A film clip, circa 1940, of Dinah Shore singing La Cumparsita with Xavier Cugat’s orchestra… in English!
Long before Desi Arnaz (A.K.A. Ricky Ricardo) arrived in the USA, Xavier Cugat was bringing Latin music to American ears at the Cocoanut Grove Club inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in the 1920’s. In fact, Xavier Cugat saw Desi Arnaz performing and hired him in the late 1930’s to sing and play conga drums. Xaviar Cugat later encouraged Desi Arnaz to start his own band, sending him on his way to fame and fortune.
Xavier Cugat was also friends with comic icon, Charlie Chaplin, who loved to dance tango. Xaviar Cugat added tango music to his line-up at the Cocoanut Grove to give his friend Charlie Chapline music to dance tango to. In the 1930’s Xaviar Cugat and his Waldorf–Astoria Orchestra brought Latin music, including tango, to New York City crowds.
In the late 1930’s when Xaviar Cugat was passing through Nashville, he heard Dinah Shore singing on a radio station, and hired her. Together, on September 27th, 1939 they recorded “La Cumparsita.” The flip side of the record was another tango, “Caminito” but the refrain was sung by Xaviar Cugat’s wife, Carmen Castillo.