Jorge Palacio (Faruk)

n 1947, El Morocho (the brunet) of our fascinating story, maybe influenced by his uncles who were military, traveled to Tucumán (a province of the Argentine northwest) to sit for an exam at the Colegio Militar de la Nación (National Military Academy), where he did not succeed due to a congenital disease: color blindness. It was not an unpleasant episode for the boy, since because of that fate made that he definitively remained close to the music of Buenos Aires.

A group of his friends from Tucumán got an audition for Argentino at Radio Aconcagua. The officials of the radio station heard him and made him sign an important contract for a sum the kid had not even dreamed of. When the artistic director asked him what name he was going to bear at his appearances, he answered that he liked Raúl Ledesma, which was the name of one of his uncles. The executive said it was not possible because there was already a singer with that name and that, precisely in a few days he was coming to Tucumán with the orchestra that was led by Tito Martín, «El D'Arienzo Chico del Tango». When he knew that his true name was Argentino, he told him: «That’s it!... Argentino Ledesma!, with that name you’re going to succeed everywhere».

On the radio he sang from Monday to Friday accompanied by a guitar group comprised by Menéndez, Navarro and Bernal, and on Saturdays he appeared at clubs, social and cultural venues with different Tucumán tango orchestras. Simultaneously to his shows, Ledesma began to practice another of his great passions: soccer. Those who saw him play say he was outstanding with a ball, so much so that he even joined the first division of the Club Atlético Tucumán, bearing the number ten.

But tango and soccer turned out two incompatible activities for him, since he played soccer on Sundays and on Saturday evenings he sang until the wee small hours of the morning. Both activities were irreconcilable and he chose tango.

One evening in 1947, Argentino with some friends went to a ball where the main attraction was an orchestra that had come from Buenos Aires and was led by Alberto D'Angelo. At a time during the ball, with the maestro’s permission, who did not know him, he climbed the stage and sang three tango pieces: “Mi noche triste (Lita)”, “Siga el corso” and “Y volvemos a querernos”. D'Angelo was impressed by his voice and suggested him going to Buenos Aires with him. The singer did not accept it; he was quite comfortable on the radio even though he earned little money according to his success. Time later he joined the Joaquín Signorelli orchestra and when the contract with the radio expired he returned to his province, Santiago del Estero (mid-north of the country).

There he worked as accountant in the Revenue Direction of the Province and on Radio Del Norte, alternating with the Santiago del Estero orchestras led by Luis Napoleón and the Paz brothers at balls held at clubs. In the early fifties, he filled an application for a job as bookkeeper at an important commercial establishment in the Capital; he qualified and traveled to Buenos Aires.

The second day after his arrival he went to La Querencia, the famous local of 870 Avenida de Mayo, where he met some friends that suggested him to audition to join the Julio De Caro orchestra. A few minutes later they went to the Empire cabaret on Corrientes Street and he sang two tangos that widely pleased the maestro, who told him he had to wait for three months until the contract that the vocalist Roberto Medina had signed, expired. But Ledesma did not wait and the following morning, following the advice of his friends he went for an audition at Radio Belgrano before the artistic director of the radio station, Jaime Más. He was hired for twelve months and the speaker that introduced him was the legendary Guillermo Brizuela Méndez, who impressed by the quality of the kid, introduced him to the maestro Héctor Varela who was then looking for a replacement for Armando Laborde.

All of a sudden, Argentino Ledesma joined that fashionable orchestra sharing the stage with Rodolfo Lesica, and soon they would become the most popular team of singers of the 50s.

His debut took place at the Chantecler cabaret. The evening of June 24, 1952, thanks to an offer not to be disregarded at all, the orchestra began to appear at the mythological Marabú, on 365 Maipú Street. His first recording with Varela was on August 21 with the tango “Novia provinciana”, for the Pampa label.

Nearly four years passed and in February 1956 he split with the orchestra and joined Carlos Di Sarli to play on Radio El Mundo and at the Marabú cabaret. They also played at the big carnival balls at the soccer San Lorenzo club and recorded for RCA-Victor.

