Abel Palermo

his exquisite singer lacked discipline but was plentiful of bohemia. He might have had a similar career to the one of his brother Raúl, however, he went almost unnoticed for the general public. Only the specialists recognized his capabilities.

According to my friend Ricardo García Blaya, José is one of the three singers of cult that tango brought to us. The others are Osvaldo Cordó and Dante Ressia. His voice, stronger than his brother’s and with a tenor range, reaches moments of glory in very difficult interpretations like "La mariposa" and "Madre de los cabellos de plata", two of his greatest hits.

He was born in the city of Zárate, province of Buenos Aires. He was the second of the five Berón siblings that much contributed to popular music, first in folk music and later in tango. Their devotion for singing and guitar playing was a direct legacy from their father who was guitarist, singer and composer.

The latter was the one who taught them the early lessons in singing and guitar playing techniques. Either José, or Adolfo and Raúl and his younger sisters Elba and Rosa carried out their show business careers in the field of popular song but with different acclaims.

José began his career alongside his eldest brother Adolfo, guitar player, with a duo that played folk and southern music that included milongas and some other tango. They appeared on CX14 Radio El Espectador (Montevideo).

In the early 1936 Adolfo was drafted for military service then he was replaced by the youngest brother Raúl. Their debut together was on LR6 Radio La Nación that later would be known as Radio Mitre.

The success they achieved in their performances on the radio allowed them to appear in the interior of the country and in the República Oriental del Uruguay.

In 1939 they appeared at the prestigious LR3 Radio Belgrano for a one-year tenure. In 1941 Raúl was also hired by Radio Nacional and by Radio Porteña as soloist singer. The following year maestro Miguel Caló summoned him to sing in his orchestra. Because of that the duo was dismembered and José went on on his own.

1943 was a year with a great number of swapping of singers in the most important orchestras. The one led by the bandoneonist Emilio Orlando, a boom in the LR1 Radio El Mundo programs, had two vocalists that split with him: Alberto Marino –that joined the Aníbal Troilo Orchestra- and Roberto Rufino who joined Carlos Di Sarli again. Because of that Orlando included José and two notable musicians, the violinist Manlio Francia and the young Jorge Caldara, a bandoneon virtuoso.

Their debut was at the popular radio show Ronda de Ases, with a cast which also included the Lucio Demare’s orchestra which had Raúl Berón as vocalist. The latter then shared with his brother José several programs. Regretfully, at this stage with Orlando there were cut no recordings.

After the carnival balls of 1945 he split with the orchestra and, immediately, as a soloist he went on a tour throughout the interior of the country and several towns of Uruguay.

In 1947, he sang on Radio Mitre and, in the evenings at the tearoom La Armonía, on Corrientes and Uruguay. One year later he joined the Roberto Caló’s orchestra and appeared for an important season at the Confitería Elea on 500 Suipacha Street.

As from 1950 he was based in the city of Rosario and resumed the tours either of Argentina or of Uruguay. In 1959 he was summoned by Enrique Alessio who had just split with Juan D’Arienzo.

The other vocalist in the orchestra was Hugo Soler. Finally José’s debut on record was for the Pampa label. With Alessio he recorded three tangos: "Por las calles del tango", written by Enrique Alessio, Enrique Lary and José Berón himself; "No pediste perdón" by Alberto Harari and a classic: "Milonguita" that I think his was one of the best renditions.

The following year Eduardo Rovira summoned Jorge Hidalgo and José for his orchestra because his singer Alfredo Del Río had split with him to join Alfredo Gobbi again and the former had already signed contracts with LR4 Radio Splendid. Furthermore, they recorded two single discs. Hidalgo cut the tango "Por quererla así" and Berón, maybe his best work, the tango "Madre de los cabellos de plata".

After his tenure with Rovira who later decided to form a sextet without singers, José was called by the pianist Miguel Nijensohn as substitute for the singer Mario Bonet, and to share vocals with Jorge Garré. With the Nijensohn’s aggregation he recorded the tango "Me la nombra el viento".

In 1957, he recorded for the Music Hall label a long-playing disc entitled Tango y Criollismo with 12 numbers accompanied by piano and guitar. In it the standouts are "Barrio reo" and the incredible rendition of "La mariposa" which I think is, after Carlos Gardel’s, the best of them all.

In the early 70s he settled in the city of Rosario where he died at a very young age because of a heart attack.