|Birth name||Edmund William Ross|
|Born||7 December 1910|
Port of Spain, Trinidad
|Died||21 October 2011 (aged 100)|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, vocalist and band leader|
|Labels||Parlophone, Decca (UK)|
London (US and Canada)
Edmundo Ros OBE FRAM (7 December 1910 – 21 October 2011), born Edmund William Ross, was a Trinidadian-Venezuelan 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.
Edmund William Ross was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His mother, Luisa Urquart, was a Venezuelan teacher, thought to be descended from indigenous Caribs, and his father, William Hope-Ross, was a mulatto of Scottish descent. 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 and percussion. When his mother became involved with a man he loathed and had a son by him, the 17-year-old left for Caracas, Venezuela, to study at the Academy of Music under Vicente Emilio Sojo.
He played drums in the city's nightclubs and in the Martial Band of Caracas, and he was soon hired by Sojo as timpanist in the new Venezuela Symphony Orchestra. As his obituary in The Guardian noted: "His local name, 'Edmundo Ros', launched a lasting myth that he was Venezuelan." Later he received a music scholarship from the Venezuelan government of Eleazar Lopez Contreras, and, from 1937 to 1942, studied harmony, composition and orchestration at the Royal Academy of Music. 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.
In August 1940, Ros formed his own orchestra, performing as Edmundo Ros and His Rumba Band in the style of Lecuona Cuban Boys directed by Armando Oréfiche. 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 London's high society and royal family.
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, that opened the doors for Ros and high society. All the leaders of Allied Countries in World War II and the Royal Family came there to dine and listen to Edmundo's Rumba Band. 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. By then, with his gently rhythmic style and engaging vocals, he was enormously popular with the public generally, and his orchestra was often invited to play at Buckingham Palace.
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. 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.
In 1950, King George VI invited him to perform at Windsor, and he took his fiancée, the beautiful Swedish aristocrat Britt Johansen, whom he married that year.
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.
In the early 1960s, he collaborated with the Ted Heath orchestra on the album Heath versus Ros (Decca Phase 4 1964) that exploited the relatively new stereo recording process. The shift in musical tastes to rock bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones affected Ros's standing but he played on into the 1970s.
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.
In 1994, Edmundo conducted and sang with the BBC Big Band with Strings at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. The other conductor was Stanley Black. The concert was broadcast over BBC Radio 2 and it was such a success that a Japanese recording company invited them into a recording studio in London to make yet another Edmundo Ros CD.
Ros was initiated into the exclusive entertainment fraternity the Grand Order of Water Rats on October 4, 1964. A year and a half later he was made 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, initiated 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.
He became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 1991. He normally was nicknamed by fans and journalists as the King of Latin Music.
In 2000, the composer Michael Nyman produced a BBC TV documentary about him entitled I Sold My Cadillac to Diana Dors, and described him as: "One of the few black men to have attained national recognition; he hadn't gone for 'the gorblimeys', he wanted to be a gentleman, the greatest satisfaction you can earn in England."
In the 2000 New Year Honours, Ros (then aged 90) was appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in ceremony at Buckingham Palace. He turned 100 on 7 December 2010.
Ros married twice: first to Britt Johansen in 1950. The first marriage produced two children, Anders Douglas and Britt Luisa. 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 married his second wife, Susan, in 1971.
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 calls his group the Rumba Band, in the post-war period it expanded to 16 members, and was known as Edmundo Ros and his Orchestra.
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.
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.
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