Pérez Prado, King of the Mambo

Damaso Pérez Prado is hip, period. No other artist gets as many rock fans' feet in the door to explore old popular music. Almost all of his legitimate releases (Victor, United Artists, Orfeon, Victor Japan) are indispensable. But beware the ubiquitous, budget-label dreck. A handful of early, public-domain sides proliferated on hundreds of albums, and they do nothing for his reputation.

As a child in Matanzas, Cuba, Prado learned classical piano before getting his professional start in 1941 Havana. While his journeyman performing career was unexciting, his own music combined tightly arranged rhythm with brass-heavy jazz. This early "mambo" style was ahead of its time in Cuba, so Prado headed for Mexico City in 1947. There, he began an association with fellow ex-Cuban, singer Benny Moré. Both men were signed by RCA Victor, and in 1949 Prado's first mambo hits (minus Moré) broke over U.S. airwaves. The next year he came to the United States and stayed for nearly two decades.

A pop success, Prado always had difficulty impressing New York's Latino community. One early New York supporter was famous dancer/anthropologist Katherine Dunham; she and his music appear in the 1954 movie, Mambo. Apart from his string of hits, Prado was praised for his unique mambo-jazz suites. But his most enduring work led to his fall from grace among U.S. pop fans. Always ahead of his time, Prado blended Latin and rock repeatedly in various ways. Why it did not succeed probably has more to do with the times than the music. In any case, Prado's mambo-rock is more innovative and exciting than Latin soul (boogaloo), and he was the only one who did it on a large scale, for decades.

A flamboyant showman, Prado revamped the exotic chestnuts in unique ways: "Caravan," "Taboo," "Flamingo," "Hawaiian War Chant," even "Hava Nagila." Later he toyed with such mod, 1960s hits as "Goin' Out of My Head" and "The Monkees" theme. On an Orfeon LP he even slowed down the quintessential mambo-rock tune "Tequila," making it so incredibly dark and funky it became all but unrecognizable.

The Prado orchestra and sound are refreshingly, timelessly spare, but nothing gets spared by that blaring trumpet. Latin percussion, heavy use of organ, and deep bass --and no strings-- put him in the "groove" category early on. Underrated, Prado constantly pushed Latin music forward in his own way. He deserves his title, "El Rey del Mambo," but also should be credited for creating mambo-rock.

Damaso vs. Pantaleon: Confusingly, and for Pantaleon Perez Prado to cash in on his brother's success, Damaso Perez Prado and his younger brother Pantaleon Perez Prado are easy to mix up. Fortunately there are only two recording sessions by Pantaleon, so everything else is Damaso. One is an early Cuban mambo LP featuring tunes by his brother but is clearly attributed. The other is the legendary Italian funk session that is just attributed just to "Perez Prado"; since the two brothers look nearly identical and both did Latin funk, only age and location separates the two.

Buying: The U.S. records taken as a whole (Seeco, RCA, and UA) or in part are very impressive and reliable; avoid only the budget-label dreck. The wildest thrills and surprises may come from the funky Mexican recordings, a few oddballs on odd formats, and the Italian Pantaleon Perez Prado session. You really cannot go wrong with any of the legitimate records.

Perez Prado 10" LPs (all)

8Perez Prado Plays Mucho Mambo for Dancing; RCA Victor LPM-21; c.1951 (reissues 78 album)
8Que Rico el Mambo; RCA Victor Mexicana MKL-3029 (all later reissued on 12" LP: Que Rico Mambo, Ni Hablal, Mambo #8, Mambo Universitario, Mambo #5, Mambo a la Kenton, Politecnico, La Chula Linda)
Savoy Mambo; RCA Victor; c.1952
7Mambo by the King; RCA Victor LPM-3108; c.1952
7Mambo en Sax; RCA Victor Mexicana; c.1952
6Perez Prado & the Cuban Boys: Latin Rhythms featuring Perez Prado & the Cuban Boys; Royale 18146 (4 cuts each; Prado's: Asi Asi, Tu Ve Tu Ve, Azuquita con Leche, La Clave)
6Perez Prado & his Orchestra: Mambos by Perez Prado & his Orchestra; Seeco SLP-4 (Mambo #5, Habana, Mi Cszuelita, Saca la Mano (Hands Off), Electricidad, Hembra Mala, Actopan, Kandela)
4Perez Prado & his Orchestra; Seeco LDS-047; 1954

Perez Prado 12" LPs -- U.S.

