Néstor Pinsón

ven though he was known by everybody as El Rata (The Rat), he himself explained, in an interview in 1945, that his true nickname was El Ratita. Of course, this is a more affectionate sobriquet and which alluded to his skinny body, his angular face that seemed to be younger than what he really was.

He was eleven when his father died and his family, for several reasons, decided to send him to the Alto Pencoso town in the province of San Luis. There his father had left some interests, based on the exploitation of fields, and some general store locals. In that area he remained for three years. It was there where he tried his first guitar chords but he did it hiddenly because his uncle and his aunt thought that music encouraged lazyness and vice.

When he came back home in Buenos Aires, firstly he went to a shop to buy a guitar. And quite soon he again met his friends of his childhood days and organized small groups to have fun and boast about it.

He got a job at a house that sold building materials, but only for seven months. Serenades and balls were more important to him but they did not bring money. He had to work, firstly in a company of the Expreso Villalonga, later in the Mihanovich firm and thereafter in an important printing house.

Around 1907, with two friends who were musicians, one of them a bandoneonist named Solari who had taught Genaro Espósito. They appeared at a store on the corner of José Mármol and San Juan. Thereafter, with other friends, among whom was Ricardo Brignolo, he toured the interior of the country and returned two years later. His name grew stronger in the music milieu and around 1916 they reached Corrientes Street. It was at the El Quijote, in front of the Teatro Nacional.

It is important to highlight his apppearance at the old Luna Park (located near the Obelisk), fronting a group comprised by Carlos Marcucci, José Servidio, Anselmo Aieta (bandoneons), Sassano and Fernando Franco (violins), Luis Bernstein (double bass) and, of course, the leader on guitar.

He played along with the best vocalists. With El Vibora Saúl Salinas, with whom he recorded and with Rosita Del Carril and Rosita Quiroga. Also with the duos of Pelaia-Ítalo, Magaldi-Noda, Vega-Díaz (Roberto). Furthermore, with Charlo, Ernesto Famá, Ignacio Corsini, Libertad Lamarque and many others.

He traveled to Europe with Rosendo Pesoa to backup Linda Thelma. With Armando Pagés and Pesoa he formed a long tenure trio to accompany Magaldi and, again, he succeeded in recording instrumentals for the Odeon label. They were so closely associated with that recording company that they were known as Trío Odeón. Some recordings: “El cuatrero”, “Palomita blanca”, “Don Juan”.

He was summoned by the Trío Irusta-Fugazot-Demare for a tour of Mexico, precisely to replace the pianist who stayed in Spain because of a love affair with the actress Lupe Vélez, to whom Demare dedicated the waltz “Lupe”.

In the mid- 30s he is so widely acclaimed that it would be necessary to find out which were the true reasons for the public for such high esteem. If it was his campaign as guitar strummer, really long, or his capabilies as composer. Numbers of his were: “Trago amargo”, “El tatuaje”, “Ya pa’ qué”, “De puro guapo”, “La reina del tango”, five numbers recorded by Carlos Gardel, the first four in Spain and the last in Paris.

But previously, along with his colleague Miguel Correa, he accompanied Ignacio Corsini —between 1922 and 1927— who recorded his numbers: “El vendaval” (an estilo with lyrics by Guiol), “Cariño eterno”, also known as “Irene” (with lyrics by Juan Caruso), the estilo “La carrera”, “Justicia criolla”, “Muchachita buena”, “Otro trago” (with Enrique Cadícamo), “Amigablemente”.

His friendship with Arolas, something still with no answer. It was around 1915 when Iriarte and Arolas decided to compose a tango together. Once they wrote it on the music staff it was premiered by the quartet they had with Vicente Pecci (flute) and Tito Roccatagliata (violin). It soon became a hit at the humble venues where they used to appear. From 1913 Arolas was known in the recording studios and in 1917 he cut a tango for the Victor company, it was entitled: “Comme il faut”. There was neither opposition nor argument of any kind. Only Arolas was credited as composer. Thirteen years later, at the Cine Electric on Lavalle Street was held the seventh contest organized by the Nacional label and he was awarded the first prize “Linyera”. Among the nominated ones there was a composition by Rafael Iriarte, the tango “Comparsa Criolla” which was similar in its three section to the tango recorded by Arolas.

What happened? What most people guess is that between them there was some insurmountable disagreement due to music or some other reason. Arolas hurried to record it, probably angry, surely the most of the piece belonged to him. El Tigre del Bandoneón was, no doubt, the greatest talent in all tango history, then, he had no need of obscure tricks like saying it was his a tango that belonged to somebody else. Iriarte, instead, presented it fifteen years after the time it was composed and seven years after Arolas’s death, as if he had been respectful of his name.

The curious thing is that among his contemporaries the only one who committed it to record with the title given by El Ratita was Francisco Canaro. Only in 1941 Ricardo Tanturi recorded it. In both cases Iriarte is mentioned as the sole composer. With the title given by Arolas the versions are numerous: Juan D'Arienzo, Aníbal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli on three occasions, Los Astros del Tango, Alfredo De Angelis, and many many more.