4-channel format known as Quadraphonic.

In 1981, he was featured in a musical revue entitled Sun which enjoyed a long run in the Mexican capital. His last American appearance was at Hollywood on September 12, 1987, when he played to a packed house. This was also the year of his last recording.

Persistent ill health plagued him for the next two years, and he died of a stroke in Mexico City on September 14, 1989, aged 72.

During his lifetime, a cast of musical luminaries passed through his orchestra. These included Cuban singer Beny Moré, trumpeter Pete Candoli, bongo and conga drummer Armando Peraza and percussionists Johnny Pacheco and Mongo Santamaría.

In the decade after his death, the popularity of Pérez Prado's music was on the rise again. CD reissues of Pérez's RCA recordings continue to sell steadily. The exciting "Guaglione" almost made it to the top of the charts in the UK in the summer of 1995 following its use in the Guinness television commercial Anticipation. "Mambo No. 5" was featured in another Guinness commercial in 1999 (the same year Lou Bega took his cover version of that same song to the top of the UK charts).

The soundtrack to the 1999 movie Office Space features two of his performances, "Mambo No. 8" and "The Peanut Vendor."

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Perez Prado - Great Mambos

Perez Prado - Pops And Prado

Perez Prado - Voodoo Suite

Perez Prado - Mambo By The King

Perez Prado - Mambo Jambo

Perez Prado - Mambo By The King