- Category : Entertain-Music-Conductor
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Tension 4
Spanish-American musician, a bandleader called the "Rumba King" who taught a generation to tango, mambo and cha-cha. His songs include "The Isle of Capri" and "Tico Tico." He was noted for sparkling rhythms and a taste for spicy young beauties, four of whom he married, including the "gitchi-gitchi" girl, Charo.
Born in Barcelona, Spain, his parents became political refugees, fleeing to Havana, Cuba when he was three. A neighbor who was a violin-maker gave him a small violin as a gift when he was four. At 10 he began playing with a symphony orchestra in Havana; by age 12 he was first violinist. Visiting tenor Enrico Caruso was so impressed with the youngster he arranged for him to accompany him on a tour of America. They became close friends and Caruso taught him the gift of drawing cartoon-caricatures. Caruso died shortly after Cugat's arrival in New York in 1921. Cugat ended up playing his violin in a restaurant with a Spanish name for room and board until he landed a job with an orchestra on tour.
Realizing that a career as a violin player was not what he wanted to do he took a job with the Los Angeles Times as a caricaturist between 1924-25. He went to work in the movie business where his eventual fame as a Latin band leader brought him many movie appearances in the 1940s and 1950s. He was also an accomplished primitive artist whose Mexican scenes were on display at his chain of eight restaurants. Cugat admitted before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Commerce Committee investigating television quiz show rigging in the late 1950s that he had been coached by an assistant producer of the "$64,000 Challenge" quiz game for his knowledge of popular music. He won $16,000 on the show, stating that he donated his earnings to an orphanage in Cuba. His name and band remained a popular draw on the road and especially in Las Vegas.
His marriages included band singer Carmen Elen Castillo (1929-1944), Lorraine Allen (1947-1952), Abbe Lane (1952-1966), Charro Baeza (1966-1978). No children.
A stroke left him partially paralyzed in 1969. After his fourth divorce he moved to Barcelona. Overweight, he died of heart failure 10/27/1990 in Barcelona, Spain.