A basket of fruit on its head

Sting’s real name is Gordon Sumner. Bono’s real name is Paul Hewson. Madonna’s real name is actually Madonna, but you see where I am going. Many is the artist who has adopted a stage name for a bit of mystique.

A little while ago, I discovered the faux (but enjoyable) Latin jazz of Chaquito, whose real name was John Gregory.

3052 label A

This Ricardo Santos release is part of the G.S. Collection.

Of Ricardo Santos, whose orchestra put out this release in about 1958, I know little. He was a band leader, and had a fair bit of success in the 1950s and 1960s playing smooth, hint-of-gypsy-hint-of-Latin dance music. His records came out on Polydor, a Dutch label, and were first released in Germany. I suspect that Santos was a German band leader from Dusseldorf whose real name was Reinhardt Schmidt. I could be wrong: if anyone knows more about Herr Santos, please let me know.3052 label B

And the music? It’s good. Cognoscente of tango might find it a bit sanitised, westernised and, to be blunt, fake. And they would have a point. But it can still be enjoyed for what it is: polished and skilful dance music, with a basket of fruit on its head.

  • Artist: Ricardo Santos And His Orchestra,
  • Title: La Cumparsita / Tango Desiree
  • Track: B side, “Tango Desiree”
  • Format: 10” shellac disc, 78rpm
  • Label: Polydor H 49286
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: c. 1958

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs.

The Iron Chef deception

There are crushing moments when illusions, fondly nurtured for years, are shattered.

  • Santa Claus isn’t real.
  • No Viking ever had horns on his helmet.
  • Chairman Kaga, the poncy Japanese playboy who used his personal fortune to create Kitchen Stadium and named his men the Iron Chefs, did not exist.

The man crunching the capsicum is an actor. Still in therapy over this.

Not quite as devastating, because I have only just discovered his music, but it was still disappointing to learn that Chaquito, Rey del Cha-Cha-Cha (Chaquito, King of Cha-Cha-Cha), the band leader who produced this stunning Latin-swing EP, was an Englishman by name of  John Gregory.

When Swinging Cha-Cha came out, in 1958, Gregory had already been an important musician for a decade, though rather behind the scenes. He was staff arranger for Philips, providing the backing arrangements for the labels stars, including Cleo Laine.

Given the opportunity to put out his own dance records, he adopted a stage name (one of several – he was also known as Nino Rico). You could forgive a bandleader who had done twenty years of backroom arranging for becoming cynical and weary. Instead, as Chaquito, Rey del Cha-Cha-Cha, Gregory draws on his experience performing and in the studio, and produces as lively a Latin dance sound as you could wish to hear.7058 invert

This track, “Midnight Cha-cha”, features a trumpet solo from “Stan Rodriguez”. I have not been able to find out any more about him, except that he played on lots of Chaquito recordings, but one would not be astonished if he had really been born in Blackpool, as Stanley Rodgers.

But none of that matters. Imagine: it is 1958, and someone cranks up the radiogram.

Inauthentic? Yup, but there is more to life than authenticity. Just ask Chairman Kaga.

  • Artist: Chaquito, Rey del Cha-Cha-Cha
  • EP Title: Swinging Cha-Cha
  • Side 2, Track 1: “Midnight Cha-Cha”
  • Format: 7” EP 45 rpm
  • Label: Fontana TFE 17045
  • Manufactured in: Great Britain
  • Year: 1958

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs