Musician, violinist and leader
(2 January 1902 - 2 November 1968)
he eldest in a family of three musician brothers, Cayetano Puglisi was born in Messina, a region of Sicily (Italy) on January 2, 1902.
Emilio, a violinist like him, of an uneasy spirit, after enjoying the sweet smell of success in the Buenos Aires orchestras, played in international orchestras, even in the far distant Teheran (capital of Iran). José, instead, from the humblest place in the teatro "Colón" orchestra of Buenos Aires, carried out his career devoted to violoncello, totally apart from tango life.
Cayetano Puglisi arrived in Buenos Aires in 1909. A violin student, he was alumnus of the maestro Pessina, seeming to become a great player of so difficult instrument. In his beginnings, inclined to classical music, after playing a concert at the Teatro Nuevo, the La Prensa journal granted him a scholarship to polish his studies in Europe, a voyage he was unable to make because the World War burst out in 1914.
By those difficult times, the riverside cafés at the neighborhood of La Boca witnessed his early gigs, although his formal memories as for the name of partners lead us to the famous Iglesias barroom on Corrientes Street, lining up a trio with Carlos Marcucci (bandoneon) and Pedro Almirón (piano), the latter replaced by Robledo, none of them was older than 13. It was a trio of "kids"...
A transcendental event for the career of the great violinist took place. At the Iglesias barroom Roberto Firpo heard him and included him in his outfit as second violin, when Ernesto "Tito" Rocatagliatta quit, and Agesilao Ferrazzano became first violin. It was around 1916. His debut was at the Royal Pigall. Roberto Firpo, almost like a father, patiently taught him the basic knowledge of violin in tango.
He traveled for the first time to Montevideo in 1917, as a Firpo musician, playing at the café La Giralda. At those carnival seasons he traveled to Rosario as member of the Firpo-Canaro orchestra appearing at the Teatro Colón, even though on the advertisements "Tito" Rocatagliatta´s photograph is seen, he was not member of any of both groups any more.
After coming back to Buenos Aires, "La cumparsita" was recorded featuring Puglisi and, a few months later, he also appeared at the recording of the song "Mi moro" played as a tango, where the Gardel-Razzano duo is featured for Mauricio Goddard´s pleasure and the well-known clarinetist Juan Carlos Bazán is highlighted as well.
The Roberto Firpo orchestra, the most famous of that period, played at the opening night of the one-act farce "Los dientes del perro" when "Mi noche triste" was premiered in the interpretation of the actress Manolita Poli.
In 1918 Pedro Maffia joined Firpo, this highly important collaboration happened during a tour in Punta Alta (Puerto Belgrano) for shows where the Gardel-Razzano duo and their guitarist José Ricardo appeared as well. Almost together with Maffia the violinist Octavio Scaglione joined them, while Ferrazzano split instead. Since then, Cayetano Puglisi was first violin and the orchestra added a third violin: Adolfo Muzzi.
Inspired by Cayetano Puglisi´s notable capabilities, Firpo composed and dedicated one of his best tangos to him, under the suggestive title of "El talento".
By that time his violin sound was already marvelous. The heavy work, that by then the Firpo orchestra had, was an obstacle for him and a limit to his creations as composer, even though he wished to go on studying. Nonetheless, in 1922 he had composed three tangos: "Mi lobito", the first one, later "Carpentier", written as an answer to "Dempsey", by his fellow partner in the Juan Bautista Guido orchestra, at the time of the confrontation of those great boxing fighters. The third was "Tambour cerrao", written on request of a Firpo´s brother who was pelotari.
When Roberto Firpo made a stop in his musical activities, Puglisi led the group for some years, definitively splitting with that group that made him famous in the carnival eve of 1928.
Under Firpo´s permission, Puglisi reinforced the Francisco Canaro orchestra in the recordings for the Nacional-Odeon label and, officially in public performances, between 1930 and 1933.
When Pedro Maffia split with the orchestra of De Caro in 1926, he soon put together his own line-up. Pedro Maffia and Alfredo De Franco (bandoneons); Cayetano Puglisi and Osvaldo Scaglione (violins); Luis Cosenza (piano) and Francisco De Lorenzo (double bass). Later Osvaldo Pugliese and Elvino Vardaro would replace Cosenza and Scaglione.
