I Sold My Cadillac to Diana Dors: the Edmundo Ros Story


I Sold My Cadillac to Diana Dors: the Edmundo Ros Story

Edmundo Ros, the legendary band leader, talks to composer Michael Nyman about his rich life, in the course of which he almost single-handedly introduced Latin music to Britain.


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Transcript


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So...I can honestly say that from, let's say, 1953, '54, to 1995

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I did not give a single moment's thought to Edmundo Ros.

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'Like the rest of the world, nobody knew that Edmundo Ros still existed.'

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< Oh, hello!

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-It's Edmundo Ros!

-Hello, my dear.

-Hello, how are you?

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-Nice to see you.

-Nice to see YOU! I used to listen you on the radio.

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-Nice to see that you're still alive!

-Thank you very much.

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-Most people thing I am dead.

-It must be dreadful.

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-Thank you so much.

-Thank you.

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Nice. Nice old girl.

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But we have many like that. I still love them.

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But I tell them not to stop listening. Keep dancing.

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The legendary Latin bandleader Edmundo Ros

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is alive and well, living in retirement in Spain.

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Housewives' heart-throb,

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darling of the dancefloor, high society, the Decca record company and the BBC,

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Ros awakened post-war Britain to his unique samba beat.

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In the summer of 1995,

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Edmundo found himself being awarded the fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music,

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where he had been a student.

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Edmundo didn't receive the only fellowship that day.

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Next to him on the platform was the composer Michael Nyman.

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I was so shocked to be sitting next to him.

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I hadn't really thought about his music since I watched it on black and white TV in 1951, '52.

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In the first place, everyone was surprised he was still alive.

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He's 90 this year and still going strong.

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And equally surprised that he is an ex-Academy student.

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It was a very big day for me. I'll never forget that.

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And of course, what we had in common, as we discovered,

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was not merely the fact of being students of the Royal Academy,

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but we were both bandleaders. We had to deal with musicians.

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MUSIC CONTINUES OVER SPEECH

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'And we became good friends and this friendship lead to my pitching up at his house in Spain.

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'And this documentary is the result of our many and various conversations.'

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His is an amazing story, a story that our parents participated in

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and that I participated in as a kid.

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My mum would have thought working on a documentary with Edmundo

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was possibly the best thing I would have done as a musician!

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And it's the one thing that - as she would have said - she would have given her eye teeth to be part of.

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So...

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When I first started watching TV,

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the image that I have coming out of my television set

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is the image of you starting some event with your back to the camera,

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turning round, shaking your maracas, big smile on your face.

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APPLAUSE

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Thank you, and welcome to our show.

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We are having a lot of fun and we sincerely hope you are going to enjoy yourself too.

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SLOW LATIN PIECE PLAYS

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Edmundo Ros was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad in 1910.

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The family moved to nearby Venezuela in 1924.

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From 14, I remembered myself in the Spanish speaking world,

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and Venezuela was that.

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And I stayed there until I was 27.

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Edmundo's father was a Scottish telephone engineer. His mother was from Trinidad.

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My father played in the village band.

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So I always liked music from the start.

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I used to play on the dustbins the rhythms of the drums.

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So I had a taste for music, but wasn't exposed to it

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until I was thrown into my military service.

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My parents thought I was going down the drain

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and decided I should have some discipline taught to me.

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Edmundo soon found himself playing in the military band.

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The band didn't play Latin American music.

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They played overtures and serenatas.

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All kinds of wonderful events, you'd be asked to play at -

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concerts, birthdays of the local governor and the president.

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When he left the army, Edmundo raised his musical status

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by becoming a timpanist in the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra.

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I wanted to be a conductor and to conduct an orchestra playing classical music.

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Here is a picture of the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra.

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I suppose you can see me somewhere here.

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And these are some of our programmes.

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Why did you want to be a conductor?

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I suppose it was because I was ambitious, aiming high.

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But the stage there was not, at that time, big enough for me, I thought.

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I decided I would come to England.

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Inspired to study at the Royal Academy by his army band master,

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Edmundo set sail in May 1937. During the voyage, he received his first lesson in British etiquette.

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I was travelling second class.

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There was an English lady travelling first class

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who was allowed to take her constitutionals on both the decks.

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I got talking to her and she gave me a bit of advice.

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"In England, young man, vulgarity is despised."

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She said to me that,

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"You will find out that coloured people are considered inferior."

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And the moment I arrived in England, I discovered this lady was right.

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I wanted to be considered equal.

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In order to do that, you had to be able

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to command the respect of the person giving you it.

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I tried to learn how to do that

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and I think I did it.

