Herreros - Cristóbal Herreros's memories
e was born in Barcelona, Spain on September 14, 1909 and died in the province of Buenos Aires on December 18, 2002.
At age five Cristóbal Herreros was already based in Argentina, firstly in the city of Baradero, later in Campana where he began his musical, theoretical and practical studies, because he started to delve into bandoneón playing.
Just a teenager he joined an orchestra lined up by musicians of German origin in whose repertoire two tangos were included: “Derecho viejo” and “Nueve de Julio”. Later he arrived in Buenos Aires with the Juan Elhert's outfit, along with Héctor Stamponi, Enrique Francini and Armando Pontier. They made their debut at the then successful Matinées de Juan Manuel on Radio Prieto.
Subsequently he joined the Roberto Firpo's orchestra along with the bandoneonists Juan Carlos Caviello, Juan Cambareri, Ángel Genta and the violinists Orlando Perri, Roberto Rotta, Isidro López and A. Gerino. He also put together a group with Caviello, the violinist Natalio Finkelstein and the pianist Héctor Lacarrúa; the singer was Ignacio Díaz. Finally his sextet was born with Mario Caldara, Armando Scottieri, Roberto Pérez Prechi, Roberto Pansera, Héctor Lacarrúa and the vocalist Alberto Morán.
This interview was carried out in 1990 in the musician's definitive home, in the city of General Las Heras, province of Buenos Aires. From it we conclude that the fundamental landmark of his artistic career was to have had Alberto Morán as his vocalist, because it was in vain to take him out of the memories on the singer to drive him to other episodes of his life, he always returned to Morán. As the chat continued between going forward and in reverse because of some breaks in the continuity of his words —although the precision of the remembered facts was not altered— I stopped insisting. His story arose then spontaneous and so is transcribed below.
«I made the debut with my sextet at the café El Nacional in 1940 and then the one that stepped on that banstand was consecrated for a lifetime. Imagine that all the radios and all the television channels presented it. I alternated with Alejandro Scarpino's orchestra. There Osmar Maderna made his debut. The music never stopped, from twelve at noon until two in the morning. The owners were definitely tango fans, and if the cashbox worked well, you'd have a tenure as long as you wished at that café. Otherwise, the singer or the orchestra wouldn't last two days. I had the satisfaction of being there around fifteen years, I was followed by a lot of people and it was a craze when I had Alberto Morán as vocalist. He was an outstanding figure, people adored him and he was consecrated there with me. The tangos that he later recorded with Pugliese like “San José de Flores” or “El abrojito” he had already performed them with me at the café. In the repertoire he also sang two numbers of mine: “Tango soy” which bears lyrics by Horacio Sanguinetti, and “Ramayón”, with the lyrics that Manzi gave me as a gift. Morán was fast to understand things, he was a very studious boy and he had an enormous repertoire».
«I was with Roberto Firpo when I went to live in the area of Parque Chacabuco —Somellera and Centenera—, he lived nearby and I don't remember who brought him to me. I auditioned him, I realized he was a promise and without a doubt I took him to the café. Many singers like to say that they stopped the traffic on Corrientes avenue, it may have happened, I didn't see it, but with Morán it happened several times. Once the police wanted to detain me. «But why do you want to take me?» «Go out and see what happens», the officer answered me. I was not to be blamed. He meant a terrible attraction. I heard people say that he was with me six months but it is not true. At least it was three years or a little more. And I am so sure because we made three carnival balls. Two consecutive years in Villa Soldati and another in Villa Urquiza. In Soldati they gave us parchments as a reverie, I still keep them».
«It was a time with a lot of work, so much so that I had two agents, one was Roberto Giménez and the other one Caldarita's father who worked in Obras Sanitarias. My success then was due to Morán and Pugliese himself owes him a lot, because until that time he was not so popular. I don't deny that the orchestra was OK, but part of its repercussion is owed to Morán, the thin guy was an «eminence» and Pugliese was the springboard for Morán, because he needed a singer that backed Roberto Chanel and so they took Morán out of me. In other words, to be frank, they stole him from me.»
