The Diaz Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Encyclopedic Discography of Cuban Music

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Benny Moré Biographical Notes

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He was born in August 24, 1919, in the town of Santa Isabel de las Lajas in the Pueblo Nuevo district, province of Las Villas. Son of Virginia Moré and Silvestre Gutierrez. Will be the oldest child of the 18 children of Virginia. Shortly after birth they move to another slum, La Guinea. He received only elementary education, but soon has to leave school to go to work.

By 1930, searching for a better economic situation the family moved to a little town near Central Vertientes, province of Camagüey. His mother worked as a laundress, while Benny helped her by collecting and distributing clothing.

In 1936, he started to work at the sugar factory as a carter, and during "tiempo muerto" ( a period of relative inactivity between harvests ) he survived alternating between small jobs here and there, and making music with other friends with the musical group Avance. Back then he stands as a guitarist and tres player, and singing as a second vocal. The same year he attempted to establish in Havana with his uncle Tomas Armenteros, but it didn't work. Six month after, he decided to return to Vertientes with his family and got back to work in the sugarcane cutter. The work was harder but better paid.

By 1940 returned to Havana, and this time to stay. From the very beginning he settled in the district Belén and formed a duet with Anselmo. Together they visited bars and taverns singing for a few coins or "la convidada", a free drink. Eventually he joined differents groups such as the Cuarteto Cordero and Septeto Fígaro, also appeared on some shows at the radio station CMQ. Later on, he became member of the Conjunto Cauto of Manuel Borgellá (Mozo), which transmited on Radio Mil Diez.

In 1944, he got a permanent plaza at a prestige restaurant, El Templete, off the Avenida del Puerto. Siro Rodriguez, from Conjunto Matamoros, listened to him and were very impressed by his voice. During those days, the Conjunto, were part of a show in Radio Mil Diez. Miguel Matamoros, needed some help with the vocal part and invited Moré to join them. In September of that year, he made his first recordings of six songs with Conjunto Matamoros, in two of which his voice is heard as a soloist. This is a positive turning point on his life.

Between June 12th and July 7th of 1945, he made other six recording with Matamoros, appearing soloist in four of them. The same year they travel to Mexico playing on radio shows and cabarets with great success, but the cold weather and altitude of Mexico City affected Miguel so badly, and decides to return to Cuba. Some members of the group, including Moré, decided to stay. Miguel and/or Siro recommend him to change his name Bartolo for another more fancy, since that was the name often given the donkeys in Mexico. That's how the name "Benny" was born ….

During the year 1946, he went through serious difficulties, but other Cuban artists like bongo player Chico Piquero and actress-dancer Ninon Sevilla, already established in Mexican cultural social life helped him tremendously. The last one introduced him into the film world, appearing for the fist time in a movie "Carita de cielo"

Around 1947, he was part of different groups such as Humberto Cané's, con Silvestre Méndez y another musicians. Also the Arturo Nuñez's band, Rafael de Paz' band, Chucho Rodríguez, Mariano Mercerón and Pérez Prado. He also recorded with RCA Victor some hits, for example: "Hasta cuando" y "Puntillita". Benny quickly surpasses the two Cuban singer who were very famous in Mexico: Kiko Mendive and Vicentico Valdés, but his sole desire was to have his own band.

Although his great success in Mexico in 1950, he was homesick and returned to Cuba. However, all the recording he made in Mexico with different orchestras will continue in high demand until 1952. Back in Cuba with his family, he made some presentations with Mariano Merceron's orchestra in Santiago de Cuba. At that moment he was not that popular among the musical elite in Havana.

In 1952 Bebo Valdés, who had a wonderful band that broadcasted every Sunday from the RHC Cadena Azul launching its new rhythm "batanga", gave Benny the opportunity to sing occasionally. The result was a total success. The public seemed to prefer this new Benny. All music stores ran out of recording previously made in Mexico under RCA Victor label. By the end of the same year he recorded eight songs with Mariano Mercerón's orchestra and soon after he started recording with the orchestra of Ernesto Duarte, some new hits like "Adios Palma Soriano", "Cómo fué" y "Guantánamo".

On November of 1953, finally his dream came true: he got to record with his own orchestra. He chose musicians and backup singers, conducted, composed, made musical arrangement, sang and enjoyed the music more than anything. This the beginning of his Golden Era. His unique voice of beautiful timbre, sincere, manly, but gentle when necessary, along with his musical ductility, great improvising, covering more genres than any other popular singer at that time, and doing everything so well to make him a paradigm in the history of Cuban music.

Fully consolidated in Cuba in 1955 with continuous recordings, performances in theater, radio, cabarets, television, dancing, he also started touring the island, and traveling with his orchestra performing in Venezuela, Jamaica, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States . From this journey bitter memories remained, as the incident in Venezuela when an employer did not want to pay, but on the other hand, he had a glorious moment while entertaining the Oscar Awards presentation in Hollywood in 1958. He also shared with Machito's Orchestra and with Mario Bauza, a few glorious days in New York.

By the end of 1958 he was an absolute winner as an artist, but his body started to show the effects of alcohol abuse. He kept singing for a while because of his strong will but, his decreasing health did not allow him to do more.

In February 19th of 1963, his life ends, a victim of liver disease at 43-year-old . His funeral was a unique and massive event in Cuba. The body was buried under the rituals of Regla de Palo, some rituals of the Regla de Osha, and the typicals funeral rites of the Catholic Church.

Hernández, Gisela & “Cervantes: 40 danzas”, Ediciones De Blanck, La Habana, 1959, p.18.