Xavier Cugat


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Xavier Cugat biography

Xavier Cugat (January 1, 1900 - October 27, 1990) was a Spanish-Cuban bandleader whom many consider to have had more to do with the infusion of Latin music into United States popular music than any other musician. Perez Prado followed in Cugat's footsteps. Cugat was born Francisco de Asis Javier Cugat Mingall de Bru y Deulofeo in Girona, Spain. His family immigrated to Cuba when he was five. He trained as a classical violinist and played with the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional in Havana. Sometime between 1915 and 1918, Cugat moved to New York, where he played with a band called "The Gigolos" during the tango craze. Later, he went to work for the Los Angeles Times as a cartoonist (Cugat's caricatures were later nationally syndicated). In the late 1920s, when sound began to be used in films, Cugat put together a tango band that had some success in early short musical films. By the early 1930s, he began appearing with his group in feature films. Cugat took his band to New York to open the new Waldorf Astoria Hotel and it became the hotel's resident group. He shuttled between New York and Los Angeles for most of the next thirty years, alternating hotel and radio dates with movie appearances. In 1940, he recorded the song Perfidia with singer Miguelito Valdés which became a big hit. Cugat followed trends closely, making records for the conga, the mambo, the cha-cha-cha, and the twist when each were in fashion. His first marriage in 1952 was to singer, Abbe Lane, they performed together until they divorced in 1964. He married salsa dancer Charo on August 7, 1966; the two were the first couple to marry in the newly opened Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Cugat did not lose sleep over artistic compromises: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve." Cugat died of heart failure at age 90 in Barcelona, in his native province of Catalonia, Spain.

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