Edmundo Ros

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Edmundo Ros
Birth nameEdmund William Ross
Born(1910-12-07)7 December 1910
Port of Spain, Trinidad
Died21 October 2011(2011-10-21) (aged 100)
Alicante, Spain
GenresLatin American
OccupationsMusician, vocalist and band leader
Years active1939–1975
LabelsParlophone, Decca (UK)
London (US and Canada)
Notable instruments
Timbales
 
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Edmundo Ros
Birth nameEdmund William Ross
Born(1910-12-07)7 December 1910
Port of Spain, Trinidad
Died21 October 2011(2011-10-21) (aged 100)
Alicante, Spain
GenresLatin American
OccupationsMusician, vocalist and band leader
Years active1939–1975
LabelsParlophone, Decca (UK)
London (US and Canada)
Notable instruments
Timbales

Edmundo Ros OBE FRAM (7 December 1910 – 21 October 2011),[1][2] born Edmund William Ross, was a Trinidadian musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader who made his career in Britain. He directed a highly popular Latin American orchestra, had an extensive recording career and owned one of London's leading nightclubs.

Early life[edit]

Edmund William Ross was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad.[1] His mother Luisa Urquart was a teacher, thought to be descended from indigenous Caribs, and his father, William Hope-Ross, was of Scottish descent.[1] He was the eldest of four children, having two sisters, Ruby and Eleanor, followed by a half-brother, Hugo. His parents separated after Hugo was born, and after various false steps Edmund was enrolled in a military academy. There he became interested in music and learned to play the euphonium. From 1927 to 1937 his family lived in Caracas, Venezuela.

He played in the Venezuelan Military Academy Band as well as being a tympanist in the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra. As Sue Steward noted in his obituary for The guardian: "His local name, 'Edmundo Ros', launched a lasting myth that he was Venezuelan."[1] Later he received a music scholarship from the Venezuelan government, and, from 1937 to 1942, studied harmony, composition and orchestration at the Royal Academy of Music.[3] At the same time he was the vocalist and percussionist in Don Marino Baretto's band at the Embassy Club, and also recorded several sides as a sideman to Fats Waller, who was visiting London in 1938.

Orchestra[edit]

In August 1940, Ros formed his own rumba band, performing as Edmundo Ros and His Rumba Band. In 1941 he cut his first tracks with Parlophone, the first number being "Los Hijos de Buda". The band played regularly at the Coconut Grove club in Regent Street, attracting members of high society.[4]

Ros's bands were always based in London nightclubs or restaurants. The first was the Cosmo Club in Wardour Street; then followed the St Regis Hotel, Cork Street, the Coconut Grove and the Bagatelle Restaurant. At the Bagatelle a visit from Princess Elizabeth and party made his name. The future queen danced in public for the first time to Edmundo's music. In later years his orchestra was often invited to play at Buckingham Palace.[5]

By 1946 Ros owned a club, a dance school, a record company and an artistes' agency. His band grew to 16 musicians and was renamed Edmundo Ros and His Orchestra. Among his percussionists was Ginger Johnson.[6] His number "The Wedding Samba", 1949, sold three million 78s. His album Rhythms of The South (1958) was one of the first high-quality LP stereo records: it sold a million copies. He was with Decca Records from 1944 to 1974, and altogether he made more than 800 recordings.[4]

In 1951 Ros bought the Coconut Grove on Regent Street and in 1964 renamed it Edmundo Ros's Dinner and Supper Club. The club became popular for its atmosphere and music, but it closed in 1965, when legalised casino gambling had drawn away many of its best customers. During the 1950s and 1960s the Ros orchestra appeared frequently on BBC Radio, continuing into the early 1970s on Radio Two Ballroom.[5]

In 1975, during Ros's seventh tour of Japan, his band's Musicians' Union shop steward tried to usurp Ros's authority by making arrangements with venues behind his back. Upon their return to the UK Ros organised a celebratory dinner after a BBC recording session and announced the disbanding of the orchestra. He destroyed almost all the charts (arrangement sheets), which conclusively ended the orchestra's existence.[4]

Affiliations and honours[edit]

Ros was a Freeman of the City of London, having been admitted to the Freedom of the Worshipful Company of Poulters on 5 January 1965 and subsequently clothed with the Livery of the Poulters' Company on 22 June 1965. He was a Freemason, imitated into the Chelsea Lodge No 3098 and a Founder Member and Worshipful Master of Lodge of Ascension No 7358; on retirement a member of Sprig of Acacia Lodge No 41, Javea, Spain.

Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (1991).

In the 2000 New Year's Honours, Ros (then aged 90), was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He turned 100 on 7 December 2010.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Ros married twice: first to Britt Johansen in 1950. The first marriage produced two children, Douglas and Louisa. He designed and built a large house in Page Street, Mill Hill, London NW7, which he named Edritt House, after himself and his first wife. The house still stands, next to Copthall Girls' School. He remarried in 1971.

Death[edit]

Ros retired and moved to Jávea, Alicante, Spain. He gave his last public performance on 8 January 1994. He died on 21 October 2011, shortly before his 101st birthday.

Discography[edit]

78s (reissued on Harlequin CDs)[edit]

This set of ten CDs includes all the known 78s recorded up to and including 1951; the source material was the 78rpm collection of Christian af Rosenborg; the notes were by Pepe Luhtala; the remastering by Charlie Crump. The series was never completed, but most of the later Ros material is available on LP or CD. Some of the Harlequin series is available on Naxos. Although the title of these CDs describes his group as "Rumba Band", in the post-war period it expanded to 16 members, and was known as "Edmundo Ros and his Orchestra".

10" LPs[edit]

Decca issued an initial series of 33rpm 10-inch LPs in the early 1950s, consisting of previously issued 78rpm sides. Labels were Decca (UK and Commonwealth), and London (a subsidiary) in the US and Canada.

12" LPs[edit]

Three labels, all owned by Decca: Decca in the UK and the Commonwealth as well as London and its cut-price reissue label Richmond High Fidelity in the United States and Canada.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Sue Steward, "Edmundo Ros obituary", The Guardian, 22 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Band leader Edmundo Ros dies, 100", BBC News, 22 October 2011.
  3. ^ "Ros, Edmundo", Grove Music Online.
  4. ^ a b c Pepe Luhtala, liner notes to Tropical Magic, vol 2 of Harlequin Records CD 50. These notes were based on interviews with Edmundo Ros.
  5. ^ a b Edwards, Tom (2 December 2010). "A Latino love affair". The Stage (London). p. 44. 
  6. ^ Smyth, Frank (1967). "Sleeve notes from African Party, Ginger Johnson and his African Messengers". Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Galea, Sammy (7 December 2010). "Long lifetime of inspiring music". The Times of Malta (Valletta). Retrieved 10 December 2010. 

External links[edit]