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ne of the most popular Latin band leaders of the 1940s and 1950s. Morales grew up in a musical family, which was invited in 1924 to become the court orchestra of the president of Venezuela. Noro took over as conductor after his father died, eventually moving the band back to Puerto Rico. He moved to New York City in 1935 and within two years was leading his own rhumba band. Installed as the house band at the legendary club El Morocco, Morales was at the center of the rise of Latin jazz in the early 1940s. Xavier Cugat took Morales' composition, "Bim, Bam, Bum" and covered it for one of his earliest hits. Many of the great names in Latin music floated through Morales' band during this time: Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente, and, later, Anglo musicians such as Doc Severinsen.
Morales cut a distinctive figure on stage and off, with his large bald head and black mustache. One friend recalled that, "He was always well-dressed, shows shined, nails polished and reeked of expensive cologne....He loved women. He had to work steadily to pay the alimony his three wives collected." Morales remained a popular and successful act on the New York scene for over 20 years, appearing annually at the Daily News Harvest Moon Ball and working clubs such as the Copacabana and the China Doll.
Although he was not averse to catering to popular tastes, Morales usually stayed true to his Latin roots, using a traditional line-up featuring a rhythm section that included bass, bongos, conga, timbales, and claves, with himself on piano. He returned to Puero Rico in 1961 to work at the Hotel la Concha, where he died in 1964 of the effects of chronic diabetes.
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