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His plan to become an orchestral conductor was thrown off course on his first night in London.

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A woman he met in a dance invited him to a nightclub called The Nest.

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We are now entering the street, number 23. Not as it used to be.

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It used to be THE nightclub of that particular time.

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And this is where I appeared the very first night I landed in this country.

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The very first night.

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The fourth of June 1937.

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I was brought to this place,

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and there I met one of my colleagues to come - Barretto.

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Barretto started the first Latin American orchestra

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or rumba orchestra at that time.

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We played, Barretto and myself, I on drums and he on piano,

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and we all sang the Latin American songs. It went on all night.

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It was a fabulous place.

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But it was considered a place where people went slumming

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after coming from the nicer places in Mayfair.

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Over the next few years, Edmundo became Barretto's indispensable partner in the band.

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His talents did not go unnoticed.

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The jazz pianist Fats Waller chose him as drummer on his visits to London.

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Since arriving in England, Edmundo had been torn between the discipline of classical music

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and the fun of playing in Barretto's Latin band.

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You came to the Academy to be a classical musician and conductor,

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and then suddenly you weren't playing Mozart.

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You might say that I was leading a double life.

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In the day, I was studying one thing and at the night, doing another.

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I was on a losing wicket.

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Look at me and try and think of a classical conductor.

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A - I didn't have a fancy name.

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B - I didn't have a funny moustache.

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C - Didn't come from Vienna or Prague or one of these places.

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-Looking like me.

-Didn't have a white skin.

-Exactly. Get it?

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Have you seen one? I haven't.

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I had been in England two years and the war started.

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I hate to say it but I had a damned good time during the war.

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But Edmundo's collaboration with Don Marino Barretto was not to last.

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They fell out because Edmundo felt that his talents were not sufficiently recognised.

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For a while, Ros drove ambulances. But the pull of music was too much.

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In August 1940, he formed Edmundo Ros And His Rumba Band.

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It was an overnight success in the wartime West End.

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Edmundo's first record with Parlophone was an instant hit.

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RUMBA TUNE PLAYS

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SIREN WAILS

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NEWSREEL: The nightly siege of London has begun.

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We were offered an engagement at the St Regis Hotel.

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In that hotel, we had a direct hit.

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The tune we were playing was called Taboo.

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And I've always associated that with the direct hit.

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Happily for all concerned, it did not explode - the bomb.

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But everybody ran out of the hotel

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and we then ran into the nearest air-raid shelter

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which was the club the Coconut Grove.

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The club was one of the most fashionable night spots in London,

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the venue that would put Edmundo into the limelight.

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Once again, it was a chance encounter with a young woman that helped him get what he wanted.

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While standing there, a young lady came up to me and said,

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"Why don't we have a smile on that face of yours?"

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And this lady turned out to be the owner of the Coconut Grove.

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Her name was Diana Ward.

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And I told her I would do anything on Earth to have somewhere to play.

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Diana Ward then made Edmundo an offer he couldn't refuse.

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If he'd play for less than she paid her band, he could take their place.

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So we started at the Coconut Grove and went from strength to strength.

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It was while he was playing at the Coconut Grove

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that Diana Ward introduced him to Cecil Madden,

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a powerful impresario from the BBC.

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This meeting was to change the course of Edmundo's life.

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Mr Madden was the first producer of television in England,

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which started in 1936.

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During the war, when it stopped, he took over the Overseas Service

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which was called London Calling.

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­ Ulrich is a navigator in a bomber.

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'It was a recruiting effort.'

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HE SPEAKS IN SPANISH

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'The BBC Overseas studios, which operated at night,

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'were in the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly.'

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Every time an artist couldn't come here because of incendiary bombs,

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we took the place of that artist.

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At the drop of a hat, or the drop of a telephone call,

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we would run down from there, six of us, and run right into the studio there.

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That is where we started broadcasting to Latin America on behalf of the BBC.

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The programme was called London Calling.

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Edmundo's broadcasts for the BBC Overseas Service

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marked the beginning of his long association with Cecil Madden.

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Quite soon, Edmundo had become a regular fixture on BBC radio.

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The BBC in a way created an audience in the '30s and '40s for dance music.

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Night after night, there would be Jack Payne, Joe Loss, whatever.

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So in a way, your music gained from the fact that

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there was a deliberate policy within the BBC to make a social engineering

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that it was good to sit around the radio and be entertained by dance music.

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That is why I regard myself a product of the BBC.

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By the end of the war, Edmundo's career had really begun to take off.

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With radio broadcasts, booming record sales,

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club appearances and a stint at the London Palladium,

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he found himself well on the way to celebrity status.

