Roberto Videla

Real name: De Tomaso, Antonio Genaro
(16 December 1924 - 1 January 2005)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

hen I asked a friend, a veteran singer, an opinion about Videla —with whom he had shared billboards back in the forties—, he leant his face to one side, with stiff lips, doubting for a while, he answered me: «He was a good-looking kid, kind of blond... but as a singer... he was just correct. He lacked personality for tango».

And the answer was quite right because, if you follow the steps of his career, he only entirely devoted to tango for a few years. He changed this genre for an international repertoire that, finally, made him leave the country as from 1958 and for the rest of his life. He returned many times for brief periods but for reasons which had nothing to do with show business.

As he had a good intonation and he liked to sing since he was a child, his faher encouraged him to study with a teacher. But he did it only for two years, until he was twelve years old. He was also drawn by other interests according to his age. He was frequently showcased at the school parties and at different reunions.

His first gig was when he was eighteen as vocalist of the unknown Orquesta Típica Ritmo led by José Bova. This experience meant the first step in his career and he used the sobriquet Humberto Rey for this occasion.

In 1944 he had to go to the military service, but previously he took a second step when he joined the Juan Carlos Caviello’s group with which he made his debut on radio. It was on LR2 Radio Argentina. During that year he also appeared with Edgardo Donato for a short time, firstly, and with the aggregation of the superb violinist Raúl Kaplún, later. There was also a tour of several cities of the country with the Enrique Mora’s quartet.

After he had complied with his military obligations, a friend of his introduced him to the Ricardo Tanturi Orchestra which he joined after an audition. Enrique Campos, that had replaced Alberto Castillo, had been the only vocalist for over two years and he was himself who asked the bandleader for another singer.

His debut was on Radio El Mundo. It is interesting to highlight the date of that premiere: October 17, 1945, at 9 p.m.: A historical date for Argentina. His first recording was along with Enrique Campos: the waltz “Tu vieja ventana” (August 1946). He already had his definitive sobriquet which resulted from a poll by the audience. His last recording with Tanturi, on June 25, 1948, was the waltz “Dos que se aman” and the tango “Campeonato” written by Tanturi and Reinaldo Yiso.

Little by little he was leaving tango. He cut two numbers with Enrique Rodríguez, a waltz and a foxtrot. Casually he came to know Herminio Jiménez, a performer of Paraguayan songs, who suggested him to cut a recording with his symphony orchestra. He recorded a song that was written by a regular singer of the group named Horacio Rodríguez. The latter was known as Horacio Guarany much later. He also recorded several pieces accompanied by the orchestra headed by Fraga Jouvet, a conductor of radio staff groups but none of the tango genre.

Devoted entirely to the pop genre, even singing in Italian and English, in 1958 he went to the United States. About his first steps abroad we got a series of newspaper clippings of July and October 1959. So we knew about his initial appearances at the Italian restaurant In Boboli, in New York, where he stayed for many years. Its owner was an outstanding pianist and bandleader, Aldo Bruschi.

As well he sang at hotels and restaurants of Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami; later in Puerto Rico —where he was called El trovador de América— and Panama. He appeared in a show alongside Xavier Cugat and his then female singer: Dulcina.

In 1990 he came back to Argentina with the idea of working and staying here, but it was not possible and so he returned to North America.

It is clear and has to be highlighted that, even though he never was a first level star, he did his best and carried out a worthy career doing what he did throughout his life: singing, which was his everlasting vocation. He was a show business and song worker.

It is impossible for us to track down all the recordings he made in each city he visited. We know they add up to a large number. But we have the testimony of the 29 numbers that he cut with Ricardo Tanturi. For us that was his golden age.