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The Real Amy Camus Story
Throughout Yma Sumac's career, one rumor that has always followed even to this day is that she is really Amy Camus (Yma Sumac spelled backwards) from Brooklyn, Canada or France, depending upon who is telling the story.

Up until just before her first record, Voice of the Xtabay was released in 1950, she recorded and performed under the name of Imma Sumack. She also recorded quite a few shellac 78 rpm singles in Argentina in 1943 - long before coming to the U.S. It was Capitol Records that changed the spelling to "Yma Sumac," apparently to make it sound more exotic to the U.S. audience. Considering her recording career was documented before she ever set foot in the U.S., it is funny that "Amy Camus" persists! We guess no one ever tried to spell "Imma Sumack" backwards!

Here is how the rumor started
On the way to New York's Roxy Theater on Broadway, one cold February evening in 1951, two musicians were walking along with Hernán Braña, Yma's flautist, drummer, and good friend. Yma was appearing on the same bill as Danny Kaye. Seeing YMA SUMAC in huge letters on the brightly lighted marquee overlooking "The Great White Way," reflecting in another window, one of the musicians laughingly turned to Hernán and the other musician and said: "Hey look, it's Amy Camus!" They all had a good laugh and repeated the story to the orchestra.

The story eventually reached Walter Winchell who stuck it in his column of usual vile slime. The entire story was made up for laughs. Amy Camus, the Jewish housewife from Brooklyn, was born in 1951 at the Roxy by a musician from Brooklyn having fun with Yma's unusual name. Yma thought the story was really funny and for publicity purposes, she subsequently accepted a presentation from the borough president as "Honorary Citizen of Brooklyn" in 1957. Anyone who knows or has heard Yma speak English recognizes that her charming accent is pure Peruvian, not anything resembling Brooklynese.

Credit
This story was related to Robert Covais (Miracles producer and major contributor to this site until his death in 1998) by Hernán Braña (Perfomed with Yma Sumac during the '50s, wrote a number of her songs) in 1982. Hernán Braña was there when it happened so it is close to the source as possible!
Footnote
During one of their trips to Peru, Robert and James O'Maoilearca (Miracles producers) met two of Yma's schoolmates who were also singers/performers at El Chalán, one of Lima's top clubs. They roared with laughter when they heard the gringos were saying Yma came from Brooklyn. They said she was definitely Peruana (Peruvian) and had probably never been to Brooklyn in her life and, except for Yma's performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February 1954, they were right. Back to Top