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I started becoming Edmundo Ros in 1946.

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Before that, I was just a little rumba band leader.

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But gradually, I became Edmundo Ros from the Bagatelle.

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The Bagatelle restaurant was more prestigious than the Coconut Grove.

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It was situated in central Mayfair, rather than on the edges of disreputable Soho

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and it boasted the high-class clientele that Edmundo thought he was cut out for.

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And this was our entrance.

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-That used to be the Bagatelle.

-Really?

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Yes. We had the best people on the face of the Earth then here,

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starting with our present Queen.

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She danced here for the first, first time in her life in public.

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Very nice. I wish I could have invited you to come but too late!

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The future Queen, however, very nearly didn't show up.

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Edmundo had been caught out in an adulterous affair with the wife of a diplomat.

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I got involved in a society scandal

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that did me no harm at all!

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In fact, I came out as being a "good sort", you know,

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and "inside the pale" - that sort of nice remarks that you chaps use.

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I was involved in divorce proceedings with a society lady.

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Her husband found her with somebody else

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but unfortunately he had heard of her being friendly with me before.

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He did not only sue this particular gentleman, but also your humble servant.

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Although I was not culprit number one, I was fined £1,000,

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which was an awful lot of money.

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After this, people came to the Bagatelle and I used to see them pointing at me.

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And then one night, a lady said to me, "Are you the fellow who was mixed up in this case?"

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I said, "Yes, madame."

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"Did you no harm at all, did it?"

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I said, "Not at all because you know why?

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"I feel that if ever you are going to be run over by a motor car,

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"let it be a Rolls Royce."

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And she thought that was very clever. So did I, at the time!

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That started me off by being a gentleman.

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That's what people used to call me - a gentleman.

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You stop being a bandleader and you become a personality,

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a gentleman. That's the greatest satisfaction you can get in England.

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At the end of this case, which lasted 11 days,

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the Palace booked a table

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for Princess Elizabeth.

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And the people at the Bagatelle were very concerned that the mother

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would allow her daughter

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to come into a room with this dreadful, gravel-voiced man.

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And, of course, the Bagatelle tried to get rid of me before she came.

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Yes?

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Having booked the table,

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had she not come for any reason or other, Edmundo Ros would have died a natural death.

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But she came, danced and actually spoke to me,

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and with all these hundreds of people watching.

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And from there on, Edmundo was a personal friend of the Queen.

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Edmundo's charmed seduction of the establishment continued

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when, in 1948, he met his future wife Britt.

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This wife came to me

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at the right time in my life.

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This girl was a Swedish aristocrat.

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And when she chose to marry me,

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she brought me up,

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not only in Scandinavia,

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but everywhere...in the world.

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She was...a very good business deal.

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-MUSIC PLAYS

-This is the Wedding Samba!

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As Edmundo was becoming more and more acceptable to high society,

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he was also developing a huge popular audience.

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# In the land of the Rio Grande

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# When people get married, they always have a dance... #

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'The Wedding Samba became one of my best sellers ever.'

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# Ole, ole... #

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In 1949, the Wedding Samba sold three million copies worldwide

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and it got people dancing.

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# And when they play the Wedding Samba... #

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'The samba creates a rhythm and a movement

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'that British people appreciate.

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'The essence of it is to abandon yourself, so to speak.'

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# Everyone knows in fiesta time... #

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British chaps, ladies and gentlemen,

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were shy to do anything that could cause them to be in ridicule.

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Music is sex from the start, however you play it.

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But the average person who doesn't want to make a fool of themselves

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is cautious about how it's done.

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Edmundo used to invite the audience on the floor and say,

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"Don't be shy," because he could pull people on the floor.

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And he did it and they danced!

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A string of record hits now enabled Edmundo to fulfil his dream of buying a club.

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In 1951, he made a triumphant return to the Coconut Grove, but this time he was the owner.

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We are now at Mitre House, 177 Regent Street,

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which used to be MY club.

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I owned this place for years and years and years.

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We had a porter all dressed up in green and... Oh, yes.

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And the moment you got here, you could hear the music.

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Edmundo called his new venture the Edmundo Ros Supper Club.

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It was a high-class establishment

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that sophisticated people could drop into after a show.

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My club was an unusual sort of place

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because normally, naturally,

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nightclubs are referred to in your dictionaries

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as dens of iniquity.

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Like running a brothel, if you get what I mean.

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That is what nightclubs used to be for.

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I didn't do that. It was absolutely the reverse.

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I didn't let people in unless they were properly dressed.

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If anyone breached the canon of decent behaviour, old boy,

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whether it was dress code or whatever,

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he was absolutely horrified.

