X is for Xavier Cugat

Long before there was Santana, there was Xavier Cugat. Born in Spain in 1900, raised in Cuba, he was a violin prodigy, winning first chair in an orchestra in Havana when he was only 12. Opera superstar Enrico Caruso brought Cugat to the USA a few years later, where the boy played classical music.

Apparently, he always had an eye out for marketing, because he threw over his classical background when the tango craze swept America in the 1920s. When sound came to movies, he formed a band and made musical short features.

He popularized Chihuahuas and the rhumba. He became known as the Rhumba King. Nobody ever called him the Chihuahua King, insofar as I know.

“Cugie” was married five times, including his final marriage to Charo. If you don’t remember “the Cuchi Cuchi girl”, you’ve missed a hoot and a half. Charo was vilified as a gold-digger and a fool, two mutually exclusive categories, to my mind, but I always liked her.

In addition to being a violinist, a band leader, a master marketer, and a serial bridegroom, Xarier Cugat was a caricaturist of acknowledged talent. This YouTube video shows him leading his band AND drawing.

He retired in 1971, settled in Barcelona, and died of heart failure in 1990.

Information for this article was cribbed from Solid! The encyclopedia of big band, lounge, classic jazz and space-age sounds.

If you want to see Charo, here she is, cuchi-cuchi and all.

Isn’t she cute? Well, I think she’s cute.

ALSO, remember that TURTLE FEATHERS, my latest short story collection, is FREE on Kindle today!! ! !!!

ALSO ALSO, I have a free story up today at #amwriting: “Aardvark With An Arrow”.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Create a character who has been married five times. What is the final spouse like? How long does that marriage last? What terminates it?



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “X is for Xavier Cugat

  1. Red Tash

    April 27, 2012 at 7:07am

    I am the Chihuahua King! I can do anything! Love that Charo.

    Off to get Turtle Feathers!

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  2. Perry Block

    April 27, 2012 at 8:06am

    X is for Xavier Cugat.

    And you say “I” am crazy all over the inside of my head?!!

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  3. Jane

    April 27, 2012 at 8:44am

    I always admired Charo, too, because she was able to pull off a court action that officially moved her birth date to make her 10 years younger. With the stroke of a pen, 10 years fell away!

    I had to do that once, but it was a clerical error. Oh, yeah…and I was actually OLDER, rather than younger.

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  4. Nicole/MadlabPost

    April 27, 2012 at 9:59am

    Charo has an attention-grabbing accent, I tell ya. I’m not familiar with her nor Xavier Cugat but I do love me some Santana music! I didn’t really start listening to his group’s older music until he came out with that “Maria, Maria” song years ago. Nice A to Z selection!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 27, 2012 at 10:56am

      Charo has an attention-grabbing EVERYTHING. 🙂 I lucked into a 3-disk Santana set with lots of great stuff on it. Coming to visit you, now!

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  5. Sean McLachlan

    April 27, 2012 at 10:44am

    “He popularized Chihuahuas and the rhumba.” Not many people can say THAT!
    I live in Spain but was only vaguely aware of this guy. The Cuchi Cuchi girl, on the other hand. . .

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 27, 2012 at 10:57am

      lol Sean! I always loved Cugat’s music, and Charo just made it better.

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  6. Jeremy

    September 30, 2012 at 10:39am

    lol why was he called the Chihuahua king?

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      September 30, 2012 at 9:32pm

      That’s the sad thing, Jeremy — he wasn’t! But he should have been, since he loved them. 🙂

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