Perez Prado Biography

Damaso Pérez Prado, 11 December 1916, Mantanzas, Cuba, d. 14 September 1989, Mexico City, Mexico. Prado played organ and piano in cinemas and clubs before becoming an arranger for mambo-style local bands in 1942. He formed his own unit in 1948 in Mexico when the mambo beat was becoming very popular. Prado was ‘King of the Mambo’ in Latin America with his scorching brass and persuasive percussion, exemplified in his 1950 recording of ‘Mambo Jambo’. He had some modest US success in 1953/4 with the title theme from the Italian movie Anne, and a South African song, ‘Skokiaan’. Strong indications that the mambo craze was beginning to catch on in the USA came in 1954, when Perry Como with ‘Papa Loves Mambo’, and ‘Mambo Italiano’ by Rosemary Clooney, both reached the Top 10. Prado made his worldwide breakthrough in 1955 when RCA Records released ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White’, with an exciting trumpet solo by Billy Regis. It stayed at number 1 in the US charts for 10 weeks and was featured in the Jane Russell/Richard Egan movie Underwater! (1955). In Britain, Eddie Calvert and the Ted Heath orchestra had their own bestselling versions. Prado’s follow-up in 1958 was another instrumental, his own composition, ‘Patricia’. Another chart-topper, it contained more than a hint of the current burgeoning pop sounds with its heavy bass and rocking organ rhythms, along with the cha-cha-cha beat, and was used by Federico Fellini as the theme song for the movie La Dolce Vita in 1960. By then Prado was out of the limelight, but in 1981 he featured in a musical revue entitled Sun, which enjoyed a long run in Mexico City. Persistent ill health led to the amputation of one leg, and he eventually died from a stroke in 1989. Six years later, he narrowly failed to reach the top of the UK chart with the exciting ‘Guaglione’, following its use in a television commercial for Guinness. He enjoyed further posthumous chart action in 1999 when Lou Bega’s reworking of ‘Mambo No. 5’ and Shaft’s ‘Mucho Mambo (Sway)’, a reworking of ‘Quien Sera (Sway)’, enjoyed huge chart success throughout Europe.

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

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