4Latin Dance Party; Seeco SCLP-9083; c.1954
7Mambo Mania; RCA Victor LPM-1075; 1955
6Voodoo Suite Plus Six All-Time Greats (w/Shorty Rogers); RCA Victor LPM-1101; 1955
5Mambo by the King; RCA Victor LPM-1196; 1956
9Havana, 3 a.m.; RCA Victor LPM-1257; 1956
7Latin Satin; RCA LPM-1459; 1957
5Mambo Happy!; RCA Camden CAL-409; 1957
6"Prez"; RCA Victor LSP-1556; 1958
7Dilo (Ugh!); RCA Victor LPM-1883; 1958 (famous for "Patricia")
7Mambo en Sax; RCA Victor Mexicana MKL-1124; 1958
5Latino!; RCA Camden CAL-547; 1959 (compilation)
La Niña Popoff (w/Beny More); RCA Victor Mexicana MKL-1197; 1959
6Pops & Prado; RCA Victor; LSP-2028; 1959
6Big Hits by Prado; RCA Victor LSP-2104; 1960 (compilation; The Best of, RCA/Camden CAS-309, is a superior remix)
7A Touch of Tabasco (w/Rosemary Clooney); RCA Victor LSP-2133; 1960
8Perez Prado's Rockambo; RCA Victor LSP-2308; 1961
9La Chunga; RCA Victor LSP-2379; 1961
9Twist Goes Latin; RCA Victor LSP-2524; 1962
7Exotic Suite of the Americas; RCA Victor LSP-2571; 1962
9Our Man in Latin America; RCA Victor LSP-2610; 1963
6Dance Latino; RCA Victor LSP-3330; 1965
6Lights! Action! Prado!; United Artists UAS-6394/UAL-3394; 1965
7The Best of Perez Prado; RCA LSP-3732; 1967 (same title but RCA/Camden CAS-309 is a superior remix of "Big Hits by")
8Concierto Para Bongo; United Artists UAS-6489; 1967 (UA Latino LS-61005; recorded in Mexico City)
8La Epoca de Oro de (The Golden Era of) Beny More/Perez Prado; Caytronics/RCA Carino DBL1-5003; 1969 (electronic stereo reissue of earlier recordings)
8This is Perez Prado; RCA Victor VPS-6066; 1972 (2-LP compilation)
6Estas Si Viven; United Artists UA Latino LS-61032; 1968
6Guantanamera; WS Latino WS-4068; 1976 (reissues except "Guantanamera" & "Dengue A Go-Go")

