The Peanut Vendor

"El manisero", known in English as "The Peanut Vendor", is a Cuban son-pregón composed by Moisés Simons. Together with "Guantanamera", it is arguably the most famous piece of music created by a Cuban musician.[1] "The Peanut Vendor" has been recorded more than 160 times,[2] sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78 rpm single of Cuban music.

"The Peanut Vendor (El manisero)"
The Peanut Vendor.jpg
Single by Don Azpiazú and His Havana Casino Orchestra
B-side"True Love (Amor sincero)"
ReleasedSeptember 1930
RecordedMay 13, 1930
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Moisés Simons
Producer(s)Theodore F. Therrien
Don Azpiazú and His Havana Casino Orchestra singles chronology
"The Peanut Vendor (El manisero)"
"With My Guitar and You"


Maní, maní, maní…

si te quieres por el pico divertir, cómprame un cucuruchito de maní...

Maní, el manisero se va, caballero, no se vayan a dormir,

sin comprarme un cucurucho de maní.

First two verses of "El manisero"

The score and lyrics of "El manisero" were by Moises Simons (1889–1945),[3] the Cuban son of a Basque musician. 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.[4][5] Its success led to a 'rumba craze' in the US and Europe which lasted through the 1940s. The consequences of the Peanut Vendor's success were quite far-reaching.

The number was first sung and recorded by the vedette Rita Montaner in 1927 or 1928 for Columbia Records.[6] The biggest record sales for "El manisero" came from the recording made by Don Azpiazú and his Havana Casino Orchestra in New York in 1930 for RCA Victor. The band included a number of star musicians such as Julio Cueva (trumpet) and Mario Bauza (saxophone); Antonio Machín was the singer.[5] There seems to be no authoritative account of the number of 78 rpm records of this recording sold by Victor; but it seems likely that the number would have exceeded the sheet music sales, making it the first million-selling record of Cuban (or even Latin) music.[7]

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.[8] After this, the term rhumba was used as a general label for Cuban music, as salsa is today, because the numerous Cuban terms were not understood abroad. Rhumba was easy to say and remember.

On the published score both music and lyrics are attributed to Simons, though there is a persistent story that they were written by Gonzalo G. de Mello in Havana the night before Montaner was due to record it in New York. Cristóbal Díaz says "For various reasons, we have doubts about this version... 'El manisero' was one of those rare cases in popular music where an author got immediate and substantial financial benefits... logically Mello would have tried to reclaim his authorship of the lyrics, but that did not occur." [9] The second attack on the authorship of the lyrics came from none other than the great Fernando Ortiz. For Ortiz, the true author was an unknown Havana peanut seller, of the second half of the 19th century, who served as the basis for a danza written by Gottschalk.[10] Of course, it may well be that elements of the song were to be found in real life. The English lyrics are by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Marion Sunshine; the latter was Azpiazú's sister-in-law, who toured with the band in the U.S.A. as singer. The English lyrics are, in the opinion of Sublette, of almost unsurpassed banality.[11]

"The Peanut Vendor" had a second life as a hit number when Stan Kenton recorded it with his big band for Capitol Records, in 1947. This was also a great and long-lasting hit, re-recorded by Kenton twice with the band, and played by him later in life as a piano solo. The Kenton version was entirely instrumental, with the rhythmic pattern emphasised by trombones.

Legacy and influenceEdit

The Peanut Vendor has been recorded more than 160 times.[2] 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, which noted:

"It is the first American recording of an authentic Latin dance style.[12] This recording launched a decade of 'rumbamania', introducing U.S. listeners to Cuban percussion instruments and Cuban rhythms." The song was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.[13]

Several films included versions of "El Manisero". It appeared in The Cuban Love Song by MGM (1931), with Ernesto Lecuona as musical advisor; 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). The Peanut Vendor was used as the tune in an advertising campaign for Golden Wonder Peanuts in the 60s/70s.[14] More recently, it was featured in the Carnaval scene of Jose Luis Cuerda's La lengua de las mariposas (Butterfly 1999). The Peanut Vendor was played by Ska legend Tommy McCook[15] and used in such classic reggae songs as "Top Ten[16]" by Gregory Issacs. Its lead melody is also used in Flavour N'abania's song "Nwa Baby" (2011), including the remix.

