Xavier Cugat was a Spanish American bandleader who spent his formative years in Havana, Cuba. A trained violinist and arranger, he was a key personality in the spread of Latin music in United States popular music. He was also a cartoonist and a successful businessman. In New York, his was the resident orchestra at the Waldorf-Astoria before and after World War II.
Cugat was born as Francesc d’Asís Xavier Cugat Mingall de Bru i Deulofeu in Girona, Spain. His family emigrated to Cuba when Xavier was five. He was trained as a classical violinist and played with the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional in Havana. On 6 July 1915, Cugat and his family arrived in New York as immigrant passengers on board the S.S. Havana.
Cugat was married five times. His first marriage was to Rita Montaner ; his second was to Carmen Castillo ; his third to Lorraine Allen ; his fourth to singer Abbe Lane ; and his fifth to Spanish guitarist and comic actress Charo. His last marriage was the first in Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.
Entering the world of show business, 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. His older brother, Francis, was an artist of some note, having painted the famous cover art for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby.