Pérez Prado was a Cuban bandleader, musician, and composer. He is commonly referred to as the “King of the Mambo“.
In Mambo his orchestra was the most popular, his son, Pérez Prado, Jr., continues to direct the Pérez Prado Orchestra in Mexico City to this day.
Born as Dámaso Pérez Prado in Cuba, his mother was a school teacher, his father a newspaper man. 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, loud player. He was nicknamed “El Cara de Foca” 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. Prado’s mambos stood out among the competition, with their fiery brass riffs and strong saxophone counterpoints, and most of all, Pérez’s trademark grunts. In 1950 arranger Sonny Burke heard “Que rico mambo” while on vacation in Mexico and recorded it back in the United States as “Mambo Jambo”. The single was a hit, which caused Prado to launch a US tour. His appearances in 1951 were sell-outs and he began recording US releases for RCA Victor.