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Desi Arnaz

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Santiago, Cuba

Desi Arnaz (March 2, 1917 – December 2, 1986), born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in Santiago, Cuba, began his career by chance as a professional musician during the depression, singing, playing guitar and percussion for a orchestra in Miami. He moved to New York to perform in a group conducted by Xavier Cugat. In 1939, his wild conga drum antics got him a break starring on Broadway in the successful musical Too Many Girls, and he went to Hollywood to appear in the 1940 movie version, where he met co-star and future wife Lucille Ball.

Prior to meeting Ball, Arnaz had formed own band. He appeared at The Conga Club, Miami, Florida, and at as the star attraction at La Conga in Manhattan during the height of the late 1930’s “conga craze”. On August 5, 1939, columnist Malcolm Johnson reviewed Desi’s act for the New York Sun:
“Desi Arnaz is a young man with a drum. He is a new type of Pied Piper who leads enthusiastic, uninhibited followers in the sinuous, serpentine conga dance every night at La Conga, the night club dedicated to torrid Cuban music and entertainment.

Two or three times each night, Arnaz steps down from the bandstand, his tall, goat-skin drum slung across his shoulders, and begins beating out the wild, savage rhythm which lures dancers on to the floor and behind him in the conga line.

Arnaz, a youthful, handsome Cuban (he is barely 22 years old), has headed his rhumba band at La Conga for two months now and is an established success…

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