[JPL] George Clooney's musician uncle passes at 91

Arturo Gomez arturo at kuvo.org
Tue Dec 20 10:39:40 EST 2011

Last week  in Las Vegas, the pioneering Cuban bandleader, dancer and actor Pupi Campos passed away at 91 years of age. He had retired from the spotlight in the late 60s and had resided in Las Vegas since 1970. Pupi was married to Betty Clooney, Rosemary's sister and singing partner when the siblings began their careers.  Pupi was born Jacinto Campillo in Havana, May 1st, 1920. He migrated to New York in the 1940s upon the invitation of a New York City dance and music promoter who had seen Pupi dancing in a Havana night club revue while on vacation in Cuba

Pupi became a bandleader and organized a great band in the late 1940s, Tito Puente fresh out of his Navy stint and before founding his own band in 1949, played in Pupi's band and added arrangements as well.  Joe Loco was also a contributing arranger and pianist, Pupi always had many jazz players in his horn section e.g Al Porcino, Nat Capp-Paul Cohen, Johnny Mandel and others including Machito sidemen, John Rodríquez and José Madera senior, their sons John "Dandy" Rodriquez Jr, and José "Woody" Madera Jr were with the T P orchestra for over 20 years and now co-lead with Mitch Froman the Mambo Legends Orchestra. Pupi was a regular performer on Jack Paar's Morning Show in the early 1950s and appeared in a few films as well. Pupi along with fellow Cubans Desi Arnaz, Marco Rizo and José Mellis were the first Latinos to be a part of a TV series in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Pupi met his future wife, Betty Clooney while he was on the Jack Paar show and they married shortly thereafter and Betty retired from her singing career. Sadly, Betty passed away in the mid-70s from a brain hemorrhage, Pupi and Rosemary Clooney then founded the Betty Clooney Center and Foundation in Los Angeles to treat and research traumatic brain injuries

After his wife passed away, Pupi turned down offers for music and film work, he spent many years in Las Vegas as a goodwill ambassador in convalescent homes and hospices, he also worked with children and by all accounts made many extremely happy with his upbeat and humorous personality. In his 80s, Pupi volunteered his services as a crossing guard for his grand children's elementary school. Pupi passed away of natural causes on Monday December 12th.

Arturo Gómez
Music Director
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