Oscar Zucchi

e was born in Buenos Aires, in the neiborhood of Villa Crespo. He had two brothers. Luis was the eldest, Alfredo was the youngest and he was the second. The three together reached a wide popularity, either as sidemen playing at the bandoneon section of several aggregations or when they put together their own tango orchestra.

They continued the traditional style influenced by the Juan Maglio’s way of playing. José and Luis joined the latter’s group who with Rafael Rossi formed the primitive Trío Pacho. With that group they cut recordings for the Nacional Odeon label in the 20s.

Both brothers also recorded as a duo several numbers for the Electra label. Furthermore they signed together that mythical piece entitled “El bulín de la calle Ayacucho”.

In an interview he said he was self-taught and that he had learned through symbols and by ear even though he had had indications by Maglio, Espósito and some other.

He made his debut forming a trio with Ratita Rafael Iriarte and Domingo Salerno (guitars). By that time Iriarte put together an orchestra which included Carlos Marcucci and Anselmo Aieta, plus two violins and Luis Bernstein on double bass. Among the many venues where he appeared we can mention the Café La Puñalada on Triunvirato and Gurruchaga, along with Luis and Juan Pedro Castillo (violin).

Until 1927, while he was sideman in other groups and in different gigs, on many occasions he joined and quit the orchestra fronted by Roberto Firpo playing second bandoneon in the section led by Pedro Maffia. That aggregation also included: Cayetano Puglisi, Adolfo Muzzi (violins), Alejandro Michetti (flute), Luis Cosenza (harmonium).

That orchestra appeared at the Armenonville, at the Pigalle and at the Palais de Glace and, for one season in 1920, at the Teatro Nacional. In 1922 Firpo recorded Servidio’s first tango: “La contra se vino”.

He was already a popular figure and was known as Balija, written with b instead of Valija (trunk). A nickname his father had given him when he was a child because he was short and he almost dragged the bandoneon when he carried it.

Between 1921 and 1922 he formed a quartet to appear at the Café ABC on Canning and Rivera (today Córdoba Avenue). He was accompanied by Bernardo Germino and César Pizzella (violins) and José Tanga (piano).

He appeared briefly in the orchestras headed by Osvaldo Fresedo and Francisco Canaro until 1926 when he teamed up with the pianist Juan Carlos Ghio to lead an orchestra that included the three brothers on bandoneons and, the brothers Roberto and Teodoro Guisado on violins, among others.

In December 1928 he presented his Orquesta Típica Infantil at the Teatro Colón in a performance to raise funds for the actress Orfilia Rico. He appeared at the main tango centers of the period and he began to record regularly.

As Orquesta Típica Regional they backed up the tenor singer Abelardo Ferreyra, always for the Electra label. As a bandoneon duo with Alfredo he cut recordings of different genres, not only tangos. Some numbers were sung by Amadeo Siffredi. Among those duo recordings the tangos “Vida triste” and “Mis recuerdos” stand out.

He spent many years in activity and also appeared as bandleader on Radio El Mundo. He appeared again in the recording studios in the 50s, for the TK label. He retired and was soon forgotten. The large number of orchestras that had sprung up by that time had blurred his name.

In 1963 León Benarós, under his sobriquet Ernesto Segovia, defined him as follows: «A man of average height, exultant, with wide shoulders, he wore a white shirt with blue wide stripes and a Gardelian-like suit. With gray eyes, plenty of brown hair, hooked nose and a low soft voice. That’s how I saw him».

Luis Servidio, also known as El Gordo, was born on October 9, 1895 and died in San Fernando, province of Buenos Aires, on January 26, 1961. As a composer he signed all his oeuvre with his brother José despite some numbers only belong to him. For example “El bulín de la calle Ayacucho” only belongs to José.

Alfredo, the youngest, was born in Bahía Blanca. He continued appearing in some provinces, also as pianist, until he settled in Peru where he run a restaurant named El Gaucho and also accompanied a large number of artists. He went to Japan with La Greca. He passed away on December 15, 1973.

Of the compositions written by José Servidio, besides the above, we can mention the tangos “Adoración”, “El alma que siente”, “Paquita” (dedicated to Paquita Bernardo), “Calandria”, “Trapito”, “Emilio Ruiz”, “Fosforito”, “La chacarera”, “Milonga fina”, “Pobre diablo”, “Primero yo [b]”; the milonga “Para negros solamente [b]”; several waltzes: “Irene”, “La pena del payador”, “Virgen de Luján”, among many others.

He recorded 48 numbers with his orchestra, at least until 1938. Maybe there are some more, even with the TK label, but we don’t know if they were released because this label generally had a poor technical quality.

Lastly, there is a curiosity. Enrique Cadícamo was cousin of the Servidios’. His paternal aunt was married to Demetrio Servidio, father of the boys.

Excerpted from the book El tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes, volume 3, Editorial Corregidor.