Estefan, Emilio, Jr.
Estefan, Emilio, Jr.
Crescent Moon Studios
Known as the "godfather of the Miami sound," five–time Grammy winner and singer–producer Emilio Estefan, Jr., has brought Latin music and musicians into the mainstream of American culture. Due to his signature fusion of Latin music and rhythm along with English lyrics, Estefan is one of the most influential voices in contemporary pop music. Through the doors of his $200 million corporation and state–of–the–art Crescent Moon Studios have passed some top recording stars, including Madonna, Ricky Martin, Jon Secada, Marc Antony, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Will Smith, Alejandro Fernandez, and others. Estefan is the creator and organizer of the Miami Sound Machine, which also includes his wife, Gloria Estefan, as lead female singer. Through their own music empire, Estefan Enterprises ("the Motown of Latin Music"), the Estefans have also delved into writing and composing, producing, sound and video production and recording, filming, restaurants, and a magazine.
Estefan's success started when he arrived in Miami, a refugee from Cuba at the age of 14. He left Cuba when he was 13, but spent a year and a half in Spain first. Unable to speak a word of English, Estefan found comfort in music—the universal communicator. His first musical instrument was an accordion, given to him when he was 12. His older brother was an engineer, so young Estefan became the brunt of family jokes as the "black sheep" who was going to be a "musician." He belonged to a band in Cuba, and when he moved to Spain and the U.S., began playing in restaurants for tips. This was to pay back the $474 his uncle had lent to him for the accordion.
In Miami, Estefan started work as an office boy for the rum importer Bacardi. In the evenings, he attended night school. He would stop to play music in the restaurant almost everyday, and on weekends would play at parties. Unable to afford music lessons, he taught himself to play "by ear." One of his friends at Bacardi advised him that the company was hosting a party and was looking for a band. The friend suggested that Estefan come, and bring two friends. Estefan did exactly that, appearing with a conga player and a guitarist, and bringing his own accordion. They were a big hit, playing mostly old dance music from Cuba, and several bookings for private parties followed.
In 1975, Estefan formed a group called the Miami Latin Boys. He was the band's drummer, and they played traditional Cuban music with a distinctive contemporary flair. They continued to play mostly at weddings and parties. At one of these parties, he met Gloria Fajardo. She was encouraged onto the stage to sing with the band. Estefan was impressed by her voice, and invited her to perform with the band at future gigs. She joined them in 1976, and the group changed its name to The Miami Sound Machine. By 1978, Gloria had married Estefan, and they embarked on a career that would change the world's perception of Latin music forever.
Estefan, asked in a 1998 interview with Billboard magazine what he considered to be his biggest professional accomplishment, cited his connection to his roots and his commitment to maintaining his Latin sound. He has worked hard to have a positive effect on how the world views Latinos. At the same time, he remarked that he was an American, and would never return to Cuba to live, even if the country turned away from communism.
Estefan has taken his success in stride, still maintaining his polite demeanor and patient personality. He is known for his loyalty and hard work, and always answers his own cell phone, the number to which is well known in the business. Considered by his wife Gloria to be a workaholic, Estefan starts every morning with a brisk walk along the ocean shore. He and Gloria live in a Star Island mansion–complex in Southeast Florida that he largely decorated himself. Estefan has also designed many of his wife's costumes and jewelry, and likes to shop for her gowns. They have a successful marriage and family, which are important things to him.
In addition to five Grammy awards and two Latin Grammy awards, Estefan has received numerous other awards and recognitions. Estefan was the first–ever recipient of the LARAS (Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) Person of the Year award in 2000. Said Mauricio Abaroa, executive vice president of the organization, in the Miami Herald, "What Emilio Estefan has done in this country to promote Latin music is without dispute. As a producer, as a composer, as a manager, he is one of the greatest ambassadors we have ever had." Estefan is also a two–time Cabale Ace Award winner. Additionally, for his contribution to contemporary pop music and for bringing multicultural music and musicians into the mainstream, Estefan has received an honorary degree of Doctorate of Music from the University of Miami.
In the beginning, The Miami Sound Machine continued to play at parties, weddings, and all the local benefits in Miami, with only local success. Their first two albums were not successful and they lost their investment when no one would produce it. Estefan credits Gloria with the insistence that they continued to develop their own sound and not try to imitate others, despite the initially poor response from producers. They later recorded "Dr. Beat," which was likewise rejected by Sony Discos (then CBS Discos) as too esoteric. But Estefan insisted that it be printed on the B–side of another record called "Luchare," Then the group engaged in heavy self–promotion, handing out its record to every disco in Miami. The effort paid off and the record rose to the number one spot. Soon they left for England and Holland to promote their record. They only knew two songs at the time, "Dr. Beat" and "I Need a Man." It was enough to please the crowds, if not the producers.
