Xavier Cugat, King of the Rumbas

Abbe Lane twists with Cugat

Francisco de Asis Javier Cugat Mingall de Bru y Denlofeo's career was long and influential, touching every generation in the twentieth century. And why not? He was born on the first of January, 1900 in Gerona, Spain. He brought Latin music into the North American household via records, radio, milestone films (the first to incorporate sound), and television programs. His sixteen-year reign over New York's prestigious Waldorf-Astoria hotel was unprecedented and unduplicated.

Cugat received a boost from Enrico Caruso in Cuba, where the Cugats had moved and Caruso was performing. When old enough, the young violin prodigy headed for New York but failed at Carnegie. Moving to California, he developed a life-long hobby as a caricaturist, while Hollywood gradually changed his musical milieu (and he, its). A tentative offer from the Waldorf brought Cugat back to New York and launched his rise to international fame as "King of the Rumbas."

The Cugat recording legacy was much more than introducing the conga and rumba. He became the chief exponent of every Spanish-influenced music, from the mambo and cha cha cha to Spanish classical and tango, not to mention calypso and Brasilian rhythms. Throughout his career he championed the music of Ernesto Lecuona. Under the Cugat baton, countless stars were made and discovered: Desi Arnaz, Miguelito Valdes, Tito Rodríguez, Luis del Campo, and Yma Sumac. Even his wives were singers and co-performers, most notably the great Abbe Lane.

"Cugi's" music has long been dismissed as too commercial, but the generalization is unfair. Some of his Columbia records are exotic, Afro-Cuban splendors of the first order. And his Mercury and Decca albums are beautifully recorded, masterful productions. But the greatest of his achievements was cultivating a massive North American audience for authentic Latin music. "All Latin-American musicians owe a great debt to Xavier Cugat," said Perez Prado in 1951. Cugat deserves appreciation from all fans of Latin music.

Xavier Cugat 78 rpm Albums

4Rumba with Cugat; Columbia C-54
4Conga with Cugat; Columbia C-74
Cugat in Mexico; Columbia C-98
Tango; Columbia C-132 (4 discs)
In Person; RCA Victor P-9
4Rumbas; RCA Victor P-67
1-2-3 Kick Congas; RCA Victor P-73
3Tangos; RCA Victor P-83

Xavier Cugat 10" LPs

5Rhumba with Cugat; Columbia CL-6005
6Cugat's Favorite Rumbas; Columbia CL-6021
5Conga with Cugat; Columbia CL-6036
6Xavier Cugat Dance Parade; Columbia CL-6077
4Tropical Bouquets; Columbia CL-6086; (c)1949
4Dance Date with Xavier Cugat; Columbia CL-6121; (c)1950
7Mambo at the Waldorf; Columbia CL-6213
5Tango with Cugat; Columbia CL-6234
6Samba with Cugat; Columbia CL-6236
5Mambo!; Columbia House Party CL-2506
8Here's Cugat; Philips/Mercury MG-25120
7The Great Latin American Rhythms of Xavier Cugat: Dance with Cugat; Philips/Mercury MG-25149
8Mambos by Cugat; Philips/Mercury MG-25168
6The King of Rhumba; Philips B-07673-R (Holland)
8Meet Xavier Cugat (and Abbe Lane); Philips B-07681-R (Holland)
7Music for Latin Lovers; Pye/Mercury MPT-7530 (England; in US on 12" LP Mambo!)
6Xavier Cugat & his Orchestra: Rumbas; RCA Victor LPT-8 (My Shawl, The Lady in Red, Green Eyes, Siboney, Havana's Calling Me, Perdon, Estrellita, La Bomba
5Xavier Cugat & his Orchestra: Tangos; RCA Victor LPT-11
7Xavier Cugat & his Orchestra: Dancetime with Cugat; RCA Victor LPM-3170 (with Abbe Lane, Juan Guerrero, Stuart Foster; Madalena, Say Si Si, Quizas Quizas, La Ultima Noche, Chivirico--mambo, You Too You Too?, Rocking the Mambo, Vola Colomba)

