El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor) is a Cuban song based on a street-seller’s cry, and known as a pregón. It is possibly the most famous piece of music created by a Cuban musician. The Peanut Vendor has been recorded more than 160 times, sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78rpm of Cuban music.
The score and lyrics of El Manisero were by the Cuban son of a Basque musician, Moises Simons (1889–1945). It sold over a million copies of sheet music for E.B. Marks Inc., and this netted $100,000 in royalties for Simons by 1943. Its success led to a ‘rumba craze’ in the US and Europe which lasted through the 1940s.
- This version of the song kicked off the worldwide ‘rumba craze’.
- The lyrics were in a style based on street vendors’ cries, a pregón; and the rhythm was a son, so technically this was a son-pregón. On the record label, however, it was called a rhumba-fox trot, not only the wrong genre, but misspelled as well. After this, the term rumba was used as a general label for Cuban music, as salsa is today, because the numerous Cuban terms were not understood abroad. Rumba was easy to say and remember.
- Because of its cultural importance, in 2005 The Peanut Vendor was included into the United States National Recording Registry by the National Recording Preservation Board.
- Groucho Marx whistled the tune in the film Duck Soup (1933); Cary Grant sang it in the film Only Angels Have Wings (1939); Judy Garland sang a fragment in the film A Star is Born (1954).
- Perhaps its most lasting influence was in West and Central Africa. Azpiazú’s imported 78s went down so well there that it is thought this is how the ‘rumba congolese’ got its name. For the rest of the century ‘El Manisero’ was required repertoire for any large African ‘orchestre’ in that enormous region.