He was born in San Fernando, Spain, into a gypsy family, the second of eight children. His mother was Juana Cruz Castro, a basket weaver (“La Canastera”), whose gift of singing was a strong early influence. His father, Juan Luis Monge, was also a singer as well as a blacksmith, and had a forge where Camarón worked as a boy. His uncle José nicknamed him Camarón (Spanish for “Shrimp”) because he was blonde and fair skinned. When his father died of asthma, while still very young, the family went through financial hardship. At the age of eight he began to sing at inns and bus stops with Rancapino to earn money. At sixteen, he won first prize at the Festival del Cante Jondo in Mairena de Alcor. Camarón then went to Madrid with Miguel de los Reyes and in 1968 became a resident artist at the Tablao Torres Bermejas where he remained for twelve years.