– Xavier Cugat

>>> Under construction – Work in progress <<<

Xavier Cugat was unknown for me until I found a couple of Philips Minigroove records by this musician and bandleader. Some of his music I found interesting and so was the story of his life, which led to this post.

(The text below came from Wikipedia, scroll down for his Columbia album discography – which did not come from Wikipedia, but from Discogs and other sources instead, with text added by me)

Xavier Cugat (1 January 1900 – 27 October 1990) was a Spanish musician and bandleader who spent his formative years in Havana, Cuba. A trained violinist and arranger, he was a leading figure in the spread of Latin music. In New York City he was the leader of the resident orchestra at the Waldorf–Astoria before and after World War II. He was also a cartoonist and a restaurateur. The personal papers of Xavier Cugat are preserved in the Biblioteca de Catalunya.

Xavier Cugat

Life and career

Cugat was born Francisco de Asís Javier Cugat Mingall de Bru y Deulofeu in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. His family emigrated to Cuba when he was three years old. He studied classical violin and worked as a violinist at the age of nine in a silent movie theater to help pay for his education. He was first chair violinist for the Teatro Nacional Symphonic Orchestra. When he wasn’t performing, he started drawing caricatures. On 6 July 1915 he and his family arrived in New York City on the SS Havana. Cugat appeared in recitals with Enrico Caruso, playing violin solos.

In the 1920s, he led a band that played often at the Cocoanut Grove, a club in Los Angeles. Cugat’s friend, Charlie Chaplin, visited the club to dance the tango, so Cugat added tangos to the band’s performances. Seeing how popular the dance was becoming, Cugat convinced the owner to hire South American dancers to give tango lessons. This, too, became popular, and Cugat made the dancers part of his orchestra. In 1928 he turned his act into the film Xavier Cugat and His Gigolos.

He worked for the Los Angeles Times as a cartoonist. His caricatures were nationally syndicated. They appeared in Photoplay magazine beginning with the November 1927 issue, under the byline “de Bru.” His older brother, Francis, was an artist of some note, having painted cover art for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

In 1931 Cugat took his band to New York for the 1931 opening of the Waldorf–Astoria hotel. He replaced Jack Denny as leader of the hotel’s resident band. For sixteen years, he led the Waldorf–Astoria Orchestra, shuttling between New York and Los Angeles for most of the next 30 years. One of his trademark gestures was to hold a chihuahua while he waved his baton with the other arm.

His music career led to appearing in the films In Gay Madrid (1930), You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Week-End at the Waldorf (1945), Bathing Beauty (1944), Holiday in Mexico (1946), A Date with Judy (1948), On an Island with You (1948), and Chicago Syndicate (1955).

Cugat owned and operated the Mexican restaurant Casa Cugat in West Hollywood. The restaurant was frequented by Hollywood celebrities and featured two singing guitarists who would visit each table and play diners’ favorite songs upon request. The restaurant began operations in the 1940s and closed in 1986.

The restaurant’s exterior and a fanciful depiction of its interior can be found in scenes in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter in which Cugat has a substantial role playing himself. A brief scene revolving around the restaurant can also be seen in the earlier 1943 film The Heat’s On, also starring Cugat as himself.


Cugat spent his last years in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, living in a suite at Hotel Ritz es. He died of heart failure at age 90 in Barcelona and was buried in his native Girona. He was posthumously inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2001.


Cugat was married five times. His first marriage was to Rita Montaner (1918–20), his second was to his band vocalist Carmen Castillo (1929–44), his third to actress Lorraine Allen (1947–52), his fourth to singer Abbe Lane (1952–64), and his fifth to Spanish guitarist and comic actress Charo (1966–78).


Cugat recorded for Columbia (1940s and 1950s, and Epic), RCA Victor (1930s and 1950s), Mercury (1951–52 and the 1960s), and Decca (1960s). Dinah Shore made her first recordings as a vocalist with Cugat in 1939 and 1940 for RCA Victor. In 1940 his recording of “Perfidia” became a hit. Cugat followed trends closely, making records for the conga, the mambo, the cha-cha-cha, and the twist when these dances were popular. Several songs that he recorded, including “Perfidia”, were used in the Wong Kar-wai films Days of Being Wild and 2046. In 1943 “Brazil” was Cugat’s most successful chart hit. It spent seven weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard magazine National Best Selling Retail Records chart behind Harry James’s song “I’ve Heard That Song Before”. In the 1950s he made several recordings with his wife, singer Abbe Lane.

His orchestra included Desi Arnaz, Lina Romay, Abbe Lane, Tito Rodriguez, Yma Sumac, Miguelito Valdés, Frank Berardi, Gene Lorello, George Lopez, Glenn E. Brown, Henry Greher, Isabello Marerro, James English, John Haluko, Joseph Gutierrez, Luis Castellanos, Manuel Paxtot, Oswaldo Oliveira, Otto Bolívar, Otto Garcia, Rafael Angelo, Richard Hoffman, Robert De Joseph, and Robert Jones.

(The text above came from Wikipedia)

Columbia album discography

(Note that often, but not always, the original issue is shown)

Columbia CL 6005 – Rhumba With Cugat
Early 10 inch release (1948); it was not released by Philips.
Columbia CL 6021 – Cugat’s Favorite Rhumba’s
Another 1948 release, not issued on Philips.
Columbia CL 6036 – Conga with Cugat
1949; not issued on Philips.
Columbia CL 6077 – Xavier Cugat Dance Parade
1949, not issued on Philips.
Columbia CL 6086 – Tropical Bouquets
1949, not issued on Philips.
Columbia CL 6121 – Your Dance Date With…
1950 10 inch release, not issued by Philips.
Columbia CL 6213 – Mambo at the Waldorf
1952 10 inch album, not issued by Philips.
Columbia GL 515 (CL 515) – Relaxing with Cugat (Quiet Music Series, Volume 6)
12 inch LP issue from 1952
Columbia CL 6234 – Tango With Cugat
First issued in 1947 as a 78rpm album, this 10 inch came out in 1953. Philips did not release this title.
Columbia CL 6236 – Samba With Cugat
First issued in 1948 as a 78rpm album, this 10 inch record came out in 1953. Philips did not release this title.
Columbia CL 537 – Dance with Cugat
1953 12 inch LP release, also issued on Philips (both numbers P 07.819 R and B 07.819 R – French 10 inch pressings) – Click on the image to see full-size images.
Columbia CL 579 – Cugat’s Favorite Rhumbas
1954 12 inch LP release, not released by Philips.

(no image yet)
Columbia CL 2506 – Mambo! (House Party Series)
10 inch issued in 1955, not released by Philips.

(no image yet)
Columbia CL 2557 – Cugatango! (House Party Series)
10 inch issued in 1955, not released by Philips

To be continued…