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He wanted people to come and enjoy themselves. When Edmundo came on,

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dressed to the hilt, with the band,

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everyone was anticipating this wonderful personality and music,

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and everyone started to dance.

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I considered myself as an orchestra leader, owner and conductor,

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who had a nightclub in which it played.

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# ..Have a go, don't be slow... #

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Any orchestra has to have somebody in front of it.

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They loved him because he was unique.

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There wasn't another man with that kind of presence.

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'Remember, he was six foot three.'

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# The Mayfair Mambo

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# Tally-ho, tally-ho, tally-ho... #

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He was a disciplinarian. You couldn't get away with anything.

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If I said the show starts at four o'clock, it starts at four, because I am there.

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He had eyes in the back of his head. While he was on the bandstand,

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he used to watch the waiter that didn't serve properly,

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and if the serviette wasn't properly on the table, it was noticed.

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Quite often, he'd be singing a song with the band

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and he'd stop singing in the middle of it and just point.

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Just like that. And all the staff would run where he was pointing. They didn't know what for.

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That's cos he was always watching his clientele.

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Whenever he saw anybody who needed attention or service, they just went to where he was pointing.

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He would also be extremely strict about who came to his club.

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I did my best to divide the right people from the not-so-right people -

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what you might refer to as the "cor blimeys".

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They were paying for these people over here,

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who often had things complimentary, because they were there.

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The records were available to anybody. The popular tunes made them popular with the "cor blimeys".

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It's an awful word. The "cor blimeys" paid the money for the records more than the royals did.

0:25:310:25:37

Society didn't buy my records. They danced to the tunes, and I made them presents of my records.

0:25:370:25:44

But the people who kept me in bread and butter were the people who I didn't want to go to bed with.

0:25:440:25:52

But you have to accept it.

0:25:520:25:54

MAN: Ouch!

0:25:540:25:57

It was these people who fuelled the passion for ballroom dancing

0:25:570:26:02

that swept Britain in the 1950s.

0:26:020:26:05

ARCHIVE: It takes all sorts to fill a dance hall. You can take the dance floor with the weekly half million.

0:26:050:26:12

The mass popularity of ballroom dancing helped sell records.

0:26:120:26:17

Records became important because you couldn't go to a ballroom every five minutes

0:26:170:26:24

to find what you wanted to dance to.

0:26:240:26:26

Nor could you afford to go to Edmundo Ros' club every night. That was a Saturday night special.

0:26:260:26:33

ARCHIVE: Do-it-yourself has spread to teaching dancing.

0:26:330:26:37

All ready? With gramophone records by Victor Silvester.

0:26:370:26:42

-GRAMOPHONE:

-'Ready? Now. Back, back...'

0:26:420:26:46

The king of ballroom dancing was without a doubt Victor Silvester.

0:26:460:26:51

30 years ago, people would go to a ballroom and dance more or less what they liked.

0:26:510:26:58

Edmundo followed the sort of things that he did, and became friendly with him.

0:26:580:27:04

When it came to ordinary dance music for ballrooms, Victor was the king.

0:27:040:27:10

When it came to adding a little Latin rhythm, they'd invite Edmundo.

0:27:100:27:16

The great piece of advice which Victor Silvester gave to me,

0:27:160:27:21

is, let them hear the melody, let them hear the melody.

0:27:210:27:26

The rhythm is fine, but our people want to hear the melody.

0:27:260:27:30

I always thanked him for that.

0:27:300:27:34

Colonel Bogey, you see. Colonel Bogey fitted beautifully as a samba,

0:27:340:27:40

but it also fitted beautifully as another Latin American rhythm called the merengue.

0:27:400:27:47

That also fitted beautifully as a merengue - Colonel Bogey.

0:27:470:27:53

HE HUMS A MERENGUE RHYTHM

0:27:550:27:59

HE HUMS: "Colonel Bogey"

0:27:590:28:02

It fits. The background rhythm was the rhythm of the merengue.

0:28:020:28:07

Until the early '50s, most people only knew Edmundo Ros by the distinctive sound of his music.

0:28:080:28:16

But in 1953, the BBC started televising live shows from his club, and he gained a face.

0:28:160:28:22

Overnight, he became a national personality.

0:28:220:28:26

Records brought me into your home, but television let you see me.

0:28:260:28:31

You either turned it off or put it on brighter.

0:28:310:28:35

I didn't think much of it at the time.

0:28:350:28:38

But I grew to appreciate that it was the number one thing.

0:28:380:28:43

You are looking at a film entitled Television Tea Party.

