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Xavier Cugat

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Girona, Spain (January 1, 1900 – October 27, 1990)

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.

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