Selected recordingsEdit

The song exists in 160+ recorded versions, including:[17]

  • 1928 Rita Montaner for Columbia records. This was the first recording. Tumbao TCD 46.
  • 1930 Don Azpiazú and his Havana Casino Orchestra for RCA Victor. The version which started the rumba craze; singer Antonio Machín. Harlequin HQ 10.
  • 1930 Antonio Machín with the Cuarteto Machín. Harlequin HQ 24.
  • 1930 California Ramblers. Columbia 2351. First recording by a U.S. group.
  • 1931 Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra. Due to authentic percussion instruments being unavailable for the recording, the arranger (Sid Phillips) had to improvise his own.
  • 1931? Sexteto Okeh (Los Jardineros) Okeh 14027.
  • 1931 Louis Armstrong and his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra OKeh 41478. First version by a U.S. jazz group; also on Parlophone PMC 7098.
  • 1931 Red Nichols. A stop-motion animated music video for this version was created by New Zealand artist and animator Len Lye.[18]
  • 1947 Stan Kenton. The second largest selling 78rpm version. First significant instrumental version.
  • 1949 Django Reinhardt
  • 1952 Dean Martin
  • 1956 Abelardo Barroso, Orquesta Sensación, "El Manisero," Puchito 262, 78 rpm matrix – FB-OB-3113; 45 rpm matrix – 45 G8-OW-3113 OCLC 84977883, 81455334
  • 1950s Pérez Prado for RCA Victor
  • 1950s Conroy (Conrado) Wilson & His Combo, "El Manisero," Puchito 620-A, 45 rpm matrix – ICD-45-946 B; also released as Puchito 45-8012
  • 1960 Chet Atkins for RCA Victor
  • 1961 Rolando Laserie and Tito Puente
  • 1966 Clark Terry and Chico O'Farrill on Spanish Rice.
  • 1961 Alvin "Red" Tyler. Instrumental. Used in the 5th episode of season 2 of the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, "Breakage".
  • 1998 Esquivel Instrumental. Originally recorded and included in 1960's "See It in Sound" but not released until 1998.
  • 2001 Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Instrumental version included on the album Supernova.[19]


  1. ^ Giro, Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. vol 4, p147
  2. ^ a b Listed in Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1988. Si te quieres por el pico divertir: historia del pregón musical latinoamericano. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p317–322. [list fairly complete up to 1988]
  3. ^ Orovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. p202
  4. ^ Simons' own account: see Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1988. Si te quieres por el pico divertir: historia del pregón musical latinoamericano. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p238
  5. ^ a b Sublette, Ned 2004. Cuba and its music: from the first drums to the mambo. Chicago. Chapter 17, p399.
  6. ^ Probably the latter date: the issue cannot be resolved from surviving records. Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1988. Si te quieres por el pico divertir: historia del pregón musical latinoamericano. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p235
  7. ^ 1931 in music#Top hits on record. Helio Orovio, in Cuban music from A to Z (2004 translation, p36, top) describes it as "selling a million copies for the RCA Victor label"; Don Azpiazú's son Raul suggested it sold 5–10 million copies: liner notes to Harlequin HQ CD 10 Don Azpiazu. However, this is not definitive, and the text is more reserved.
  8. ^ perhaps to represent the Spanish pronunciation of 'u'.
  9. ^ Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1988. Si te quieres por el pico divertir: historia del pregón musical latinoamericano. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p238 [rough transl. by contributor]
  10. ^ Ortiz, Fernando 1954. In Revista Bohemia, March 14.
  11. ^ Sublette, Ned 2004. Cuba and its music: from the first drums to the mambo. Chicago. Chapter 17, p398.
  12. ^ This claim is not correct, though it may be the first one noticed by the National Recording Registry!
  13. ^ "Latin GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". Latin Grammy Award. Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. 2001. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Tommy Mccook -peanut vendor (R&B 146 1964)". YouTube. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Gregory Isaacs - Top Ten (Mabruku Extended Mix)". YouTube. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  17. ^ for the full list, consult Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1988. Si te quieres por el pico divertir: historia del pregón musical latinoamericano. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p318 and following.
  18. ^ "Experimental Animation (Peanut Vendor), 1934".
  19. ^ "Supernova — Gonzalo Rubalcaba". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 12, 2013.