Morán - With Morán at his home, April 1992
n Cádiz Street, a few yards from Francisco Beiró Avenue, close to a little neighborhood house, a door and, behind it, a narrow staircase that turns to the left. I only hear the voice of a woman that insists that I go up. She’s Alberto Morán’s wife. They have been thirty years together. Her name is Marga Fontana, a singer. After the usual greetings and some other question, seated round a table, I began to make questions to the mythical singer. His answers are transcribed below:
«I was born in Italy in 1922 and at age four I already was in Buenos Aires with my parents, Ernesto Recagno and Catalina Gamalero. He was one of the many ones that wanted to fare l’America, as then they used to say. In fact, an attempt to improve their simple, humble life in those post-war times. My old man was a brick layer and an uncle of his lived here. The latter was very rich and gave him some work but he exploited my father, mistreated him. Since then I hate wealthy people.
«We went to live to Senillosa and Zelarrayán, near the San Lorenzo stadium. With a great effort he sent me to study. I attended grade school in two different schools, one on 3700 Monte Street. Now a club is built there, the América del Sur. Later came secondary school in a commerce school on Pichincha and Belgrano. I spent my childhood playing soccer at the Parque Avellaneda. My Dad got up early to look for a job, something permanent, and he carried a little package with a breaded veal cutlet sandwich. He returned at sundown, crestfallen. When Peronism was in power we went to live to Valentín Alsina. The time of carrying a sandwich was over, he got a job at the Campomar factory. My childhood was hard, difficult like the ones of the kids in some areas of the country today.
«Besides soccer, we used to sing with a boy named Marano that carried a guitar and he managed to fairly play it. Another one brought a songbook, El Canta Claro, and I sang whatever they asked. By that time everything was tango. When I was alone I used to climb a fig tree and up there I studied a little and sang. On the radio I listened to Carlos Gardel, Agustín Magaldi, Oscar Alonso, but my idol was Francisco Fiorentino because of his warm way of expression.
«I began to sing at birthday parties and celebrations. One day I was invited by a club. I picked up a stage name: Alberto Román. It was in Avellaneda and the announcer, a well-known guy of the radio, Francisco Duca, made a mistake and said Alberto Morán. I liked it and kept it that way.
«I started in 1941 by singing in a neighborhood orchestra led by Alberto Las Heras at the Palermo Palace which was a well-known dancehall. Thereafter I won a contest. The prize was a contract for a month at the Bonpland salon that was nearby and got some bucks. I had a one-year tenure with Las Heras. Then the man in charge of the Café El Nacional called us for a replacement. After the performance the man suggested me joining the group led by Cristóbal Herreros that that day failed to appear. So I began to work daily and with a wage. I was doing fine, I sang anything, whatever, I was not polished but my name started to spread and, one evening, they told me, several members of the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra had come to see me: Enrique Camerano, Osvaldo Ruggiero, Jorge Caldara. It was crazy! They came after the maestro’s request. They liked me and they invited me to be their partner.
«Firstly I asked Herreros’ opinion who said: «I knew they were going to kidnap you!» or something of the sort. Pugliese had a clear idea about the singer he needed to be the foil for Roberto Chanel who had an even, tough style. He asked me to sing in a mezza voce which had nothing to do with what I was doing but when I tried, I don’t know why, it turned out something similar to what later was my style.
«My debut took place at the Club Maratón in El Once. Only when I was a professional I studied for a time with maestro Otto Berger who taught me some little tricks that later helped me. No music reading but I’ve had a good ear, a good intonation. What people liked was my interpretation, impersonating each story, I suffered, trembled, sweated. I sang better on the stage than on records.
«Look, in my years with Pugliese, although many ones do not believe it, I suffered a lot. I had pleasure with the audiences, yes, but later... in the tango milieu there was always envy. The only orchestra leader that enjoyed with the singer’s success was Aníbal Troilo. It’s something I’m certain of. The others wanted their singer to score a goal but when he got it… it hurt them very much!, including Pugliese. There was never a word of encouragement, all that was very sad. Your own partners used to let you down. Musicians never accepted the success of a singer. I managed to soften my leader with love and loyalty, but when I was quitting I told him: «This is an apple, maestro, which is full of worms».
«About that he was in jail, at least in my time, was made up. I never came to know it, later I don’t know. When he didn’t appear they used to say he was detained but with Caldara on piano we solved the situation. Beware, he was not in jail, maybe he was in a park talking with a girl». (Soon after this statement his daughter Beba confirmed it in an interview for the Tango XXI magazine)
«When he was absent a red rose was placed on the piano. Also that thing about the cooperative. In it I reached one point above Pugliese, but that was like distributing misery. Now, he is rich and we —even his gossipmongers— ended up without money. Even though I admit that several columns of the Palermo racetrack were paid with my money. He was also a tormentor, when I was not all right with my vocal cords he made me sing, for example, “El abrojito”, which is too much demanding, and he played the piano louder. But one day I told him: «When I’m not well don’t do that to me again», he said nothing.
«After my tenure with Pugliese I began on my own, my orchestra was led by Armando Cupo. The media did not pay attention to us but the public was great, the halls were always full. For the carnival balls we appeared in Huracán, Independiente, at the Provincial in Rosario which usually did not hire tango men. The fans of Troilo and Carlos Di Sarli came to see us. Once the latter’s singers, Jorge Durán and El Gordo (Fats) Podestá came to watch what was happening. Morán with Cupo was OK. We were never interviewed. Personally, that was my best period. I was nicely backed, the orchestra was in the singer’s service. Cupo was a good guy, we kept a very good relationship. Later tango declined completely, after 1960 it wasn’t the same thing anymore.
«Aside from tango, I married at age 32, the relationship lasted a little time but we had two children: Roxana —who tried singing tango but was intelligent and quit— and Guillermo Alberto, today a bank clerk who gave me a grandson. Save for singing, I was unable to do any other thing. I run a beauty parlor for women in Nueva Pompeya. I named it Pasional. Later, a cheap restaurant named El Abrojito. I hired Gatica (the boxing fighter) as an attraction at the door. I wrote some lyrics, for example, with music by Camerano: “No quiero perderte”; with Mario Soto, “Mientras quede un solo fueye” and with Reinaldo Yiso, “Un tormento”.
«At a time I used to stay out late at a barroom with friends and, when the customers had left, one of our friends played guitar and the others sang. One day at sunrise a man completely drunk appeared, approached me and said: «Morán, I’ve got a tango and I want you to sing it». «He’s a bore, make him hit the road...» —said one—, «No, leave him alone, I wanna see what he’s got». He was scarcely able to hum it: «I spend my life drinkin’...» I was enthusiastic about it and introduced it to Pugliese by whistling its music. The number was named “Frente a una copa”. He didn’t like to play encores but each time I sang it in our gigs he had to consent to do so. The drunkard was Elías Wainer.
«Look, at this time of my life I can tell you that envy and evil are everywhere, we ought to be scared. The one you least imagine brings something hidden. I don’t want interviews anymore. What for? I’m a common guy. A man that felt and still feels tango in his own way. Our environment never was sincere and that hurts me. The day I die I would like that no journal or magazine would say anything about me. Not even a line. Like any guy that enjoyed life and suffered and passed through life. That’s what I want. Ah! And that was someone who never did wrong to anyone».