0:28:450:28:50

This is a tea party that was given to mark the change of location

0:28:500:28:56

of British television

0:28:560:28:58

from Alexandra Palace to Lime Grove, or White City.

0:28:580:29:04

I am pleased to tell you that I was nominated the host of this party.

0:29:040:29:10

They invited 800 guests.

0:29:130:29:17

Everybody in the entertainment industry of any importance was there.

0:29:170:29:23

Mr Madden was in charge of the whole thing.

0:29:230:29:27

ARCHIVE: 'Cecil Madden greets the Beverly Sisters affectionately.

0:29:270:29:32

'Cecil Madden discovered them.'

0:29:320:29:35

Most of the artists you'd see performing at this were discovered by Cecil Madden.

0:29:350:29:41

The Beverly Sisters.

0:29:410:29:44

# I feel ever so

0:29:440:29:48

# Blue. #

0:29:480:29:52

'Cecil Madden gave me every possible help

0:29:520:29:57

'and virtually made Edmundo Ross.'

0:29:570:30:00

Darlings, I should say - all three of you.

0:30:000:30:04

WIRELESS: 'The time is nine o'clock. Time for Housewives' Choice.'

0:30:040:30:09

THEME MUSIC

0:30:090:30:12

At one time, I was a permanent presenter of a BBC programme called Housewives' Choice.

0:30:160:30:23

I used to spend nights on end

0:30:230:30:25

going straight from the club into the BBC studio,

0:30:250:30:30

sleeping there until Housewives' Choice to play these programmes

0:30:300:30:34

to people all over the country asking for songs and records,

0:30:340:30:40

and having their name mentioned by me.

0:30:400:30:43

Occasionally, they'd ask for one of mine, which pleased me.

0:30:430:30:48

In order to convey what I wanted to say to people, say, in Scunthorpe,

0:30:480:30:52

or Worcester, I had to learn how to say it properly.

0:30:520:30:57

You sought out an individual.

0:30:570:31:01

When I spoke to the microphone, it was to a nice-looking girl.

0:31:010:31:07

The more you looked at the microphone, the more you saw her.

0:31:070:31:11

You spoke to her as nicely as possible, in order to impress her.

0:31:110:31:16

That's how I did Housewives' Choice,

0:31:160:31:19

particularly as I knew that every request came from a female.

0:31:190:31:23

Now, Mrs Jones, who lives at number 14 Ebury Street in "Scumpton-on-Sea",

0:31:230:31:30

this is for you.

0:31:300:31:33

Edmundo's celebrity had brought him an affluent lifestyle, and he was proud of it.

0:31:330:31:39

# I cannot complain

0:31:390:31:41

# Of the time that I have spent

0:31:410:31:43

# Because my life in London is really magnificent

0:31:430:31:46

# I have every comfort and every thrill

0:31:460:31:48

# And I have a hell of a big house up in Mill Hill

0:31:480:31:51

# This is the place for me. #

0:31:510:31:54

EDMUNDO LAUGHS

0:31:540:31:57

In 1955, Edmundo and his wife commissioned an architect to design them a luxurious house

0:31:570:32:04

on an empty site in north London.

0:32:040:32:07

We had 19 rooms. We had a television room, a little office,

0:32:070:32:11

a sitting room, dining room, rooms for the children, guest rooms,

0:32:110:32:17

and also rooms for the staff.

0:32:170:32:20

In those days, I could afford staff. I had living-in staff.

0:32:200:32:24

I had a char woman and I had a driver.

0:32:240:32:29

I had all the best of everything.

0:32:290:32:33

I had the best clothes, the best food. I had everything.

0:32:350:32:39

I had a Cadillac and I had a number, my own -

0:32:390:32:44

EWR1.

0:32:440:32:47

I was very proud of it. A big Cadillac El Dorado.

0:32:470:32:52

Every time I stopped next to a bus at the red light,

0:32:520:32:56

the driver would say, "Hello, Curly, what the hell have you got there?"

0:32:560:33:02

That was enough. I thought, if they don't like it, I'll get rid of it.

0:33:020:33:07

I got rid of it.

0:33:070:33:09

I sold it to Diana Dors.

0:33:090:33:12

With class,

0:33:120:33:14

you can command respect.

0:33:140:33:18

With colour, you have no choice.

0:33:180:33:21

The colour, you have that whether you like it or not,

0:33:210:33:25

which I am pleased to be.

0:33:250:33:28

I am pleased to be, but I wish I had had the other birth arrangement, you know.

0:33:280:33:35

I'm not black, if you know what I mean. But I'm not white.

0:33:350:33:39

I can see them thinking, "Who does he think he is?"

