Alberto Rasore

icardo was the first guitarist of Carlos Gardel and also, a musician of a long and outstanding career.

He was raised in the neighborhood of Balvanera where he attended grammar school and began to work as a mechanic. But he soon quit it to fully devote to his vocation as guitarist.

With a great intuition, he never had the need to study to learn to play guitar, he had an excellent ear for music and so he completely mastered the instrument. He started to play at familiar reunions and time later, he dared to play at cafés, cheap locals, dancehalls, guitarists’ circles and accompanying payadores (itinerant singers), and tonadilleras and cupletistas (female singers with a Spanish repertoire).

Around 1913 he had achieved a certain popularity, and was announced before his performances as a renowned concert guitarist. Even Osvaldo Fresedo remembered his appearances at the dancehall of Thames Street, near the corner with Corrientes, when he had put together a trio with him and his brother Emilio on violin.

On November 12, 1915 at the Teatro San Martín the Compañía Tradicionalista Argentina made its debut under the direction of José González Castillo and Elías Alippi. They presented the plays Juan Moreira, Santos Vega and Martín Fierro, with a great cast: José Petray (Pepe), Blanca Podestá, Juan Sarcione –author of the tango “Largue esa Mujica”-, Carlos Morganti, Amaro Giura -author of “Fosforerita”-, Francisco Martino –former partner of Gardel-, the brothers Alfredo and Julio Navarrine, the payador and singer D’Angelo and, obviously, the Gardel-Razzano duo. The orchestra charts were scored by Arturo de Bassi. Twenty guitarists played, with Ricardo as lead guitar and Horacio Pettorossi, as second guitar.

The duo had the chance to ponder the capabilities of the guitarist and so they included him to back them permanently after the theater season was over. Time before they had had a similar experience when they sang backed by Emilio Bó’s guitar. It took place in 1915 when at the Teatro Apolo the company headed by Angelina Pagano and Salvador Rosich staged the play Las Curas Milagrosas written by Diego Ortiz. Then Gardel-Razzano sang in the intermission shows.

The singers paid attention to Ricardo’s experience, taking into account his record in previous accompaniments, his knowledge of the genre and the introductions, embellishments, melodic lines and closings, adequate for the launching of the singer.

They began to record in the Odeon company on April 9, 1917. The first piece was the song “Cantar Eterno”.

Ricardo would be the only guitarist of the duo up to the second semester of 1921, when Guillermo Barbieri was added. In September 1925 José Razzano left due to a problem in his vocal cords and Gardel began his definitive stage as soloist singer. In November he began a tour of Spain on which he was accompanied only by José Ricardo while Barbieri stayed in Argentina. On his comeback in March 1926, he continued with both guitarists, but in July 1928 they became three when José María Aguilar was added.

In Buenos Aires Ricardo accompanied the duo in 33 recordings, Gardel in 32 more and Razzano in only 6 numbers. In Barcelona, with Gardel he cut 21 recordings more. When Barbieri was added they recorded in Buenos Aires 357 numbers, 45 more with the duo, and other 30 songs with El Morocho, in Barcelona. The Ricardo-Barbieri-Aguilar trio committed to record only 12 pieces in Buenos Aires and 51 songs more in Paris. These figures were obtained taking into account the discography published by Miguel Ángel Morena.

During his tenure with Gardel, Ricardo composed the greatest portion of his oeuvre. He composed the tangos “Margot” with lyric by Celedonio Flores and “Resignate hermano” in collaboration with Guillermo Barbieri and lyric by José Rial; the milonga “Un bailongo” on stanzas by Andrés Cepeda; the estilo "Pobre gallo bataraz" with Gardel and lyric by Adolfo Herschel, -who as well wrote the lyric for his cueca "Mi caballo y mi mujer"-; the song "Campanita"; the gato "Con los ojos del alma"; the fado "Mi bien querido" and the triste "Triste entrerriano", with lyrics by Domingo Lombardi. All these pieces were recorded by Gardel.

Also are his the song "Pregúntaselo a ella", with lyric by José Alonso y Trelles (El Viejo Pancho), recorded by José Razzano; the tango "Campanas del recuerdo" composed in Paris and premiered by Gardel, but the singer did not wax it. Other numbers of his are the tangos "Mejor no recordar", "Siga la farra", "Bailá negrita", "Vecinita", and "Perdónala", the latter with lines by José Rial; the waltzes "Azul del éter", "Nació mi amor" and "Lloro por ti"; the estilos "Mi palomar" and "La siesta"; the folk song "Dicen que son cosas mías"; the ranchera "Cosas criollas"; the tonadas "Si yo la quise" and "Ya viene la primavera".