Perez Prado 12" LPs -- Mexico & Central/South America

Las Novias del Mambo; RCA Victor Mexicana MKS-1287; 1960
7Damaso Perez Prado y su Orquesta: Dengues; Discuba LPD-572; 1964 (Cuban, made in USA for FL distribution; has pre-RCA version of "Caravan"; dengue is a Peruvian dance; in UK as A Cat in Latin; Parlophone PMC-1226)
8Dengue; Orfeon LP-12-410; 1964 (Mexican, made in USA)
8Mambo Vol. 1; Orfeon LP-12-411; 1964 (Mexican; remakes of his classics)
8Mambo Vol. 2; Orfeon LP-12-431 (Mexican)
7Perez Prado y su Orquesta: Latino; RCA Carino DBL1-5020; 1967 (Mexican; same as US RCA LP Latin Satin except minus "Sway" & "Come Closer to Me")
7El Senor Ritmo; Orfeon LP-12-685; 1970 (Mexican)
Perez Prado '70; Orfeon LP-12-726; 1970 (Mexican; probably original release of the A Go Go/Latin Hustle set)
8Dimension; Orfeon LP-12-766; 1971/1970 (Los Angeles version dated 1970, Mexican dated 1971)
6Patricia; RCA/Carino DBL1-5019; 1971 (Mexican compilation of early hits)
7Caballo Negro/Black Horse; RCA/Carino DBL1-5021; 1971 (1974 as CBS or RCA Camden 05(5132)00012; Mexican)
7El Unico; Orfeon/Dimsa DML-1026; 1972 (Mexican; 2 top funk cuts; partly reissue)
8A Go Go; Ansonia ALP-1401 (Cuban; lic. Orfeon; much overlap w/Orfeon LP-12-964)
7Mambos; Ansonia ALP-1404 (Cuban; lic. Orfeon; compilation/remakes)
7Viva Santana; Orion 335-0001; 1974 (Ecuador)
8Perez Prado y su Mambo Cuadrafonico; Discos Raff RF-3026; 1975 (Mexican; covers The Doors' "The Mosquito" & Nino Rota's "Godfather" theme)
8Damaso Perez Prado: Mambo Universitario; Dimsa DML-8986; 1975 (Mexican)
8Latin Hustle; Orfeon LP-12-964; 1976 (Mexican; some Latin funk; mostly reissues "... A Go Go" titles as "... Hustle" but w/superior sound)
El Fabuloso Perez Prado; Orfeon/Dimsa DML-1086; 1976
8Perez Prado y Ya...(jacket: "El Rey"); Gas 4181; 1978 (has "El Mambo de King Kong"; Mexican jacket back has Prado before mirror/Los Angeles version jacket back same as front)
8Con Sabor; Alhambra ABS-6043; 1978 (lic. Orfeon; compilation; remakes of his classics)
7El Rey del Mambo Vols. 1-3 -- Album de Oro; Orfeon LPJM-26-28? (3-LP Mexican compilation; reissued on 2 LPs: 30 Exitos--Album de Oro; CBS CBS-02L-70306; 1986)
8Mambo Rock [CD]; Orfeon/Discos Mexicanos 25-CDTR-823 (compilation; reissues the dengue/a-go-go/hustle cuts from several LPs, tho the antecedent for "Pata Pata" not yet found)

Perez Prado 12" LPs -- Europe/Japan

6Prado in Japan (live); RCA Victor Japan LS-5197; 1960
Mania en Mambo: RCA Spain 3L-10041
7Perez Prado and his Orchestra: A Cat in Latin; Parlophone PMC-1226; 1964 (UK; reissues/imports Cuban/US LP Dengues; Discuba LPD-572; 1964 (has pre-RCA version of "Caravan"; dengue is a Peruvian dance)
9[Pantaleon] Perez Prado [& Don Alfio]: Escandalo; Uni Funk AR-03018; 1972 (Italy; super-funky set w/Italian musicians & singer)
8[Pantaleon] Perez Prado/Don Alfio: Love Child; Ariola 88215-1; 1973 (Spain; funky; partly vocal--Alfio sings; repeats 2 from Escandalo)
9[Pantaleon] Perez Prado Now (brown jacket); Contour 2870-385; 1974 (import/reissue of Escandalo)
9[Pantaleon] Perez Prado Now (white jacket); Contour 2870-385; 1974 (import/reissue of Escandalo but w/"Crystal Wings" & "Escandalo in Scotland" instead of the 2 already reissued on Love Child)
8[Pantaleon] Perez Prado: Ciliegi Rosa; Uni Funk AR-03022; 1974 (Italy; compilation of cuts from Escandalo & Love Child)
9[Pantaleon] Perez Prado; Arabella 913003; 1975 (France; 2-LP reissue of Love Child & Perez Prado Now)
Perez Prado; Philips FDX-32 (Japan)
Perez Prado '72; Fontana 63-85-003; 1972 (Japan as Philips SFX-5006)
Perez Prado in CD-4 (live); RCA Victor Japan JVC-CD4W-7042E; 1973
6Perez Prado in CD-4; RCA Victor Japan JVC-CD4W-7042E; 1973/1971 (in Brasil as Os Grandes Successos de Perez Prado; Premier 307.3078; 1971)
7Perez Prado; Philips 4DX-40; 1974 (Japan)
5Beautifully Yours; Springboard SPB-4069; 1977 (US lic. Victor Japan)
The Best of Perez Prado; Philips BEST-8 (Japan; compilation; titles unknown)


