Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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ARNAZ, Desi

(b Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, 12 March '17, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba; d 2 Nov. '86) Singer, bandleader, actor, TV executive. His mother's father was one of the founders of Bacardi Rum, but the family lost everything in the revolution of '33; he went to the USA and cleaned birdcages in Florida. Sang rumbas in Miami clubs, credited with helping to make the conga a national fad; big break touring with Xavier Cugat at 19. Met Rodgers and Hart, who cast him in Broadway musical Too Many Girls '39: he did the conga, also played in film version '40 co-starring Lucille Ball (1911--89; they married '40, divorced '60); minor roles in other films. Like Cugat, Arnaz was a popularizer of Cuban dance music; he had minor hits with an inferior version of Margarita Lecuona's 'Babalú', and 'Cuban Pete' (from low-budget film of that name), both '46. Other recordings incl. 'Green Eyes' (with Cuban pianist René Touzet), 'Rumba Matumba', 'La Conga en Nueva York', etc. He was also mus. dir. of Bob Hope radio show after WWII; he played Ball's TV husband Ricky Ricardo '51--9 in massively successful series I Love Lucy, still being re-run; they formed TV prod. company Desilu. He will be remembered more for introducing the TV sit-com three-camera production technique still in use today than for his music. Autobiography A Book '76; '46--7 tracks compiled on Babalú '96 on RCA.