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Edmundo Ros

Bandleader Edmundo Ros was the living embodiment of Latin music in World War II-era Britain. The toast of London's high society, he effectively introduced the rhumba and samba to the U.K. shores. Born December 7, 1910, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to a Scottish father and an African-Venezuelan mother, Ros spent much of his childhood in military school, playing percussion in the military band. The experience was otherwise miserable, however, and at 17 he ran away to Caracas, where he served as tympanist in the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. A decade later Ros migrated to London, where he briefly studied classical music before pursuing popular music full-time, backing Fats Waller and singing with Don Marino Barreto's Cuban band prior to forming his own five-piece rhumba outfit in 1940. After scoring a hit with 1941's Parlophone release "Los Hijos de Buda," Ros became a sensation, attracting the cream of London society to his appearances at the lavish Coconut Grove. When the defendant in a high-profile divorce case implicated Ros as a catalyst for his marriage's demise, the bandleader made national headlines, and the sex scandal only made him more popular, and he even taught then-Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret to dance. After a long residency at the West End club the Bagatelle, Ros in 1951 acquired the former Coconut Grove site on Regent Street and renamed the venue Edmundo Ros' Dinner and Supper Club. He also made regular appearances on BBC radio, and his albums for the London label's Phase 4 imprint (including the space age pop classics Rhythms of the South and Arriba!) sold briskly. His biggest hit, "The Wedding Samba," even crossed over to the U.S. Top Five, selling three million copies in the process. After Parliament legalized gambling in 1965, attendance at Ros' club quickly nosedived, and he sold the business as soon as possible. He retired to Alicante, Spain, a decade later, returning to London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on January 8, 1994, for one final farewell performance leading the BBC Big Band with Strings. Ros was also awarded the Order of the British Empire in the 2000 New Year's Honours List. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
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