7Mambo Jambo; RCA Camden (Germany) PJL-1-8038; 1975

Partly Perez Prado LPs

63 Great Bands; RCA LSP-2722; 1963 (w/Henry Mancini, Al Hirt)
7On la Onda de la Comparsa Universitaria de la Laguna; RCA Victor Mexicana MKS-3004/MKL-3004 (Latin/Latin rock/Latin soul/mod; features 2-3 excellent Prado covers)
7Pantaleon Perez Prado y su Orquesta de Baile [Cuban Rhythms]; Montilla/Toreador T-515 (14 cuts recorded in Madrid and Paris, 5 of which cover tunes by or associated with his brother Damaso Perez Prado)
6Various: 14 Blue Roads to St. Louis; RCA Victor LPM-1714; 1958
3Various: Cha Cha Cha & Mambo; Tops L-1535 ("Asi, Asi")
6Various: The Dancing Beat of the Latin Bands; RCA Victor LSP-2087; 1959
The Latin Sound of Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente; RCA RCS-3221/1-2; 1973 (2-LP)
6Various: Mambo for Cats; RCA Victor LPM-1063; 1955
7Various: Perfect for Dancing--Mambos; RCA Victor LPM-1067; 1955 (Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Aldemaro Romero, Noro Morales, Tony Martinez, Perez Prado)

Perez Prado 7" EPs & Compact 33s

Latin American Music for Dancing; Monogram MEP-102 (Miami Beach Mambo, Azuquita Con Leche, Caribbean Mambo, La Clave)
8Perez Prado Plays; Royale EP-386 (Asi Asi, Tu Ve-Tu Ve, Azuquita Con Leche, La Clave)
8Perez Prado Plays Mucho Mambo for Dancing 45 Box; RCA Victor WP-302 (reissues 78 album; duplicates 10" LP)
7Mambo Mambo EP; RCA Victor EPA-602; 1955 (April In Portugal, Mambo a la Kenton, A la Billy May, Mambo de Chattanooga)
7Patricia EP; RCA Victor EPA-4322; 1958 (Patricia, Mood Indigo, Pretty Doll, Whistling Rock; misprinted original lists, but does not include, "Hawaiian War Chant")
7Perez "Prez" Prado & his Orchestra: The King of the Mambo EP sides 2 & 3; RCA Victor 547-0446 (Tomcat Mambo, The High & the Mighty, Marilyn Monroe Mambo, St. Louis Blues Mambo)
8Perez Prado [Gold Standard Series] EP; RCA Victor EPA-5022; 1958 (Cherry Pink, St. Louis Blues Mambo, Mambo Jambo, Mambo No. 5)
8Perez Prado [Gold Standard Series] EP; RCA Victor EPA-5106; 1958 (Patricia, Paris, Guaglione, Why Wait)
8Perez Prado: Our Man in Latin America--Compact 33; RCA Victor LSP-2610; 1963 (6-cut 7")
8Various: Four Mambos EP; RCA Victor EPA-622; 1955 (all on Mambo for Cats LP; Tony Martinez Quintet: Mambo Jumps; Perez Prado: Ballin' the Jack; Noro Morales: Sweet Sue--Just You; Perez Prado: St. Louis Blues Mambo)