0:33:390:33:43

But the advantage is that most of them never said it.

0:33:430:33:48

-ARCHIVE:

-'The clouds disappeared.

0:33:510:33:55

'We'd arrived.

0:33:550:33:57

'Monaco - minks, diamonds, Cadillacs.

0:33:570:34:01

'The millionaires' playground - Monte Carlo.

0:34:010:34:04

'This is a gala night. This was the atmosphere every evening.'

0:34:040:34:09

We played there every summer for nine consecutive summers -

0:34:090:34:15

the sporting club in Monte Carlo.

0:34:150:34:17

That man you see standing next to me is Mr Onassis.

0:34:170:34:21

That party was a party at which I was made to feel more uncomfortable than at any other time in my life.

0:34:210:34:29

Onassis is a Greek. His wife is a Greek.

0:34:290:34:33

A Greek composer wrote a song for her,

0:34:330:34:39

about her.

0:34:390:34:41

Onassis sent this song to me

0:34:410:34:44

and asked me to arrange it, record it,

0:34:440:34:48

and present it to her from him.

0:34:480:34:51

-ARCHIVE:

-'The day after I arrived, I had a special job to do.

0:34:510:34:55

'We hired a speedboat to take us to the Onassis yacht.

0:34:550:35:00

'Hold on tight!

0:35:000:35:03

'The captain welcomed us aboard and showed us the way forward...'

0:35:030:35:08

The captain tells me,

0:35:080:35:10

"Mr Onassis asked me to extend to you his most humble apologies and regrets he had to dash off,

0:35:100:35:17

"to a business meeting, and he's not here to receive you."

0:35:170:35:22

There were certain people he admired. Onassis being up there,

0:35:220:35:29

and Edmundo being on his motor boat,

0:35:290:35:33

visiting the Onassis yacht, I don't think he'd have been prepared for what is rank bad behaviour.

0:35:330:35:40

We went to the club that night with the record.

0:35:400:35:44

He came over to the bandstand and said, "Have you got it?"

0:35:440:35:48

I said, "Yes, sir." "Well, bring it to the table."

0:35:480:35:52

He was a rough fellow. "Bring it to the table."

0:35:520:35:55

When I came off, I took it to the table.

0:35:550:35:59

"This is the record for your wife." "Give it to her. There she is."

0:35:590:36:04

So I took it to the wife.

0:36:040:36:07

While she was about to accept it, he stood behind me and shouted,

0:36:070:36:13

"Go on! Get up and kiss him! You know you've always wanted to!"

0:36:130:36:18

I nearly died, honestly.

0:36:180:36:21

But I handed her the record, bowed in the usual way,

0:36:210:36:26

and came away feeling most uncomfortable, I might tell you.

0:36:260:36:31

By the late 1950s, the years of relentless and single-minded hard work

0:36:340:36:39

were putting Edmundo's marriage under severe strain.

0:36:390:36:44

I had to give all my time and attention to my work,

0:36:460:36:51

which didn't stop only with the orchestra.

0:36:510:36:55

It went on with the records and broadcasts

0:36:550:36:59

and the club, of course, took the night time.

0:36:590:37:04

# Play, play, play... #

0:37:040:37:05

My wife took umbrage

0:37:050:37:10

at the fact that I loved my orchestra, loved my work.

0:37:100:37:14

# By relaxing anywhere

0:37:140:37:17

# Outdoors, in the open air

0:37:170:37:18

# You'll find again that two can share

0:37:180:37:20

# And play, play, play... #

0:37:200:37:22

I introduced her to someone who came to the club.

0:37:220:37:25

# Guaranteed to make you need a doctor every day

0:37:250:37:29

# Don't be that way... #

0:37:290:37:32

He was a very good dancer. She was a very good dancer.

0:37:320:37:37

It became quite a thing at the club for people to see them dancing.

0:37:370:37:41

One morning, quite casually, at breakfast,

0:37:410:37:45

she said to me, just as I'm talking to you,

0:37:450:37:49

"I would like you to know that one of your friends

0:37:490:37:53

"has asked me to marry him."

0:37:530:37:57

I said, "Really?" I said, "Give me one guess and I will tell you who it is.

0:37:570:38:03

I told her who it was. She was pleased I'd recognised the fact that it was happening.

0:38:030:38:10

I put it down to the fact that he danced her out of my life.

0:38:100:38:15

I was hurt because I felt that if anybody was going to leave anybody,

0:38:150:38:21

I should have left her,

0:38:210:38:24

not her me.

0:38:240:38:26

Terrible. And coupled with the fact that while this was going on

0:38:270:38:33

I was doing broadcasts,

0:38:330:38:37

having to sing these silly love songs.