Xavier Cugat 12" LPs

3Relaxing with Cugat (Quiet Music Vol.6); Columbia CL-515
7Dance with Cugat; Columbia CL-537 (w/Miguelito Valdez, Tito Rodriguez, Dinah Shore..)
6Cugat's Favorite Rumbas; Columbia CL-579 (CL-6021 + 4; 2 w/Miguelito Valdes)
4Tango Time (with Mark Weber Orchestra); Columbia CL-597
8Olé; Columbia CL-618 (w/Abbe Lane)
5Cha Cha Cha--The New Latin American Dance Craze; Columbia CL-718
7Mambo at the Waldorf; Columbia CL-732
7Merengue by Cugat; Columbia CL-733 (w/Vitin Aviles)
6Bread, Love, & Cha Cha Cha; Columbia CL-1016
6Latin Carnival; Columbia CB-2 (CL-36545; Columbia Record Club exclusive, limited-edition, "FREE BONUS" singles compilation)
6Cugat Cavalcade; Columbia CL-1094/CS-8055
3Waltzes...but by Cugat; Columbia CS-8059
6The Dance Beat of Xavier Cugat; CBS/Harmony HL-7242 (compilation)
6The Latin Rhythms of Xavier Cugat; CBS/Harmony HL-7271 (CL-50461; compilation)
7Anyone Can Cha Cha (w/Joe Loco); CBS/Epic LN-3338
5The King Plays Some Aces; RCA Victor LSP-1882; 1958
4Cugat in Spain; RCA Victor LSP-1894; 1959
4Chile con Cugie; RCA Victor LSP-1987; 1959
4Cugat in France, Spain, & Italy; RCA Victor LSP-2173; 1960
6Latin Spice; RCA Victor CS-169 (compilation)
5That Latin Beat!; RCA Camden CAL-323 (compilation)
4Pure Gold; RCA ANL1-1310e; 1976 (compilation)
7Cugat's Favorites; Mercury MG-20065; 1956? (reissues from 2 10" LPs; two jacket versions)
7Mambo!/Music for Latin Lovers; Mercury MG-20108; 1957
5Most Popular Movie Themes; Mercury SR-60745; 1960
7Viva Cugat!; Mercury PPS-6003; 1961
8The Best of Cugat; Mercury PPS-6015; 1961
6Twist with Cugat; Mercury SR-60705; 1962
5Cugat's Golden Goodies; Mercury SR-60798; 1963
7Cugi's Cocktails; Mercury SR-60832; 1963
6Cugat Plays Continental Favorites; Mercury PPS-6021; (audiophile; standard release as Cugat Plays Continental Hits; Mercury SR-60872)
6Cugat Caricatures; Mercury SR-60888; 1964
6Music of Ernesto Lecuona; Mercury SR-60936; 1964
6The Latin Soul of Xavier Cugat; Pickwick SPC-3095 (compilation of Mercury material)
7Feeling Good!; Decca DL-74672
7Dance Party; Decca DL-74740
7Bang Bang; Decca DL-74799; 1966
6Xavier Cugat Today!; Decca DL-74851
5Xavier Cugat: Midnight Roses--The Quiet New Excitement of Xavier Cugat; MCA/Decca DL-75046 (bossa easy-listening)
6Spanish Eyes; Decca/Vocalion VL-3910; 1970 (compilation)
The Beautiful New Sound of Strings; Musicor M2S-3179 (2-LP)
Latin Reflections; Musicor/MusicO MDS-1015
The Pick of Xavier Cugat; 51West 16048
5To All My Friends; Vivatone (in Germany as Gema/Intersound ISST-106 and imported to UK by Decca; disco-samba best for the Cugat jacket art)

Partly Cugat LPs

7Bing Crosby: El Bingo 10"; Decca DL-5001
8Abbe Lane (w/Sid Ramin): Where There's a Man; RCA Victor LSP-1899; 1959 ("Go to Sleep..")
6Various: The Dancing Beat of the Latin Bands; RCA Victor LSP-2087; 1959
7Various: Fire Down Below--Music with a Calypso Beat; Mercury MG-20287 ("Ay-Round the Corner"; others: Sarah Vaughan, Rusty Draper, Georgia Gibbs, The Diamonds, David Carroll, Louis Jordan, Chuck Miller, Nick Noble, Richard Hayes, The Gaylords, Lola Lee)
4Various: Hit Motion Picture Themes; Mercury SR-60810
8Various: Mambo Mucho Mambo; Columbia CL-626 (w/Machito & Belmonte)

