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Benny More the man

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Juan Morell Gonzalez joined the Banda Gigante at Mauro's insistence in 1961. What most impressed him was how Benny treated and defended the musicians, and the way he related to people, so naturally. "He attended to everyone, even if he was in a hurry."

In fact, love and consideration for his peers made up his very impressive human condition. "He paid the most," Mauro stated. "It was 22 or 23 pesos back then, for an afternoon show in La Tropical, double or triple that of the six to 10 pesos others paid back then. Some band directors considered it foolish to pay so much, but he replied: "We should distribute the earnings equitably with the musicians."

It was evident that Benny was not attached to material wealth, as he confessed in Cienfuegos... "My favorite city... A woman from Cienfuegos once said to me / on a May afternoon in Pasacaballos / More, lets go to Rancho Luna / she gave me a fortune of love / and I stayed in Cienfuegos / I stayed, as you can see..."

His witty remarks were unforgettable. Morell recalls that when cirrhosis brought about by hepatitis meant he could no longer drink, he would say: "Well, I'm going to have a drink," and he'd pick up the bottle of rum. We'd all get very nervous but he poured some into his hand, smelled it and added, "I already did."

Mauro met Benny a half-century ago, in 1951 or 52 in Santiago de Cuba in the band headed by Mariano Merceron, who went to Santa Isabel de las Lajas to look for Benny, who had returned from Mexico where he had worked with Perez Prado and the Matamoros, and with Merceron himself.

"I had never heard a singer like him. He was out of this world. We sang songs like Yimboro, Bonito y Sabroso, and others; we played at the CMKW, the Oriental Radio Station and later in other provinces. Since there wasn't much work there at the time, he came to Havana in 1953. Then I also came and I worked with him until his death. We got along very well. He wasn't a director, he was a friend. He helped get the Aragon band on its feet in Mexico. He once said: If Aragon doesn't play, neither do I."

-And what did you least like about him?

-We would have preferred him not to drink. We k it was bad for him, even though he was funny and happy, very happy when he drank and you had to laugh at the things he did. For example, he would take his hat off suddenly and throw it, which would stop the band. Or the things he would do with his cane.

Raul Lopez recalls how he once stood on a table to direct the band during a performance in Camagüey.

-At the end of his career, when he could no longer drink, he wasn't as joyful; he realized he was affected by illness but he never stopped being agreeable and friendly with the public or with us. However, if he wanted to harm you he was fierce. Once in Venezuela, when an abusive businessman said he was not going to pay him, Benny attacked him, nearly killing him. They took him to jail and Bola de Nieve had to call his friend, the president of that country.

Visit the Ali bar learn about the man and his friends

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