0:38:370:38:41

Get it?

0:38:410:38:43

Fancy trying to sing a song like Come Closer To Me when your wife has left you. Not funny!

0:38:430:38:49

# Will you sit, sit upon my knee?

0:38:490:38:52

# Si, senor, si, senor

0:38:520:38:54

# Give a little kiss to me?

0:38:540:38:56

# No, senor, no, senor

0:38:560:38:58

# For I never kiss a man

0:38:580:39:00

# Till my mother says I can

0:39:010:39:04

-# May I hold, hold you very tight?

-Si, senor, si, senor... #

0:39:050:39:09

I accepted it.

0:39:090:39:12

I accepted it for three years before everything else happened.

0:39:120:39:17

She left me in '63,

0:39:170:39:21

and I did not meet Susan until '66 - three years later.

0:39:210:39:26

Mind you, I had fun between those.

0:39:260:39:29

I enjoyed myself like mad. I did everything.

0:39:290:39:33

# Just what my momma told me of... #

0:39:330:39:36

When the 55-year-old Edmundo first met his 21-year-old wife to be, Susan, in the mid-sixties,

0:39:360:39:44

she didn't know who he was - she was part of the Beatles generation.

0:39:440:39:48

# Si, si, senor. #

0:39:480:39:51

Just as in the 1950s Decca had encouraged Edmundo to Latinise music familiar to his audience,

0:39:510:39:58

they pressed him to give the Ros treatment to pop music.

0:39:580:40:04

Here we have New Sounds On Broadway.

0:40:040:40:08

These are all Broadway melodies from Broadway shows.

0:40:080:40:14

This sold very well indeed in the United States.

0:40:140:40:18

Beatles songs. Hey Jude - that's another one that I did very well indeed.

0:40:180:40:25

I realised there'd be some lucre, so I did it.

0:40:250:40:30

I survived because I made myself adaptable to all the changes that came and went.

0:40:300:40:37

Decca knew they had a milch cow on their hands.

0:40:390:40:43

They realised here was a man who could make massive amounts of money,

0:40:430:40:48

for himself and the record company.

0:40:480:40:51

Instead of giving him his freedom, they restricted his freedom.

0:40:510:40:57

I was told what to do, so I had to do it. I didn't enjoy everything.

0:40:570:41:02

Some of my records I don't like at all because the words are babble.

0:41:020:41:08

But it suited the market. As they sold, they asked me to do more.

0:41:080:41:13

One of the craziest albums we did was Japanese military marches.

0:41:130:41:19

We did it because the Japanese public

0:41:190:41:24

liked the Edmundo Ros Orchestra.

0:41:240:41:27

He went to Japan seven times on tour.

0:41:270:41:31

He had tremendous success, huge concerts -

0:41:310:41:35

so packed that they couldn't get people in.

0:41:350:41:38

INSTRUMENTAL: SWINGING JAPANESE MILITARY MARCH

0:41:380:41:43

The welcome was tremendous. It was another world.

0:41:520:42:00

I filmed the whole thing, cos I thought we'd never go back.

0:42:000:42:05

One town every day, until the day we left.

0:42:050:42:09

We did that for seven years.

0:42:090:42:12

Ironically, the very success of these tours incubated a problem.

0:42:120:42:18

By the time we finished the last tour,

0:42:180:42:21

my conditions were that good

0:42:210:42:24

that we did not travel on our rest day.

0:42:240:42:29

Our promoter wanted us to go back to play again on that day.

0:42:300:42:36

He suggested that I offered my musicians more money, and they'd go.

0:42:360:42:41

I thought, no. Didn't go.

0:42:430:42:45

Wouldn't go. No, sir!

0:42:450:42:48

I wouldn't break my contract. We were all tired, on our way home.

0:42:480:42:54

But Edmundo's promoter was negotiating with someone else in the band.

0:42:540:43:00

Unfortunately for me, he spoke to the musicians

0:43:000:43:06

through our steward.

0:43:060:43:08

They all agreed to go for additional money.

0:43:080:43:13

When he realises this monster he's created is turning against him,

0:43:130:43:18

in the form of Musicians' Union stewards

0:43:180:43:22

and musicians not wanting to avail themselves

0:43:220:43:29

of the very protections,

0:43:290:43:32

in terms of rest and travel days,

0:43:320:43:34

that Edmundo had got for them,

0:43:340:43:37

characteristically for Edmundo, he said, "That's it."

0:43:370:43:42

The moment my musicians told me that that was the condition,

0:43:420:43:47

I said that is the end of the Edmundo Ros Orchestra.

