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Andy Russell, 72; Bilingual ‘40s Singer, Latin Film Star

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Andy Russell, a bilingual 1940s crooner whose hits included “Besame Mucho,” “Magic Is the Moonlight,” and “What a Difference a Day Makes,” has died. He was 72.

Russell died Thursday in Phoenix after suffering a paralyzing stroke in January and a second stroke April 12.

Born in East Los Angeles as Andres Rabago, Russell began his career as a big-band drummer and singer. He was frequently compared to his contemporaries of the era, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Dick Haymes.

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When Sinatra left the popular radio show “Your Hit Parade” in 1947, Russell replaced him.

Russell’s million-selling records included “Laughing on the Outside” and “Amor.”

Despite his recording success with songs in English or mixing English and Spanish, Russell chose to launch his film career in his native language south of the border.

He spent 15 years based in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, starring in Latin films and television, including the Mexican Kraft Music Hall. He had his own television show, “The Andy Russell Show” on Argentine television from 1956 to 1965.

Russell returned to the United States in the late 1960s, headlining a comeback show at the Sahara in Las Vegas.

But he never regained the momentum he had as a newcomer in the 1940s, when he played drums in the old Follies Theater on Los Angeles’ Main Street. In his youthful heyday, he worked with Gus Arnheim, Stan Kenton and Alvino Rey.

Russell retired to Sun City, Ariz., in 1989.

He is survived by his wife, Doris; a son, Andy Russell Jr. of Mexico City, a sister and two brothers.

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