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Cha Cha Into Autumn!

Summer is over, so here at the ARChive of Contemporary Music we have decided to heat up the cooling autumnal months with some hot Cha Cha records in the front window!

Cha Cha (technically, Cha-Cha-Cha) music is, for all intents and purposes, a deviation of the Mambo—a Latin dance/music that originated in Cuba during the late Thirties. By the late Forties, several key Mambo bands were working in New York City, including the orchestras of Machito, Tito Rodríguez and Jose Curbelo and just about every jazz group and/or big band incorporated the “Latin tinge” into it’s repertoire. By the Fifties, the Mambo was a major craze and Cha Cha mania followed close on its heels. Cha Cha records were issued at an alarming pace—see the ARC’s Gallery of Cha Cha Records for some examples.

Independent budget record companies seemed to take the biggest advantage of the Cha Cha craze—by releasing just about anything with bongos and pasting a photo of a woman shaking her maracas on the cover. Some of the artists were Swing era bandleaders trying to prolong careers in music. Some of the recordings were Mambo records licensed from Cuba. Edmundo Ros was born in Trinidad, grew up in Venezuela, and made his career in London, where he would apply a rumba rhythm to popular show tunes. Beltran was a prolific Mexican composer and bandleader who wrote a song called “Quién sera?” that was given English lyrics and called “Sway,” a hit for Dean Martin in 1954 and Bobby Rydell in 1960.

With its “Doctored for Super-Stereo” notation and the image of a hypodermic needle on the cover, the Percusive latino Cha Cha Cha album cries out for comment. The record company that issued this, Audio Fidelity, is noted for many things, but we’ll mention only a few. First of all, it was a pioneer in stereo recordings and it issued a whole series of “Doctored for Super-Stereo” LPs (mostly percussion records, but also sound effects) that featured extreme channel separation in order for those with stereo phonograph systems to show them off (many of the albums they issued were intended for the hi-fi enthusiast with album covers containing extensive technical notes—the artist for this Cha Cha record, René Hernandez, is only listed on the label). It was an eclectic company that featured calypsos (The Talbot Brothers), folk (Oscar Brand), traditional jazz (The Dukes of Dixieland) and belly dance music (Mohammed el-Bakkar) in its extensive catalog. The legendary producer Tom Wilson briefly did some work for the label during the early Sixties. To refresh your memory, Wilson recorded Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Bob Dylan, The Animals, The Velvet Underground, The Mothers of Invention, Dion and Professor Longhair.

Is that enough heat for you?

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