We arrive at a very important chapter in the artistic career of this great musician. We place it in 1928, a period when the sextets blossomed. This splendid outfit he put together is always remembered with admiration and nostalgia by the lovers of good tango.
He used to play at the cinema Paramount theater. His members were: Armando Federico (piano); Cayetano Puglisi and Mauricio Miseresky (Mauricio Misé) (violins); Federico Scorticati and Pascual Storti (bandoneons) and José Puglisi (double bass). During this cycle, Storti was replaced later by Domingo Triguero. The orchestra always evidenced a trademark of quality, with a special sort of slow beat full of tango colors, and a very hard to match richness of nuances. The crisis brought by the lack of work made this group disband.
After the second season of the musical comedy "La muchachada del centro" in the late 1933, when Puglisi definitively withdrew from the Francisco Canaro orchestra, he put together again an orchestra that played at shows on LR9 Radio Fénix of Buenos Aires with the following line-up: Orlando Goñi (piano); Cayetano Puglisi, Mauricio Misé and Juan Bianchi (violins), the latter, an Uruguayan who wrote the arrangements; Alfredo Calabró and Juan Miguel "Toto" Rodríguez (bandoneons); Pedro de Véscovi (double bass); and the singer was Antonio Rodríguez Lesende.
In 1936 they split and Cayetano Puglisi joined the Juan Carlos Cobián orchestra, playing at the cabaret "Charleston".
In 1937, on the brand-new Radio El Mundo, led by Pablo Osvaldo Valle, a small group called "Trío Nº 1", lined up by Juan Carlos Cobián, Ciriaco Ortiz and Cayetano Puglisi was put together. Rodríguez Lesende was on vocals. The substitute pianist was Carlos Di Sarli.
By that time there was a healthy and stubborn rivalry in the Argentine radio business and tango was, in the interest of the big broadcastings, at a privileged place.
LR1 Radio El Mundo called Puglisi to coordinate the accompaniments of the great interpreters of the period appearing on that broadcasting. With the pianist Joaquín Mauricio Mora and the bandoneon player Ciriaco Ortiz, he provided a prestigious framework for many artists, recording for the labels Odeon and Victor with, among others, Hugo del Carril.
In 1938, also on Radio El Mundo, Cayetano Puglisi joined a big orchestra led by the maestro Julio De Caro.
In 1940 the orchestra of Juan D'Arienzo disbanded in Montevideo. All his musicians reunited under the leadership of Juan Polito, immediately hired by LR2 Radio Argentina. Anxiously, D'Arienzo looked for members to put together a new orchestra, tempting Cayetano Puglisi with an offer. He agreed to it, and with the pianist Fulvio Salamanca, Héctor Varela and the singer Alberto Reynal, before the mid 1940, D'Arienzo returned to Radio El Mundo amid great expectations, managing to keep his style.
So the last stage of a life filled with dignity in the service of tango began.
In a style far removed from his finesse and taste, his brilliant capacities remained unchanged all the same. D'Arienzo assigned for him a short passage on the fourth string as soloist, that he seriously performed with the unmistakably sound that always was his trademark. Anyhow, for a interpreter of his capabilities, it was -in a way- sad to listen to his brief appearances, when far too much could be expected from his wonderful violin.
He was mad about three aspects he could not carry out, as artist and tango man among the best, always busy with his demanding labor, continuously requested because of his extraordinary capability: the impossibility to keep a permanent own orchestra; he regretted for not having composed more music and, finally, he complained for not having kept on studying.
Out of his brief work as composer we can stand out "Tristeza de barrio", that later was called "Sueño florido", "Tus noches de amor", "Si el corazón supiera", "Realidad" and "Mi viejo Montevideo". (Other works of his were: "Milonguero", "Alma criolla", "Diez años", etc.)
His demise took place in Buenos Aires on November 2, 1968. With him a great part of tango was gone.
Originally published in the book "Ochenta notas de Tango. Perfiles Biográficos", Ediciones de La Plaza, Montevideo 1998. Under the auspices of the Academia de Tango del Uruguay.