By Juan Silbido
Bandoneonist, leader and composer
(3 February 1888 - 5 October 1924)
e was born in Buenos Aires, in the candombe neighborhood of Concepción, son of Genaro Greco and Victoria Santo, at whose modest home they brought up eight children.
Fernando, the eldest son, was known by the nickname of "Garrote". We take into account the sayings of his brother-in-law, the engineer Eduardo A. Tate. The latter recalled that Fernando, when still young, was watching a game of cards played by his father and other people. One of them stubbornly insisted on playing frequent and even rude jokes on him, maybe don Genaro's patient temper favored a predisposition to do it; instead, Fernando, already out of his mind, solved the case by striking a superb blow to the clumsy offender. Since that occasion he was known, as we have already said, by the striking nickname of "Garrote".
The quite poor income of the family demanded the collaboration of several of their children. So Vicente had to interrupt his elementary school studies.
About that, the authors Héctor
and Luis J. Bates say:
Francisco Canaro recalls in his interesting
Memoirs the following:
The journalist Félix Lima made us aware of Greco's musical
beginnings on the "Fray Mocho" magazine. The interview appeared
in October 1915:
We transcribe below what maestro Julio De
A picturesque character of Buenos Aires at the turn-of-the-century was the one who introduced him to the secrets of the bandoneon. We are talking of Sebastián Ramos Mejía aka "El Pardo", whose work as streetcar ticket collector was no obstacle for him to play the "fuelle".
We shall quote again Julio De Caro: «After listening to Greco's playing a concertina, Ramos Mejía, amazed, suggested his parents into buying a true bandoneon for him. His relatives and friends raised some funds and after a long search, because then there were only a few available, they bought the so much sought-after bandoneon as a gift for the 14-year-old prodigy. Vicente soon got used to it, mastering it from the start.»
In the aforementioned interview by Félix Lima he added: »The first tango that Greco played was "La Tirana". Thereafter he made his musical debut appearing in San Pedro, San Nicolás, Baradero and Rosario, among other places.»
As for his stay in the locality mentioned firstly, we quote from
"La historia del tango":
The abovementioned brother-in-law, engineer Tate, told us that Vicente had a harmonium, with which besides his practice of musical exercises, he created a great part of his work as composer. About it he always asked his brother Fernando's opinion, who enjoyed his confidence with no restriction.
Theater always interested Vicente, whose milieu he frequented, coming to know different authors; among them, Florencio Sánchez. Driven to express his ideas, he began to write for the stage a light jolly script. His early death truncated that purpose.
We shall try to describe his look: his face with dark eyes and sallow skin suggested an Arab origin, and his stature was somewhat short. As for his temper, he was inclined to show his frequent good humor.
Vicente Greco can be regarded as a self-taught musician, the result of a constant hard effort. In his beginnings he did not know how to write music, so in his early work he had to make use of the help of fellow musicians to commit his music to paper.
We again turn to Julio De Caro, who recalls
the following about his childhood:
«Eager to express my admiration, I caught my violin and began to play his tango "El pibe", of which I had a sheet music, and had learnt it without my father's knowledge. Such attitude was not welcome by the latter, but I managed to hear Greco say: «This kid will get far with his vocation. Who says he's not going to be a tango master?». But he answered: «Never, I have planned a different destiny for Julio!».
«Even though he was sympathetic with the major tango players, to whom he offered his friendship, my father was old-fashioned, he demanded a rigid discipline, not allowing deviations in our music studies.»
It is worthwhile mentioning the café "La Turca", located in the neighborhood of La Boca, among the venues where Greco played; he was accompanied by his brother Domingo and the composer of the tango "El chupete", Ricardo Gaudencio. Café "El Estribo" (Entre Ríos 700), accompanied by Lorenzo Labissier (bandoneon), Domingo Greco (piano), Vicente Pecci "El Tano" (flute) and "Palito" Abatte or, on occasions, Francisco Canaro (violin). "Rodríguez Peña" Saloon, in which -according to the information given by Héctor and Luis J. Bates-, «one evening, in 1911, "Rodríguez Peña" was premiered with an extremely warm acclaim by the audience, who not fully satisfied with the applause given to the composer, carried him on their shoulders victoriously along Corrientes Street.»
Let us highlight Greco's performance at the ballroom house run by
María "La vasca" (Carlos Calvo almost the corner
with Jujuy). About his shows in houses of the Buenos Aires society,
here's an excerpt of the weekly paper "Fray Mocho" (October
The interview further points out:
Let us add about his recording work, that it began towards 1911, hired by the enterprise Taggini. He was accompanied by the same instrumentalists with whom he appeared at "El Estribo".
After more than half a century has passed since that period, we can appreciate Greco's personal style when listening to his existing recordings.
We have come to know that different dates, either of his birth or his death, have been published. That has brought a certain confusion that we shall try to clear it out.
Admitting that February 3 were true for the former, after the examination
of the copy of the death certificate it appears that:
As for the exact day of his death, we transcribe from the abovementioned
document, according to the above said date:
Then his demise took place nearly at midnight October 5, 1924.
Vicente Greco has achieved well deserved recognition: numbers such as "Rodríguez Peña", "La viruta" or "El flete", unarguably classics of the genre, made his author be included at the top ranks in the hall of fame of popular composers.
The numbers below confirm his fame: "Ojos negros", "El pibe", "El morochito", "El perverso", "El estribo", "El cuzquito", "Ki-Ki", "La paica", "Tiene la palabra", "Popoff", "Estoy penando", "La muela careada", "María Angélica" "Pachequito", "La chicha", "Barba de choclo", "Tita", "El eléctrico", "Racing Club", "Pueyrredón", "La canota" and one of the last ones we wrote, the song "Argentina".