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Pérez Prado

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Pérez Prado (Dámaso Pérez Prado, December 11, 1916 – September 14, 1989) was a Cuban bandleader, musician (singer, organist and pianist), and composer. He is often referred to as the “King of the Mambo”.

Pérez was actually his surname, he became known by the paternal and maternal surnames “Pérez Prado.”
His orchestra was the most popular in mambo. His son, Pérez Prado, Jr., continues to direct the Pérez Prado Orchestra in Mexico City to this day.

Perez was born in Matanzas, Cuba, his mother Sara Prado was a school teacher, his father Pablo Pérez a journalist at El Heraldo de Cuba. 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. Perez’s mambos stood out among the competition, with their fiery brass riffs and strong saxophone 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 el mambo” while on vacation in Mexico and recorded it back in the United States as “Mambo Jambo”.

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