«It happened this way: Pugliese had come with his agent Arturo Gallucci, the author of so many tangos, who came closer and told me: «Hey, beware that Osvaldo is here and he may like to have your singer». «OK» —I answered him— «if he wants to leave he may leave». Then they called him to the table where also Riverito, the speaker of the lottery, was and he won't allow me to lie: «We will take you with us, with the Pugliese's orchestra, we have our debut on radio». Then the thin man answered: «No, if maestro Herreros says that I may go, I go, but if he doesn't want me to move, I won't. It depends on him». Morán was very honest with me. The repertory we had included “Maleza”, “Por qué”, “Mentira”, “Hoy al recordarla”, “Por qué no has venido”, “Yuyo verde”, which he premiered in my outfit...»
«We have lived a lot in the tango milieu and we are a hundred per cent tango men, if you don't know tango in your cradle then tango is like gunpowder and we were under the flashes. In the cabarets terrible rows were started, soda siphons were launched and exploded against the wall, the tables seemed flying saucers. We had who defended us, the boxer Ubaldo Sacco, the father, the one who fought with Lausse. The singer Rodolfo Díaz was also a boxer. He joined me later. How they hit! Sacco defended us a lot. Everyday there was fight and many were knocked out, later an ambulance took them to hospital. We helped them to take them out and then we accompanied the women to their houses».
«Poor girls!, how many sacrifices the women of the cabaret made. They were good, I always defended them. Those women loved us because we defended them and we respected them. That brave cabaret was the Moulin Rouge and was located at the beginning of Corrientes avenue, on the slope, when going up at the left, in front was the Ocean. Its owner was Eduardo Calvo, the author of the tango “Arrabalero” which has music by Fresedo. There are several with that title. The women in gratefulness suddenly appeared with some gift for my children, some clothes, little shoes, we were all very close buddies, we all worked hard, the waiters, the other musicians... The one that liked hoaxing was not wanted by the owners, like Payo Solá said: “The one that plays never dances”».
«With Morán I didn't appear on radio, nor I recorded. Later yes, I was on Radio Mitre. Instead of recording tangos with Morán they made me record folk music for the Odeon label. It was work and I wouldn't reject it. Once on El Mundo radio station a program named Tango against folk music was aired. Juan Sánchez Gorio represented tango and he was in front of me and I was meant to be a folk musician. I looked at myself and with a laughter I said to myself. «Che Cristóbal, what's happening?»
«As musicians I had Pérez Prechi, also Roberto Pansera who started with me when he was a minor, his father had to authorize him to appear at the cabaret and at the café. Also was José Libertella who was a little bit older. They were all very good musicians, there were no head arrangements or ad lib playing, everything was written. The one that was used to play by ear had no chance. It was necessary to play what was written, like professionals ought to do, there was no place for players by ear or cheaters. But, it is necessary to recognize that there were musicians with great virtuosity, as the old Firpo who was a person that in fact didn't know a lot of music . And there was a famous player by ear, worthy of respect: Anselmo Aieta. He had a special ear. I remember that when they brought a new piece to the coffee he made it be played slowly on the piano. Soon later he began to keep the beat with his foot and then he was playing it. He played anything by ear, but what an ear! I don't think that in our country has existed another bandoneonist with that capability. And also a great composer, an excellent melodist, like my friend José Dames was as well. Another great of the bandoneón is Gabriel Clausi, he alone is like an orchestra and also Piazzolla whom I have always defended because he is a great musician. Also Pansera who is a monster when playing, and Libertella and Máximo Mori».
«As for “Ramayón”, the piece that Manzi wrote in 1940 and to which I wrote the music. It's the story of a tough guy who died —as Homero told me— at the door of a dancehall. The guy was about to enter and somebody shot him dead. For that reason the lyrics say: «The rose of death is painted on your neckerchief and the tango of fate foresees your end». My sextet accompanied Nelly Omar and, in a tour of Córdoba, the presentations were in charge of Manzi. When we finished, Nelly told Homero: «This boy works a lot and you have to help him with something». And Manzi answered her: «Look, the only way that I can help him is by giving him a lyric». He put his hand into the pocket of his coat and told me: «Hey, because Nelly asked it to me I will give you the best lyric that I have written until today».
«I'm many years old, but I think I still have many years before I die. Here in Las Heras I'm very well and I am the author of the city anthem. A gentleman named Robles, whose name now was given to the municipal library, gave me the lyric and with it I composed a musical piece of quality.»
«This interview turned out good to me, I had to do my best, my brain still works well».