Ernesto Ponzio

Real name: Ponzio, Ernesto
Nicknames: El Pibe Ernesto
Violinist and composer
(10 July 1885 - 21 October 1934)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Juan Silbido

porteño, born in that neighborhood called Tierra del Fuego (located between the demolished Penitentiary and La Recoleta). His father, Antonio Ponzio, like a good Neapolitan, was a musician. Playing harp he died of an aneurysm. All of a sudden he fell down on the stage during a recital. His wife was Uruguayan and her name was Casilda Casafú de Ponzio.

Because of his father’s death, Ernesto had to interrupt his violin studies at the Williams conservatory. His household, in need of resources, anticipated the beginning of his performances. Inns and bars were his first venues. After his playing he, resolute and joyously, paraded with a small saucer in his hand to collect the money that would help his poor family’s income.

We found out that the well-known tango “Don Juan (El taita del barrio)” was, apparently, written in 1898. We also know that its 2nd edition bears a lyric written by Ricardo J. Podestá. According to different authors it was premiered at the dancehall run by Concepción Amaya, Mamita, Lavalle 2177, around 1900. It was enthusiastically aired either at the J. Hansen’s restaurant (Sarmiento Ave.) or at the Casares kiosk.

Ernesto Ponzio was friendly acquainted with the young Savinos. On one occasion that he visited their domicile he saw a girl that was sweetly sleeping. He was so impressed that he told the girl’s mother: «Madam!... will you keep her for me?...» He kept his word, he went to pick her up on June 9, 1906, the day he married the sleeping beauty: Miss Adela Savino.

He worked as violinist at quite different kind of venues: La Batería located in Retiro; the above mentioned dancehall Mamita; El Tambito located among the Palermo parks. He was accompanied by Eusebio Aspiazú (guitar), a blind colored man, quite skillful with his instrument who was a close friend of Ponzio’s. The trio was completed by Tano Vicente Pecci (flute).

It is worthwhile mentioning what originated the title of the tango “Ataniche”. This piece was one of the first heard at El Tambito. Every evening a beautiful female customer, elegantly dressed, used to arrive in a carriage decorated with little silver bells that jingled at each movement. Her presence stirred up a general admiration and that inspired Pibe Ernesto, who with a fertile musical creativity, produced the magnificent “Ataniche”.

The today Carlos Calvo Street was known then as Europa Street up to the number 1908. When you are near to reach the corner with Jujuy Avenue you can see the façade of the dancehall ran by María La Vasca still as it was in the old times. Ponzio frequently played there. Furthermore at that venue also Manuel Campoamor and Vicente Greco used to appear.

With the following words Mrs. Adela Savino de Ponzio describes her husband:
«Ernesto was neither tall nor short, he was smart and handsome. Very often his face was easily expressing a wide smile. He was known by his feelings of extreme generosity. I remember that musicians in need of money frequently used to turn to him; if his financial situation did not allow him to help them with money, he gave them some sheet music he had composed or, instead, he wrote it before the amazed man or men that, moved, stuttered words of gratitude.»

Mrs. Ponzio said that they later moved to Lanús Oeste. There on the corner of José María Moreno and Lavalleja they set up a grocer’s shop named: El Pibe. Later they switched to another corner and then the grocer’s shop named Los Paraísos was located there. The former shop was rather a charity institution since his owner so frequently delivered goods on credit that the cash desk ended up rusted. Fortunately those customers helped by his favors tried to pay their debts in installments because the Ponzios were highly esteemed in the neighborhood.

The El Nacional theater was the last stage for a performance by Pibe Ernesto. Then he was accompanied by veteran musicians who were as well beloved old friends of his. Let us mention them: Ernesto Ponzio and Pardo Alcorta (violins), Juan Carlos Bazán (clarinet), “El Tano” Vicente Pecci (flute), “Yepi” (bandoneon) and the ever-loyal partner Eusebio Aspiazú (eleven-string guitar).

On Sunday, October 21, 1934, at noon, Ernesto Ponzio was seized by an oppressive pain which caused his death soon thereafter. The diagnosis was a heart aneurysm. Let us remember that a similar illness had killed his father.

His figure gifted by a prominence of his own and his oeuvre as composer have achieved a well-deserved fame among the greatest creators of tango. We have already mentioned “Don Juan (El taita del barrio)” and “Ataniche”; to them we have to add the following numbers: Tangos: “De quién es eso”, “Don Natalio” (dedicated to the director of the Crítica evening paper), “18 kilates”, “Culpas ajenas”, “Cara dura”, “Trovador de arrabal”, “Avellaneda” (dedicated to Don Alberto Barceló), “Quiero papita” and “La milonga de mi barrio”. The estilo: “Tardes pampeanas”. The following tangos are the last ones he composed: “Contámela que te escucho” and “No te lo puedo decir”.