0:43:470:43:52

Finished.

0:43:520:43:54

When we got back to London, we did a concert at Fairfields Hall.

0:43:550:44:00

I got Susan to ring all the people that I wanted to come to my final concert.

0:44:000:44:06

I should be very sad, but I'm not.

0:44:060:44:09

Two, three, four...

0:44:090:44:11

Fairfields Hall was packed,

0:44:160:44:19

with people almost in tears.

0:44:190:44:21

I made it clear at the concert to the orchestra

0:44:220:44:28

that they and their wives would be invited to join me for dinner.

0:44:280:44:32

Although I realised that they suspected something,

0:44:360:44:41

they did not know what was really going to happen.

0:44:410:44:45

I explained it to them in my speech of thanks.

0:44:450:44:49

I should change that song's name to "No, Senor".

0:44:490:44:53

If something disturbs you, get rid of it. Bang!

0:44:530:44:58

That was the end of the Edmundo Ros Orchestra,

0:44:580:45:02

after 35 years in existence.

0:45:020:45:06

# Goodbye

0:45:060:45:07

# Companeros, senoritas, caballeros

0:45:070:45:10

# Maybe sometime I'll come for a holiday... #

0:45:100:45:14

Then comes the music. What should we do with the music?

0:45:140:45:18

# To your beautiful land of sunshine... #

0:45:180:45:21

I decided to have it shredded.

0:45:210:45:24

Everything I did smelt of me. If you borrowed it, it wouldn't work.

0:45:240:45:29

It was a "dog in the manger" thing. I don't need it but you can't have it.

0:45:290:45:35

They were all shredded. All I could see was the bill.

0:45:350:45:40

I'll never forget it - £747 to shred my music.

0:45:400:45:45

OK, from the top. Three, four...

0:45:460:45:51

BRASS INTRO

0:45:510:45:54

Two years ago, I took him back in the studio, at the request of the Japanese company, to make an album

0:46:000:46:07

of the recordings that were most popular in Japan.

0:46:070:46:11

I said, "They want these tunes. He said, "I don't have the arrangements."

0:46:110:46:16

I said, "We'll lift them from the records and pay a fortune to have them redone."

0:46:160:46:22

He said, "I shouldn't have destroyed the library."

0:46:220:46:26

OK?

0:46:260:46:28

'There's still a market for Edmundo's music.

0:46:280:46:32

'Two or three years ago, he was conducting these session musicians.

0:46:320:46:37

'They played with utmost passion and utmost respect.'

0:46:370:46:44

He hasn't lost his vision, his sound.

0:46:450:46:48

He hasn't lost his control, and he hasn't lost his discipline.

0:46:480:46:54

OK?

0:46:540:46:56

Brazil, from the top. Three, four, and one...

0:46:560:47:00

BRASS INTRO

0:47:000:47:03

And he hasn't lost his love and passion for that music

0:47:130:47:17

that he, regretfully, now, I think, realises he shouldn't have given up

0:47:170:47:22

when he 65 in 1975.

0:47:220:47:26

EDMUNDO SINGS ALONG

0:47:260:47:29

Two or three weeks after his 90th birthday, at the end of 2000,

0:47:390:47:44

he will be introducing on Radio 2 a programme on Latin American music.

0:47:440:47:49

He's the oldest DJ in the business.

0:47:490:47:52

I mean, that's quite remarkable.

0:47:520:47:55

HE SINGS ALONG TO "Brazil"

0:48:000:48:03

For the last 25 years, Edmundo Ros has been living with his second wife, Susan, in Spain.

0:48:320:48:39

Their house is called El Escondite De Eros - The Refuge Of Love.

0:48:390:48:45

But also, of course, The Refuge Of E Ros.

0:48:450:48:49

E-mail [email protected]

0:49:110:49:15

The composer Michael Nyman chanced upon the legendary late band leader Edmundo Ros when they were both created Fellows of the Royal Academy of Music. From that encounter grew Nyman's determination to tell the story of Ros, the man who almost single-handedly introduced Latin music to the British. This film, made when he was 90, saw Ros back in the recording studio and even talking about touring again.

It was the 1950s and 1960s when he was a household name, moving from wartime celebrity on BBC radio to his shows on the newly popular post-war BBC Television. His attempt to bring a looser, sexier rhythm to the stiff English upper classes led to the vast appeal for his Latin dance music, which was only eclipsed by the rise of the Beatles in the 1960s.

Interviewed in Spain, Ros beguiles Nyman with candid snapshots of his rich life, wittily illustrated with revealing archive of his time and his own collection of home movies. All with an irresistible soundtrack of his tunes.


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