By the end of the 19th century, contradanza had grown lively and energetic, unlike its European counterpart, and was then known as danzón. The 1877 song "Las alturas de Simpson" was one of many tunes that created a wave of popularity for danzón. One part of the danzón was a coda which became improvised over time. The bands then were brass (orquestra tipica), but was followed by smaller groups called charangas.The most influential charanga was that of Antonio Arcano, who flourished in the late 1930s. Arcano's group, Arcano y Sus Maravillas, was the first to call a part of a popular Cuban dance a mambo. His group was already saying vamos a mambear, which translates to "let's mambo", in the mid-to-late 1930s. It was Arcano's cellist, Orestes Lopez, whose "Mambo" was the first modern song of the genre. However, the first mambo that was actually recorded was called "Rarezas" by his brother, bassist and composer Cachao López, who is often described as "the inventor of mambo."
Beny Moré also lived in Mexico between 1945 and 1952; it was there where people started calling him Beny or Benny instead of Bartolo. He composed and recorded some Mambos in Mexico, with Mexican orchestras, especially with the one directed by Rafael de Paz; they recorded Yiri yiri bon, La Culebra, Mata siguaraya, Solamente una vez and "Bonito y Sabroso", a song where he praises the dancing skills of the Mexicans, and claims that Mexico City and La Habana are sister cities. Also in Mexico, Benny and Perez Prado recorded several mambos including "La mucura", "Rabo y oreja", and "Pachito e che" . In this time Benny also recorded with the orchestra of Jesús "Chucho" Rodríguez. El "Chucho" was so impressed with Benny's musical ability that he referred to him as "El Barbaro del Ritmo".Prado's recordings were meant for the Latin American and U.S. Latino markets, but some of his most celebrated mambos, such as "Mambo No. 5" and "Que Rico el Mambo", quickly crossed over to the United States.