Abel Palermo

e was born in the downtown area of the city of Buenos Aires. He was raised in the neighborhood of El Abasto, on the Zelaya dead-end street, a few meters from Carlos Gardel’s home.

In his teens he was fond of boxing. He practised at a club in the neighborhood of Almagro where the unforgettable Justo Suárez, El Torito de Mataderos also trained. The latter and Luis Ángel Firpo were the most popular boxers of the 20s and 30s. But for Leoncito singing was more important than the fighting sport.

At age 20, he debuted under the name of Leoncito Zucker at a tango venue in the area of Villa Crespo, neighborhood of great poets such as Leopoldo Marechal, Celedonio Flores, and Alberto Vaccarezza, among other great ones.

The cafe was called La Victoria and was located on 5500 Corrientes Avenue. In one of his performances he came to know the young bandoneonist Enrique Alessio. They used to spend their spare time at a nearby café which was frequented by Celedonio Flores. With the passing of time the three men would become close friends.

Back in 1938, Osvaldo Pugliese had put together his first orchestra and had summoned Alessio as lead bandoneon. On one of the many dates Enrique invited León to a rehearsal of the orchestra so that Pugliese would hear him sing.

So it was and the leader, immediately, included him in his orchestra to replace Mario Durée, who had recently split with them. On that occasion he made up his mind about his sobriquet. It was just about one-year tenure and he was replaced by Amadeo Mandarino.

Later he joined the aggregation fronted by the violinist Alberto Pugliese, Osvaldo’s brother and composer of the beautiful tango: “El remate”. He stayed for two years and later he switched to the Emilio Orlando’s orchestra. With the latter he would carry out an important activity on LR1 Radio El Mundo. The other vocalist of the orchestra was Edmundo Rivero.

In 1942, due to his restless spirit, he joined the orchestra headed by Atilio Bruni and, two years later, the one led by Tito Ribero. Thereafter he joined Edgardo Donato in a four-year tenure. Other important vocalists were his partners in that group: Alberto Podestá, Oscar Ferrari and Osvaldo Morel.

With Donato he appeared to much acclaim on Radio El Mundo and on Radio Belgrano, and also at the historical Tango Bar. His debut on record was in June 1945 with the tango “Portero suba y diga” which included “Pregonera” with Podestá on vocals on the other side of the record. His other recording was in the early 1946: the tango “Demasiado tarde”.

He split with Donato in 1948 and formed a backup quartet for his appearances on Radio Argentina and on Radio Mitre and at different shows. The outfit was lined up with great maestros: Eduardo Rovira (conductor and bandoneon), Carlos Traversa (violin), Bernardo Blas (piano) and Pablo De Piazza (double bass). Time later he was hired to sing in the Ricardo Pedevilla’s orchestra and, thereafter in the one led by Roberto Dimas.

After 1950, he was accompanied in his performances by the quartet led by Alberto Pugliese. In 1953 he joined again Edgardo Donato and returned to Radio El Mundo. By that time there was an anonymous complaint that accused him of having insulted the memory of Eva Perón so he had to exile in Brazil where he continued with his show business career.

He returned to Argentina in 1956 and appeared at several venues in Buenos Aires with the piano accompaniment of maestro Lucio Demare. In 1959 he sang in the Armando Lacava Orchestra.

His latter performances were on Radio del Pueblo, accompanied by the orchestra conducted by Miguel Nijensohn.

This archetypal man of Buenos Aires and loyal friend died in Buenos Aires after a grave disease. His brother, Marcos Zuker, was a great name in our theater and comedy. We also remember him with great affection.