EPs & 45s

7Xavier Cugat EP; Columbia B-1585 (Mambo Gordo, Mambo en Espana, La Cumparsita, Mambo Retozon)
7Xavier Cugat Rumbas (Rumba with Cugat) EP; Columbia B-1668 (Tony's Wife--canta La Chata/Mama Inez/No Can Do--canta Leah Ray/Oye Negra)
8Xavier Cugat: Dance the Rhumba EP; Columbia B-1750 (Morrocco/Tony's Wife--canta La Chata/Rhumba Fantasy/Cuban Rhythm)
8Xavier Cugat: Dancing with Xavier Cugat EP; Columbia B-1871 (Mambo No. 8/Me Lo Dijo Adela/Cha-Cha-Cha/Guarare)
7Xavier Cugat Hall of Fame Series EP; Columbia B-2510 (Xavier Cugat w/Aladdin & the Boyd Triplets: Come to the Mardi Gras/Miami Beach Rhumba; Xavier Cugat: Mambo No. 5/Mambo No. 8)
7Xavier Cugat Hall of Fame Series EP; Columbia B-2511 (My Shawl, Oye Negra, Brazil, Tico Tico)
6Xavier Cugat Hall of Fame Series EP; Columbia B-2561 (Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White/[The Chi Chi] Cha-Cha-Cha/Walter Winchell Rhumba/La Cumparsita)
6Xavier Cugat Hall of Fame Series EP; Columbia B-2643 (tangos; Jalousie, Inspiration, Rain in Spain, Adios Muchachos)
5Xavier Cugat EP; Columbia B-11433 (Cuatro Milpas/Mademoiselle de Paris/Mexicali Rose/Alma Llanera; vocal: Pepito Arvelo)
6At Last We're Alone/Who Me?; Columbia/Epic 5-9123 (A side from "The Girl Rush"; B-side w/Abbe Lane)
7Xavier Cugat & his Orchestra: Francesca/Mambo #5; Columbia 4-39349
7Xavier Cugat & Merv Griffin: That's Hot-Cha-Cha with Me!/Sweet & Gentle; Columbia 4-40530
Various: Dance the Samba EP; Columbia B-1752 (Noro Morales: Glorita/Xavier Cugat: The Wedding Samba/Good Good Good/Bullumba Landestoy: Cuban Nightingale)
7Various: All-Star Pops EP; Columbia B-2088 (Belmonte w/Bernadine Read: Learnin' the Blues/Felicia Sanders: Blue Star/Xavier Cugat & Merv Griffin: Sweet & Gentle/Doris Day: I'll Never Stop Loving You)
Xavier Cugat: That Latin Beat!; RCA Camden 345
8Xavier Cugat: Rock Moruno/Rock of the Hours (based on Dance of the Hours); RCA Victor 47-7615 (Latin rock/exotic rock!)
8Xavier Cugat: Jungle Flute/Blue Tango; Philips/Mercury 5817-X45
7Xavier Cugat: Festival/Ray Cura & Xavier Cugat: Won't You Surrender (Two Guitars); Philips/Mercury 5829-X45 (A-side vocal by Abbe Lane w/Don Rodney)
7Xavier Cugat: Latin Lament EP; Philips/Mercury EP-1-3119 (African Lament, Misirlou, La Hora, Staccato Samba)
8Xavier Cugat: Cugat Cocktail EP; Philips EP 429-218-BE (Compadre Pedro Juan, Rico Vacilon, El Marijuano, Carnival in Uruguay)


Toca-Tu Samba/Good, Good, Good; Columbia 36793 (vocal: Nestor Amaral/Del Campo; B-side on LP CL-537)
Rumba Rumba/Tierra Va Tembla; Columbia 36953 (vocal: Del Campo/Del Campo & Boyd Triplets)
South America, Take it Away!/Chiquita Banana; Columbia 37051 (vocal: Buddy Clark)
Dinah Shore & Xavier Cugat: I'll Never Love Again/You, So It's You!; Columbia 37090 (A-side on LP CL-537)
Yo Te Amo Mucho And That's That/La Ole Marina; Columbia 37163 (vocal: Del Campo)
Rumbasia/Minsan Lamang (Lover's Lament)--Philippine Folk Song; Columbia 38516 (B-side vocal: Del Campo)
Latin Magic/Goombay; Columbia 38642 (vocal: Toni Arden/Jimmy Saunders)
7The Adventures of Chiquita the Chihuahua; Mercury Playcraft MP-4 (spoken w/music; narration by Gilbert Mack & Xavier Cugat)

Cugat in Film

Don Juan (first synchro-sound film); Warner Bros.; 1926
The Jazz Singer (first soundie/dialogue); Warner Bros.; 1927
Cugat & his Gigolos (first musical short); Warner Bros.
Charros, Gauchos y Manolas (musical he scored, directed, produced)
The Great Divide (as musical director only)
Two Girls and a Sailor (w/Harry James); MGM; 1944
Bathing Beauty (w/Esther Williams); MGM
Weekend at the Waldorf; MGM
Holiday in Mexico; MGM
This Time for Keeps; MGM
No Leave, No Love; MGM
You Were Never Lovelier; MGM
Let's Face It
Sweater Girl
Call Me Mister
On an Island with You (w/Esther Williams); MGM
A Date with Judy (w/Carmen Miranda); MGM
Stage Door Canteen; Warner Bros.
The Heat's On (orchestra only)


Dinner at the Waldorf
Let's Dance; NBC, 12/1/34-1935
RCA Magic Key; NBC, 5/10/36
Camel Presents Xavier Cugat; NBC 1/9/41-1/1/42
Xavier Cugat's Rumba Review; NBC 1942
Camel Caravan; Columbia 7/10/42-7/2/43
[variety with Jimmy Durante]; NBC 1943
[Coca-Cola spotlight band]; Mutual 1944-5
[Drene show]; NBC 1945


Rumba is My Life (autobiograhy, Cugat-illustrated); Didier, NY; 1948

The Five Wives of Xavier Cugat

Rita Montaner
Carmen Castillo
Lorraine Allen
Abbe Lane*
Charo Baeza

*Her sappy, autobiographical "novel," But Where is Love (Warner Books, NY, 1993, 436pp.), damns Cugat as a tyrant but, worse, offers almost no information.

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