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Obituaries

Peggy DeCastro, 82; Part of Hit Latin Singing Trio

April 19, 2004|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Peggy DeCastro, eldest of the Latin singing trio the DeCastro Sisters, known for their 1950s hit recording of "Teach Me Tonight," has died. She was 82.

DeCastro died March 6 in Las Vegas of lung cancer, according to the trio's manager, Alan Eichler.

The three sisters -- Peggy, Cherie and Babette -- were known as the "Cuban Andrews Sisters" and gained fame with a flamboyant nightclub act in Cuba. They also sang on a Cuban radio station owned by their father.

After the family moved to Miami in 1945, the girls became protegees of Brazilian singing star Carmen Miranda, who put them in her motion picture, "Copacabana."

They also provided many of the bird and animal voices in Walt Disney's "Song of the South."

The sisters had a part in Los Angeles and television history in 1947 when, during an appearance at the Hollywood nightspot Slapsie Maxie's, they were hired for the original telecast of KTLA-TV.

A single snippet of film exists of that live broadcast from Paramount Studios -- a Paramount newsreel shot of Bob Hope introducing the DeCastros singing "Babalu."

The DeCastro Sisters found quick popularity in the 1950s performing at the Sahara Hotel and the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, and were soon sharing stages with such entertainers as George Burns and Noel Coward.

They earned international acclaim in 1954 with their recording of the Sammy Cahn and Gene De Paul song "Teach Me Tonight." Their version sold more than 5 million copies and was in the Top 10, even though two other recordings of the song -- by Jo Stafford and by Dinah Washington -- were released the same year.

Other hit recordings for the DeCastros in the 1950s included "Boom Boom Boomerang," "Too Late Now," "Snowbound for Christmas," "Give Me Time" and "Cowboys Don't Cry."

After Babette retired, she was replaced by a younger cousin, Olgita DeCastro Marino, who died in 2000. The reconstituted trio found a new popularity in Las Vegas nightclub acts in the late 1980s.

They returned to Los Angeles in 1997 for the 50th anniversary special of KTLA's launch and later appeared at the Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill. They also toured with Buddy Greco and Gloria DeHaven.

The daughter of a Ziegfeld Follies dancer, Peggy DeCastro was born Marguerita Dolores Esperanza Fernando DeCastro on her father's sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic.

She gave her last performance in a wheelchair Feb. 14, when she appeared with her sister, Cherie, at Las Vegas' Boulder Station to sing the Jimmy Durante classic "Old Man Time."

Widowed two years ago by the death of her husband, John Carricaburu, she is survived by a son, Gene Lilley of Thousand Oaks, and her sister, Cherie DeCastro of Las Vegas.

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