Perez Prado 7" 45s

7C'est Si Bon/In a Little Spanish Town; RCA Victor 447-0216 (both on 10" LP LPM-3108)
7Mood Indigo-Mambo/Back Bay Shuffle-Mambo; RCA Victor 47-6085; 1958 (A-side sax solo by Rene Bloch; also on EPA-4322 and LPM-1883 respectively)
7Que Rico el Mambo/Mambo No. 5; RCA Victor 5062; c.1955 (both sides on LP)
Mambo de Chattanooga/Al Compas del Mambo; RCA Victor; c.1956
7Ni Hablal/Pianolo; RCA Victor 51-5204
Beautiful/A La Billy May; RCA Victor 5281; c.1956 (reissues 78 20-5281)
5Such a Night/Ballin' the Jack; RCA Victor
7Marilyn Monroe Mambo/Steam Heat--mambo (from "Pajama Game"); RCA Victor 47-5892
6Rhythm Sticks/Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White; RCA Victor 5965; 1958
6Anna/Silvana Mangana; RCA Victor Mexicana 51-6039
Mood Indigo/Back Bay Shuffle; RCA Victor 6085 (B-side on Dilo!)
8Whatever Lola Wants/Dilo; RCA Victor 6122; 1958 (neither track on LP!)
6Fredy/Sweet & Gentle; RCA Victor 6138; 1958 (both w/Eartha Kitt, vocal; Kitt blamed a bad cold but it's worthwhile)
8Monitor Mambo/Crazy...Crazy...; RCA Victor 6214; 1958 (A-side on Dilo!)
6La Macarena/Pretty Doll; RCA Victor 6277; 1958 (B-side on Dilo!)
7Black Horse (Caballo Negro)/Red River Valley; RCA Victor 6375; 1958
8Tomorrow I Will Live/Historia De Un Amor (The Story of Love); RCA Victor 6477; 1958
6Hawaiian War Chant/Cuban Rock; RCA Victor 6538; 1958 (B-side on Dilo!)
5Petticoats of Portugal/Bandido; RCA Victor 6684; 1958 (B-side on Dilo!)
7Bongo Bash (Yemaya)/Donna; RCA Victor 47-6752
6Mambo Japanese/Hawaiian Cha-Cha-Cha; RCA Victor 6776; 1958 (DJ-62)
7Cosé, Cosé, Cosé/Rum & Coca Cola (w/The Jays, vocal); RCA Victor 6882
Cucara Cha Cha Cha/Calypso Man; RCA Victor 6960
7Beautiful Margaret/Leyenda Mexicana (Legend of Mexico); RCA Victor 47-6990 (B-side on Dilo!)
6Kilindini Docks/A Lo Loco; RCA Victor 7120 (B-side on Dilo!)
7The Millionaire/Catalania; RCA Victor 7456
8My Roberta/Tic Toc Polly Woc; RCA Victor 7540
6Divina/Clap Hands; RCA Victor 7630
6Ritmo de Chunga/Teresita la Chunga; RCA Victor 7873; 1961 (both from LP 2379)
6Molienda Café/Arrivederci Roma; RCA Victor 7963
5Via Veneto (Chunga)/La Ragazza (The Girl); RCA Victor 8077
6El Dengue/Natalia-Dengue; RCA Victor 8259
8Ay Que Feliz/Te Traigo Estas Flores; Discos Raff RF-317 (from funky later Mexican period; female vocal)

Perez Prado 78s

7Perez Prado, El Rey del Mambo Conjunto y Coro: Electricidad/Saca La Mano (Hands Off); Lina 4
Mambo del Papelero/Cuban Mambo; RCA 20-3988
Perez Prado y su Orquesta: Guao--mambo (Al Castellanos)/Jersey Bounce--mambo; RCA 23-5379
Syncopated Clock Mambo/Broadway Mambo; RCA 20-4196
Jazz Me Blues/Suby; RCA 20-5393 (78)

Perez Prado in Film

5Cha-Cha-Cha Boom!; 1956 (with Manny Lopez, Luis Arcaraz)
Underwater!; 1955

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