Dámaso Pérez Prado (December 11, 1916 in Cuba - September 14, 1989 in Mexico) was a Cuban/Mexican bandleader and composer. He is commonly referred to as the "King of the Mambo".
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.
Pérez Prado's band and his Mambo songs
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 "Qué rico mambo
" while on vacation in Mexico
and recorded it back in the U.S.
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.
Famous pieces and hits
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
). It held the spot for 10 consecutive weeks. 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
International popularity and decline
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.
Pérez Prado also appeared in films in the United States and Europe as well as in Mexican cinema, constantly wearing his trademark goatee, as well as 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. Pérez's association with RCA ended in the 1960s, and his recorded output was mainly limited to smaller labels and recycled Latin-style anthologies.
Pérez Prado's later life
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 (also known as Pérez Prado, Jr.
) and daughter Maria Engracia. Despite his fading star in the US, his career in Latin America was stronger than ever. He still 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
, at the age of 72.
Famous musicians in Pérez Prado's orchestra
During his lifetime, a cast of musical luminaries passed through his orchestra. These included
Pérez Prado's Orchestra and salsa
The mambo, reinvigorated under the name salsa
, is still the signature dance
of Latin popular music, and Pérez Prado, Jr.
, continues to direct the Pérez Prado Orchestra in Mexico City
to this day.
Pérez Prado's Music in Pop Culture
" was later featured in
His mambo records and the joyous dancing the brought about are described in a late chapter of Jack Kerouac's seminal novel, "On The Road" 1957.
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."
The soundtrack to the 2004 movie Diarios de Motocicleta features Pérez Prado's "Qué rico el mambo", more commonly known as "Mambo Jambo".
List of popular songs
- Tomando Cafe
- La Niña Popoff
- Mambo en Sax
- Mambo a la Kenton
- Mambo del Ruletero
- Mambo en trompeta
- Marylin Monroe Mambo
- La Chula Linda
- Tico, Tico, Tico
Music of Cuba