Oscar Ugarte

Real name: Ugarteche, Oscar Juan
(3 April 1912 - 20 October 1990)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

he one who had been a boy with an excellent figure, tough appearance, dark haired, with Indian eyes and who was born quite near the corner of Garay and Solís, in the southern area of the Capital city, passed away at age 78.

Soon after his birth his family settled in Banfield, then a locality bordering the countryside. It was quite different to the crowded city of nowadays.

When the Antena magazine interviewed him at the house of his childhood days on January 26, 1935 he said the following: «I only attended grade school. I had to contribute some money for my family, something that was very common by that time. So for five years I was errand boy for a printing house. As for singing, I always liked it and I may have had some capabilities because, years later, when I was a boy, I was always requested for family meetings, parties or celebrations or, otherwise, I would invite myself, just in case».

Someone who had heard him took him to visit, no less than Rosita Quiroga, then a renowned female singer that was appearing on LR2 Radio Argentina. After she heard him she liked him so much that that very day his rendering of “Anclao en París” was broadcasted.

Not fully satisfied with that, he talked to Pablo Osvaldo Valle, then a renowned radio director, who at once hired him for Radio Nacional, soon before it would become Radio Belgrano. His official debut was on May 1, 1932.

That same year an important landmark in his career took place. The most famous soap opera on the radio of the decade, Chispazos de tradición, which aired a different play each month, but with many of its characters unchanged —the good, the bad, the comic, the hero—, requested him to join the cast. Then he became a leading young man-singer known as Juan Manuel in fiction. After a successful time he was seized by a long loss of voice.

The group had already started to appear in movie theaters and at theaters of different neighborhoods on weekends. The listeners, especially women, that wanted to see in person the owners of those admired voices crowded the theaters. As his affection did not heal and he was unable to sing, the director thought that he with other ones would dance a pericón (folk dance). But the vocal problem continued and the scriptwriter decided that his character had to die. And so it happened. On a radio broadcast the narrator announced that Juan Manuel had died in a quarrel or something similar. So Ugarte had to hit the road.

In an interview he recalled: «At the Palace Medrano, after the show, I spent more than an hour to get back to my plain clothes and, when I got out of the dressing room with the actor that impersonated the famous Churrinche, we were surprised to see the foyer crowded with women». Apparently, when they tried to get through they were attacked by the female pack that tore coats and shirts. With a great effort they managed to go out and get on a taxi cab that was parked at the entrance door.

Ugarte was the classic national singer. So were known those whose songbooks included tangos but also different genres of the province of Buenos Aires: songs, petit waltzes, cifras, estilos, milongas, some little zamba and other styles. The radio was the venue where he was most comfortable so much so that Radio El Mundo hired him for twenty years. He was always accompanied by the staff guitar players of the radio station. The most customary guitarists were Jaime Vila, Antonio Ciaccio and José Cortecce.

In 1938 he was vocalist of an aggregation with a short tenure, the Orquesta Típica Los Ases. Among the members of the latter were Ferruccio Marzán, Antonio Rodio, Miguel Nijensohn and Ernesto Franco. Like many other artists of his time, when he had no other engagements, he made numerous tours throughout the cities of the interior.

It is hard to understand why after so many years on the radio he very seldom visited the recording studios.

In July 1932 he recorded two numbers for the Orquesta Típica Víctor: “Sin amparo”, waltz by Miguel Padula and Nicolás Trimani and the ranchera “No arrebaten que hay pa´todos”, by Sócrates Chiericatti and Felipe Gavazzo.

In 1935, a few days after Carlos Gardel’s death, he committed to record the best-remembered piece, “Unidos en la muerte”, homage to the Zorzal Criollo.