Ledesma's stay with Di Sarli lasted a little more than three months. That brief time was due to the fact that the managers of the Columbia label, to which Héctor Varela belonged, began to tempt him to see the possibility of his return to that group. But why should he even split with Di Sarli, especially when he was just starting? What about future? Even though he had begun with Varela, he had been consecrated with Di Sarli. But the company insisted. They made fabulous offers, important sums of money, other conditions to return to his previous leader. It was like the contract for a soccer player when he is in his zenith. And finally he came back. Di Sarli was not able to understand that decision: he could not image that a singer managed to quit. In the end he understood him, he wished him good luck and became good friends.

Around mid- 1956, Argentino Ledesma in the Héctor Varela orchestra achieved striking hits with “Fueron tres años”, “Muchacha”, “Fosforerita” and, especially with “Qué tarde has venido”. Also with the milonga “Silueta porteña”, that he had to sing with Lesica but he sang it alone because Rodolfo was unable to go to the recording session. Anyway, the Ledesma-Lesica duet committed to record very good renderings of the waltzes “Gota de lluvia” and “Rosa mía” and the milonga “Tentadora”.

Success accompanied the orchestra and its singers. They played at balls, night locals and they carried out a spectacular cycle on Radio El Mundo at the traditional program Glostora tango club.

The year 1957, was Ledesma's best period in his career as orchestra singer, until the Odeon label officials suggested him recording as soloist. The conditions were the best, but Argentino did not take a decision. The rumor that he was about to quit soon was in the streets. Several leaders tried to take advantage of the situation to include him in their orchestras. Miguel Caló himself went to his place with a hundred thousand peso check. A fortune!

Before a definitive decision he consulted Edmundo Rivero. The great interpreter told him: «Split with the orchestra, but find someone to get some advice because you're very young». And he recommended the poet and agent Mario Battistella, a connoisseur of the milieu. Finally his stage with Varela ended and his new stage as soloist began.

He sang at numerous balls and, soon his cachet is like Juan D'Arienzo's with the full orchestra and including the singers. He was accompanied by the group of the pianist Jorge Dragone and appeared on Radio Belgrano at a program of his own, sponsored by Palmolive soap. He toured throughout the country and on June 16, 1957 he recorded his first disc as soloist for Odeon.

He played at the Teatro Cómico on Corrientes Street with Tito Lusiardo and Fidel Pintos, among others. He is required to sing and interpret a role on the movie El asalto, with Alberto de Mendoza, Egle Martin and Tato Bores, on which he sang “Dame mi libertad”, “Cafetín de Buenos Aires” and the milonga “El asalto”.

In 1964, the maestro Francisco Canaro recorded twelve takes that would be used as orchestral background for the Chilean singer Lucho Gatica. They all were tunes composed by Carlos Gardel. Due to other stints, Gatica was unable to record, so the Odeon Company called Argentino Ledesma to sing them. Out of twelve pieces he succeeded in recording six because of Canaro's demise. The recorded tape was filed and only much later, the company again called the singer to finally sing the other six, this time under the conduction of the maestro Carlos García. When the recording was finished the 1964 and the 1973 versions were compared. Almost ten years had passed and the voice was the same. Neither his voice, nor the color, nor his timbre had declined. That record was a boom in Latin America, part of Europe, Japan and Australia. Now it has been released as compact disc.

He was one of the most requested singers on television. He appeared at the most important programs: Siete notas para el tango, Tango y punto, Amistangos, El tango del millón, Yo te canto Buenos Aires, Sábados circulares, Grandes valores del tango, Sábados de la bondad and many others.

In 1980, he recorded a couple of tangos as guest artist with the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra and his latter recordings were made with Roberto Pansera's accompaniment.

He is author of the milonga “El asalto” and the tangos “Sin un adiós” with music by Mario Demarco and “Hacete amigo de la vida” with music by Marsilio Robles.

In a few words, Argentino was, is and shall be a real tango great. A man that carried out a striking career due to his profound creativeness.