In 1980, Estefan left his full–time job as Bacardi's Director of Hispanic Marketing in order to develop the band's career. Undaunted by their earlier failures, Estefan eventually decided to perform a song written by the group's new drummer, Enrique (KiKi) Garcia. As it turned out, the song, "Conga," was the big break the group had been waiting for. An instant hit, it soon topped both domestic and international charts.
Over the next several years, the group turned out hit after hit, including "Rhythm is Gonna Get You" and "Anything for You." As Gloria added ballads and new dance routines to the program, she became the star attraction for the band, which again renamed itself "Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine." In 1989, Gloria sold more than 70 million albums worldwide. Estefan dropped back to songwriting and producing, then formed his own label company, Crescent Moon Productions.
In the beginning, financial constraints forced Estefan to do everything—accounting, photographs, publishing—himself. Later, he farmed out these time–consuming tasks and concentrated on managing Gloria's career and producing music for others. Although mostly associated with masterminding the packaged success of his wife's career, Estefan has been largely responsible for the success of many other big names. Of the five most famous "crossovers" in Latino music (wife Gloria, Jon Secada, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Marc Antony), Estefan's name has been on all of their records.
Up until 1990, Estefan had been managing the Miami Sound Machine out of his mother's garage. In that year, he was finally able to open Crescent Moon Studios, located in the heart of Miami, Florida. It is a multi–room facility equipped for audio recording, mixing, and video post. The studio became a "hang–out" for many area musicians and evolved into one of the area's most technologically advanced recording facilities. Estefan owns two restaurants, Larios On The Beach and Bongos, which have been successful. He has also invested in the Cardozo Hotel, which provided the setting for many portions of the hit movie, Something About Mary.
Estefan proclaimed in 1999 that he was ready to blaze down new trails. He had signed a $10 million deal with Universal Television Group to develop Latino sitcoms. He was considering a feature film for Universal TV as well. Once he had helped to build a marketplace open to programs with an international flavor, he wanted to use his background to produce those programs. He planned to use his background in both American and Latino cultures to create shows which would appeal to anyone and everyone.
Chronology: Emilio Estefan, Jr.
1953: Born in La Habana, Cuba.
1967: Immigrated to Miami, Florida.
1975: Formed Miami Latin Boys.
1976: Gloria Fajardo joined band, which was renamed Miami Sound Machine.
1978: Married Gloria.
1980: Quit full time job with Bacardi to concentrate on music.
1985: Miami Sound Machine released hit "Conga."
1989: Formed Crescent Moon Productions.
1990: Opened Crescent Moon Studios in Miami.
2000: Received first annual LARAS Person of the Year award.
Social and Economic Impact
The Estefans are recognized philanthropists and work primarily through the Gloria Estefan Foundation to help less fortunate persons. The foundation was particularly involved when the Hurricane Andrew disaster hit the Miami community. In memory and thanks for Gloria's recovery from her spinal cord injury following a tour bus accident, the Estefans actively support the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
If there is one thing Estefan is particularly proud of, it is that, according to him, he has been able to elevate Latino music culture in the eyes of the world. What Emilio Estefan has done for the music world is undisputed. When asked about his unique music sound, Estefan stated in a Miami Herald article, "I never considered that I was homogenizing Latin sound. I was creating a new sound that is a mixture of cultures, because I am a mixture of cultures. That's where you make history, when you take chances, when you do something that is not commercial, and make it commercial, like what happened with Conga."
Sources of Information
Contact at: Crescent Moon Studios
6205 Bird Road
Miami, FL 33155
Business Phone: (305) 663–8924
"2001 Commencement Honorary Degree Recipient Emilio Estefan, Jr." Available at http://www.miami.edu/commencements/honestefan.html.
"Crescent Moon Studios." Available at http://www.crescentmoon.com/idx.html.
Lannert, John. "Emilio Estefan." Billboard, 26 September 1998.
Martin, Lydia. "Latin Grammys." The Miami Herald, 10 September 2000.
Radelat, Ana. "Leading the Way."Hispanic, November 1999.
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