Rewinding the Charts: In 1985, Miami Sound Machine Did the 'Conga' in Its Debut

Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan attending "Crystal Globe Awards" on March 6, 1990 at 21 Club in New York City.

Before Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Shakira dominated the charts, Gloria and Emilio Estefan reigned supreme.

ON OCT. 19, 1985, MIAMI SOUND MACHINE, featuring a then-28-year-old Gloria Estefan, made its Billboard Hot 100 debut with the infectious dance track "Conga." The song eventually peaked at No. 10, on Feb. 8, 1986, and in 2003, Estefan told Billboard that the tune took a full year to achieve that milestone. "Radio kept saying, 'We can't play this.' But once they played it, the phones would go crazy," she recalled.

The group was formed in 1974 by Emilio Estefan Jr. as Miami Latin Boys. Two years later, Gloria joined as a vocalist, and the name changed to Miami Sound Machine. In 1978, she married Emilio. The act's first English-language chart success came in 1984 with "Dr. Beat," which climbed to No. 17 on the Dance Club Songs chart.

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"Conga" hit at a time when Miami was enjoying a renaissance thanks, in part, to the resurgence of its South Beach neighborhood and the popular NBC TV series Miami Vice. In the wake of its success, the group notched eight more Hot 100 hits, including the Grammy-nominated No. 1 smash "Anything for You."

In 1989, Gloria struck out on her own as a soloist, winning three Grammy Awards and notching the No. 1 songs "Don't Wanna Lose You" and "Coming Out of the Dark." The latter track, co-written by her husband, was inspired by her recovery from a 1990 tour bus accident in which she had broken her back.

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Estefan's most recent album, The Standards, arrived in 2013 and became her highest-charting release (No. 20) on the Billboard 200 since 1994.

Her and Emilio's path to fame is depicted in the Broadway musical On Your Feet!, which opened in October 2015 and ran for 786 performances before its final curtain on Aug. 20, 2017. The production is scheduled to begin its first national tour in October in Miami, with its first string of international dates soon after.

A version of this article first appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of Billboard magazine.


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