José Ricardo knew how to be showcased before the public, besides accompanying the duo, according to what was said in publications of the time. On November 3, 1920 at the Teatro Empire an exhibition was held to raise funds for the secretary of the theater Angel Mantero and it was announced: «Guitar Concert by José Ricardo, songs by the Gardel-Razzano duo, Andalusian songs and dances by La Argentina».

While Gardel was rising in popularity, Ricardo was constantly praised by his performances. La Voz del Interior published, on May 20, 1919 the following ad: «Have you never heard Gardel-Razzano? Don't miss the chance, they will sing here at the Palace Theatre, accompanied by the notable guitarist José Ricardo». On May 25, in that year it was announced: «Exhibitions as homage to our patriotic celebration day presenting the renowned Gardel-Razzano duo, always with the notable guitarist José Ricardo as accompanist». In the La Razón paper of November 22, 1920 we read: «With the duo of singers and reinforcing the instrumental, José Ricardo plays nice things on the strings of his guitar».

In 1928 when Gardel appeared at the Florida dancing of Paris, his guitarists Ricardo, Barbieri and Aguilar were featured playing some instrumentals. On October 11 they cut for the Odeon label: "Resignate hermano", "A orillas del Sena", "9 de Julio" and "Re fa si", and on October 27, "Trenzas negras" and "Tierra hermana". Previously, on September 9 they had recorded in Buenos Aires: "Quejas del alma" and "La cumparsita"; the foxtrot "Manos brujas" and the zamba "Las madreselvas". In fact to be ready for these recordings the guitar players had to rehearse and appeared several times in public as soloists.

After 13 consecutive years, on May 26, 1929 José Ricardo split with Gardel after having appeared at the Teatro Avenida of Madrid. The reasons were misunderstandings with Aguilar, El Negro did not like the embellishments and the exaggerations of the Uruguayan guitarist because they were not on a second level as Gardel asked for his bass lines.

On his return to Buenos Aires, with his fame achieved alongside Gardel, he continued his career accompanying diferent singers, whether alone or in a duo with his younger brother Rafael, who till then had been playing jazz.

People think that Amanda Ledesma was the first singer he backed around 1929. He also accompanied the female singer Anita Palmero in 1930. That same year, with his brother and the guitarist Oscar Alonso, he backed the Néstor Feria and Teófilo Ibáñez duo and the singer Juan Carlos Marambio Catán.

Around 1932 he continued his career in Spain. He recorded some instrumentals with his brother Rafael and went on accompanying several singers under the name: Los Hermanos Ricardo. In the catalogues of His Master's Voice, of 1932 and 1933 were annotated the performances of the Hermanos Ricardo accompanying several artists. The then female singer and vedette Lucy Clory, who had premiered in 1924 in Montevideo the tango "A media luz" in a musical titled "Su majestad la revista"; they accompanied her in the recording of the tango "Campanas del recuerdo". Maruja Gil Quesada, in "Yira yira", "Llantos lejanos", "Mate amargo" and "Vos que sos bonita". Rafael Jaimez, in "La pulpera de Santa Lucía", "Vecinita", "Madre hay una sola", "Sueño de juventud", "Dicen que son cosas mías" and the song written by Mario Pardo "El triunfo". Tani Zerja in "Tango mío", "Mejor no recordar", "Margaritas", "Taconeando", "Malevaje", "Hacelo por la vieja", "Te odio" and the waltz "Rosa de otoño".

From Spain they went to France and continued on tour of Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgary, Egypt, Swiss and returned to Paris in 1935. There, the guitarist appeared at La Cabaña Cubana as main event and there several Argentines used to turn up: the pianist Juan Cruz Mateo, Enrique Discépolo, Tania and her friend, the well-remembered guitarist Oscar Alemán with hom he played in Buenos Aires a decade before. He as well accompanied the female singer and Spanish vedette Julia Reyes, who included in her repertory numbers like "Campanas del recuerdo", "Yira yira", "Guitarra mía", "Margaritas", "Tomo y obligo" and "El carretero".

In 1937 he got ill and embarked to Burdeos to return to Buenos Aires, but he died on board of the steamship Massilia. The magazine Antena of June 1937 said that his remains came ashore on June 14 and were delivered to his children who were waiting at the port.

This brief portrayal evokes a man loved in the show business milieu, neat, who used to dress with elegance, and who always kept his place as Gardel's accompanist.