Bandleader Edmundo Ros, who introduced wartime Britain to the percussive rhythm of the rumba, so capturing the nation’s imagination that its young princess chose his songs for her public dancing debut, died of natural causes at his home in Alicante, Spain, on Friday. He was 100.
Born in Trinidad to a Venezuelan mother and a Scottish father, Ros began his musical career in the Venezuelan army but took off after he moved to London in 1937. His five-piece Rumba Band was a runaway hit, playing for high society and international royalty. His music was so popular that then-Princess Elizabeth had her first public dance to the sound of Ros’ band in the 1940s. As queen, she would award him the Order of the British Empire for his services to entertainment.
Ros was effectively London’s “ambassador for Latin American music,” his son Douglas told the Associated Press.
The prolific artist made more than 800 recordings over the course of his career. His 1949 number, “The Wedding Samba,” sold 3 million copies.
His band was a fixture at Regent Street’s Coconut Grove club, which he bought in 1951 and counted Britain’s Princess Margaret, Monaco’s Prince Rainier and Sweden’s Prince Bertil among its regulars.
The club’s demanding standards — ladies wearing broad-brimmed hats or trousers were denied admittance — kept the clientele exclusive through the 1950s, but the relaxation of Britain’s gambling laws in the 1960s began to hit his takings.
Ros sold the club and later retired to the Spanish resort city of Alicante.