Julio Nudler

e was born in Buenos Aires on April 27, 1913. His name was Isaac Rosofsky. And even though he changed his Hebrew name by the British nom de plume Julio Jorge Nelson, the joking milieu of tango knew him as The Widow. Who’s widow he was it was obvious. Nelson made a cult of Gardel’s memory. He called the latter The bronze that smiles. He assured that he is «singing better as time goes by», the only phrase that absolutely came true. While some had the suspicion that El Rusito wanted to make a living of El Zorzal’s memory, others held that Gardel owed greatly to him to become everlasting. In fact, since Nelson’s demise, the voice of El Morocho del Abasto was disappearing from the Argentine radio stations, except for some occasional anniversary outburst. Most people would not even recognize him if they heard him, especially the best Gardel, the one at his peak between 1926 and 1928. Then as there was no other Gardel, there was no other Julio Jorge Nelson either. Satirized by all the imitators, he was a classic of the Argentine broadcasting.

Isaac, son of a cobbler, was brought up in Villa Crespo. His home was on 225 Triunvirato Street, an address which was later changed into 4943 Corrientes St., in front of the Florencio Sánchez theater. Connected, since he was a child, to the theater milieu and the incipient world of the radio, at age fourteen he decided to give up his studies. Then his father threw him away from home. He moved downtown, he worked in the Angelina Pagano’s theater company along with Rosa Rosen, Marcos Zucker and Irma Córdoba. He realized that at the cafés the orchestras had no one to announce the numbers to the audience. Instead of a showman or emcee, some of the musicians wrote with a piece of chalk the title of the piece on a blackboard. This made him imagine that there could be a place for his talking abilities.

The association of his destiny with Gardel’s began in 1933 when, for only once, as speaker he introduced a performance of the artist at the Teatro Nacional. In 1934 Nelson started to air through Radio Buenos Aires the program Escuche esta noche a Gardel (Listen to Gardel tonight) which tried to keep alive the interest of the public in a singer who has been abroad since the previous year. On June 24, 1935, the news of the accident in Medellín brought by Francisco Canaro and José Razzano surprised Nelson at the café Los 36 Billares. Soon later, on Radio Callao, opened in January that year, the speaker Carlos Enrique Cecchetti began to broadcast a program totally devoted to El Morocho, which in 1936 Julio Jorge began to emcee, and labeled it El bronce que sonríe. That program switched in 1944 to Radio Mitre. Each daily broadcast began with this phrase: «Through time and distance his name lasts as the most authentic symbol of out minor art. Carlos Gardel, the bronze that smiles». Nelson did not forget the necrophilic touch pertaining to the creation of any myth, and after the remains of El Mudo were brought back to the country from Colombia on February 5, 1936, he aired a program from his tomb in Chacarita.

Another daily broadcast that received a great popular acclaim was El éxito de cada orquesta (The hit of every orchestra) that he created on Radio Callao (he also conducted La Pandilla Corazón on that radio station) to later switch to Mitre and finally to Rivadavia. Knowing the value of the ritual formulas, Nelson ended each program with the same farewell: «Hasta mañana, si Dios así lo permite» (Until tomorrow, if God so allows us). He was not religious at all, but that attitude of bowing before the will of the Supreme deity had an air of humility and devotion. Both programs stubbornly remained in the air, much later than the time when radio stations began to short their spaces for tango.

In 1936 he married Margarita Ibarrola Isaurralde, when she was 17, but they separated in 1945, leaving their 7-year-old son, Julio Carlos, Cachito, with his paternal grandparents. The child got hold of his grandparent and never wanted to part with him. Margarita went to Brazil, where she was married to a German and with him she gave birth to two children: Susana Carolina and Guillermo Federico Müller, but she broke up again. With the passing of time all contact with her was lost. In 1951 Julio married Susana Carballo, a tango singer also known as Susana Ocampo. That marriage did not last more than one year and a half. They separated then, but they made no formal divorce. After Julio's death, Susana appeared claiming her rights as heir.

Julio used to visit his parents daily. His son lived with them. His son went to the same school he had attended: the Francisco de Victoria, on 240 Julián Álvarez St. When Cacho grew up he used to see him on Radio Mitre, on 1925 Arenales St., and he even lived some time with him. But one day, when he was 14, he ran away from the grandparents' house, leaving a letter in which he explained to them he was going south. In fact he left to Guayaquil with two Ecuadorian friends. In Bolivia the police stopped them but they managed to continue their trip with a collective passport. When they arrived at their destination, Cacho found a job at the Club Barcelona. Time later, he heard that Racing, the soccer team of Avellaneda that Julio was fan of, was coming. He began to haunt the Hotel Plaza, where the soccer players where accommodated, until he managed to enter the hall. At that time, the forward Tucho Méndez, friend of Julio's and aware of the disappearance of his son, was greatly surprised to recognize him. He immediately phoned to Buenos Aires, and soon later, by means of a link with a radio station in Guayaquil, Julio -who had never before showed affection for his son-; asked him to come back. And Cacho returned.

In 1972, four years before his death, after he had had two heart attacks Julio went to live with him, the latter was already married and with two children. One morning the door bell rang. When Cacho opened the door he found before him a brunette with black eyes who simply told him: «I'm Susana. I am your sister». Julio died on March 6, 1976. A few weeks before he had left his son's home in Martínez to settle at the Hotel Wilton, near the place where then the radio station was located. On March 2 he had a new heart attack but this time he was unable to recover. He was taken to the Anchorena hospital. His last adventure was to flee from his room to Julián Centeya's when he knew that he was also at the hospital.

Although as lyricist he signed several tangos which were somewhat spread, his big hit was "Margarita Gauthier", with music by the talented Joaquín Mauricio Mora. The piece, which evokes the character of the Lady of the Camellias, appeals because of its morbid romanticism, but what we can best say about those lines is that they do not spoil the joy of the refined melody. This tango was recorded by Alberto Gómez in 1935, but really became a hit after Miguel Caló's rendition with Raúl Berón in 1942, to that Aníbal Troilo's with Fiorentino followed in 1943. Among the different later renderings we highlight the one by Osmar Maderna with Pedro Dátila in 1947, and, after Maderna's death, the instrumental rendition by the Orquesta Símbolo, led by Aquiles Roggero, and the ones by Astor Piazzolla: with Roberto Yanés in 1964 and as a bandoneon solo in 1971.

Nelson —demoniac protagonist in Megafón, o la Guerra, the posthumous novel of Leopoldo Marechal— was as well author of the tangos “Carriego”, “Óyeme, mamá”, “Qué será de ti”, “No debemos retornar”, “Nocturno de tango”, “La casa vacía”, “Escuchando tu voz”, “Al volverte a ver”, “Junto al piano”, “Cuento azul” and “Derrotao”, among others. He did not establish a special association with any composer, and signed his tangos with so different musicians like the above mentioned Mora, Armando Baliotti, Roberto Nievas Blanco, José García, Miguel Nijensohn and Marcos Larrosa, among others. He had two appearances in the movies, on the films Historia de un ídolo (Story of an idol) and Soy del tiempo de Gardel (I'm of Gardel's time), that time he, as nobody else, contributed to prolong.

Extracted of the book Tango Judío, del ghetto a la milonga, Editorial Sudamericana, 1998.