Bartolomé Maximiliano Moré Gutiérrez (Benny Moré) was one of the most transcendental Cuban musicians. He was born in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood in Santa Isabel de Las Lajas, in the former province of Las Villas, currently the province of Cienfuegos in central Cuba. He was the oldest of 18 brothers, from a humble and peasant Afro-Cuban family. Bartholomew learned to play the guitar during his childhood. According to the testimony of his mother, Virginia Moré, he manufactured his first instrument with a board and a spool of thread at the age of six. He left school when he was very young, to devote himself to the work of the field.
At 16 years old, in 1935, he was part of his first musical group. In 1936, when he was 17, he left his hometown and moved to Havana, where he made a living selling spoiled fruits and vegetables, as well as medicinal herbs. Six months later he returned to Las Lajas, where he worked cutting cane with his brother Teodoro. With the money earned and his brother's savings, he bought his first decent guitar.
In 1940 he returned to Havana. He lived precariously, playing in bars and cafes. His first success was winning a radio contest. In the early 1940s, the CMQ radio station had a program called the Supreme Court of Art, whose winners were hired and were given the possibility to record and sing their songs. The losers were interrupted with a bell, without letting them finish their performance.
In his first entry, the bell rang as soon as Benny had begun to sing. However, he returned to compete later and won the First Prize. Then he got his first stable job with the Cauto group, led by Mozo Borgellá. He also sang successfully on the radio station CMZ, with the Sexteto Fígaro, by Lázaro Cordero. In 1944 he debuted on the 1010 radio station with the Cuarteto Cauto.
With the Matamoros group
Siro Rodríguez, from the famous Matamoros Trio, heard Benny Moré sing at the El Templete bar and was pleasantly impressed. Shortly after, due to an upset of Miguel Matamoros shortly before a performance, Borgellá sent Benny to replace him... After this incorporation, Benny remained linked to the Matamoros for years with which he made numerous recordings. He replaced Miguel Matamoros as the lead singer, who dedicated himself exclusively to directing the group.
In June, 1945, he traveled with the Matamoros group to Mexico, where he performed in two of the most famous cabarets of the time, Montparnasse and the Río Rosa. He made several recordings, although the Matamoros group returned to Havana, Moré stayed in Mexico. Apparently, there he acquired his artistic name, suggested by Rafael Cueto.
In 1946 Benny Moré married Mexican nurse Juana Bocanegra Durán. For a time he performed in the Río Rosa as part of the Phantom Duet, with Lalo Montané. Also at this time he recorded for the record company RCA Victor, the songs "Me voy pal pueblo" and "Desdichado", along with the orchestra of Mariano Mercerón.
With Dámaso Pérez Prado he recorded Babarabatiri, Guanabacoa, Locas por el mambo, Viejo cañengo, El suave, Qué cinturita, María Cristina, Pachito eche, among other subjects. He began to be known as The Prince of Mambo. With Pérez Prado he also recorded "Dolor carabalí", which Benny Moré considered his best recording with the King of Mambo; and he never wanted to record again.
In April 1952 he returned to Cuba. Although he was a star in several Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Brazil and Puerto Rico, he was barely known in his homeland. The song ''Bonito y sabroso'' was his first recording in Cuba and his first success. He alternated live performances for the Cadena Oriental radio station with trips to Havana to record in the RCA studios. Between 1950 and 1951 he recorded other songs, such as La cholanguengue, Candelina Alé, Rabo y oreja, among others.
In Havana, he also worked for the radio station RHC Cadena Azul, with the orchestra of Bebo Valdés, with a new style called batanga. The host of the program, Ibrahim Urbino, gave him the nickname of El Bárbaro del Ritmo (it seems that Benny performed a song entitled "Ah, Barbara!" For this radio station). He had the opportunity to record with Sonora Matancera, but he declined the offer for not being especially interested in his musical style ("because that Sonora had never sounded", according to Leonardo Acosta).
When he passed the fashion of ''Batanga'', Benny was hired by Radio Progreso to perform with the orchestra of Ernesto Duarte Brito, with which he recorded the famous bolero ''Cómo fue''. In addition to the radio, he performed in dance halls, cabarets and parties. In 1952 he recorded with the Orquesta Aragón, from Cienfuegos, which he helped to enter the Havana music world. In 1953 he recorded the mambo ''Asì es la humanidad'' (also recorded for Johnny Bosch).
The Giant Band
The first performance of the Giant Band of Beny Moré took place in the Cascabeles Candado program of the CMQ radio station. The band was made up of more than 40 musicians and was only comparable in size with Xavier Cugat's big band.
It should be noted that the Giant Band, although large, had a unique melodic organization of its kind; They also had the talent of knowing how to improvise at the moment that their director Benny Moré decided.
Between 1954 and 1955 the Giant Band became immensely popular. Between 1956 and 1957 he toured Venezuela, Jamaica, Haiti, Colombia, Panama, Mexico and the United States, where he performed at the Academy Awards ceremony. In Havana they performed in the most famous dance halls, such as La Tropical and La Sierra.
When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, Benny Moré chose to stay on the island. In 1960 he also started acting at the Night and Day cabaret. He was offered a tour of Europe, which Moré refused because he was afraid of flying (nothing strange, considering that he had previously been involved in three air accidents).
He died in Cuba on February 19, 1963 of liver cirrhosis. His last performance took place on February 17, 1963, in Palmira, Cienfuegos, a few kilometers from Santa Isabel de las Lajas, his hometown. It was a performance full of legends. It is said that he had an esophageal varicose rupture, as a result of the liver cirrhosis he suffered, before leaving for Mexico in 1945.
After vomiting blood, he went on stage and sang like never before. Dr. Luis Ruiz recalled that before that performance, Benny went to Santa Isabel de Las Lajas, to meet his mother and relatives. According to Dr. Amín E. Naser, "during his trip to Lajas he had a vomit of blood. He arrived in Lajas on Saturday 16, and from noon until sunset he lay down and vomited blood again. Despite feeling very bad, he traveled to Palmira for his next performance but he was still weak and weak, in the middle of the show he took a short break and went back to the stage. He sang "Pain and forgiveness", "Maracaibo" and "How good you dance" '; the interpretations were masterful.
Many friends and family believe that from the first moment Benny vomited blood, he had to go to a nearby hospital in Cienfuegos to receive urgent medical attention with blood transfusions. But it took too long to see him in a hospital with all the possibilities. He wore a lot during his last performance, but he wanted to please his audience. He died offering everything.
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