Edmundo Ros Biography

7 December 1910, Port of Spain, Trinidad. The leader of one of the most popular - if not the most popular - Latin American band in the UK for many years, spent his early life in Venezuela, before attending the Military Academy at Caracas, where, via the Academy’s band, he became interested in music and learned to play the euphonium or ‘bombardin’. Despite harbouring ambitions to study criminal law, he travelled to the UK in 1937 and studied composition and harmony at the Royal Academy of Music. Although he recorded with jazzman Fats Waller in 1938, Ros mainly sang and served as a percussionist with various Latin-styled bands, including one led by pianist Don Marino Barretto. He formed his own five-piece unit, Rumba With Ros, in 1940, and for the next 35 years, played and recorded with groups such as Ros’ Rumba Romeos, his Rumba Band, and Edmundo Ros and his Orchestra. After making his London debut at the New Cosmos Club and St. Regis Hotel, he played all the smartest nightspots, including the Bagatelle, before opening his own Edmundo Ros Club, on the site of the Coconut Grove, in 1949.

By then, with his gently rhythmic style and engaging vocals, he was enormously popular with the public generally, and a favourite of London’s high society and some members of the Royal Family. Earlier in his career, he had decided that the best way to introduce complex Latin rhythms to his audiences would be to apply them to popular and familiar songs, and throughout the 40s and 50s, on radio and records, he had great success with numbers such as ‘Enjoy Yourself’, ‘Melodie D’Amour’, ‘Tico Tico’, ‘I Got The Sun In The Morning’, ‘South America, Take It Away’, ‘ I’m Crazy For You’, ‘Her Bathing Suit Never Got Wet’, ‘The Coffee Song’, ‘No Can Do’, ‘The Maharajah Of Magador’, his theme, ‘The Cuban Love Song’, and especially ‘The Wedding Samba’, which was also a hit in the USA in 1949, although he was not allowed to perform there because of Musicians’ Union regulations. His music was in demand in many other parts of the world too, particularly in Japan.

In the early 60s, he collaborated on an album with Ted Heath that exploited the relatively new stereo recording process. The shift in musical tastes during the decade affected Ros’ standing but he played on into the 70s. Disillusioned with the business, he disbanded in 1975, and, so he says, destroyed most of the bands’ arrangements, keeping just one set in case he received an offer he could not refuse. He retired to Spain, emerging occasionally for events such as his 80th birthday celebrations in 1990, and to introduce a series of record programmes for BBC Radio in 1992. Two years later, he joined another veteran musical personality, Stanley Black, in a ‘Latin Reunion’ at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Often the butt of jokes by the musical élite, he was gently satirized by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in ‘Look Out There’s A Monster Coming’. Ros was awarded the OBE in 2000.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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