Abel Palermo

e sang the way singing was done in the old days: he had a delicate manner and a fine interpretation which highlighted a mezza voce of beautiful color plus a clear diction and a good intonation. He was one more of the many good singers in the gold age of our tango when the vocalists got their experience along with the musicians in the orchestra and they became a sort of another instrument in the aggregation.

He was born in Zamora (Spain) and with his family he arrived in Buenos Aires in 1930 and settled in the province of Santa Fe.

In 1931 he began to study music and vocal techniques. When he was seventeen he appeared for an audition in LT3, a radio station of Rosario city, in which he was successful and got a contract to appear in several radio programs with the accompaniment of a guitar group. The following year he was hired by the radio station LT8, Radio Cerealista.

In the early 1939 he decided to go to Buenos Aires to check his chances and there he appeared at several shows. In 1940 he was recommended for an audition with maestro Sebastián Piana that was putting together an orchestra. The audition turned out successful for him and he joined the aggregation led by Piana. The other vocalist in the group was the female singer Nilda Peseo. In May Rivera cut his first recording: the milonga “Betinoti”, dedicated to the notable payador.

In the late 1942 Francisco Lomuto made an important research to find those who were to replace his consecrated singers Fernando Díaz and Jorge Omar. Both had split with the orchestra to put together their own group. So Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils) were born. It was an all-rhythm orchestra like the one led by Feliciano Brunelli. It was conducted by Vicente Saturnini. It is important to remember that both singers were with Lomuto for many years (Díaz, 12 and Omar, 8).

A large number of aspiring singers, either professionals or amateurs, were tempted by Lomuto’s offer. Finally, four finalists resulted: Walter Cabral, Alberto Santillán, Carlos Galarce and Rivera. The last two were chosen. Their debut was in February 1943 on LR3 Radio Belgrano.

He recorded in March the milonga “El niño Jacinto” composed by Atilio Bruni with words by Juan de la Huerta and the tango “Ya sé que siguen hablando” written by Héctor Palacios and Iván Diez.

That same year he achieved his first hit with Lomuto with the tango “Sombras nada más” and, in 1944 he recorded the march “Cuatro de junio” in a duo with Galarce: On the other side of the disc there was “La canción del deporte” which became very popular by that time.

Time later because of an absurd censorship against lunfardo and tango poetry established by the military government he recorded with different lyrics the tango “Mano a mano”. Other record hits of his were “Y sonó el despertador”, “Solamente ella” and “Desagravio”.

Galarce split with the orchestra in the early 1945 and was replaced by Eduardo Inda. The latter stayed in the orchestra for only one year and recorded with Rivera “Mi moro” in a duo rendition. That year he got two new hits with his releases of “De igual a igual” and “Dímelo al oído”. He cut 46 recordings —including the duos— in his tenure with Francisco Lomuto.

Thereafter the orchestra went to Spain with the author Antonio Botta to appear at different shows. Their debut on theater was in Madrid on May 1 as Compañía Lomuto-Botta. They also appeared on several radio stations. On that tour, besides Rivera, the other vocalist was the female singer Chola Luna.

On their comeback Lomuto disbanded the orchestra and had a break until June 1948 when he opened with his brand new aggregation the re-designed studios of Radio Belgrano. On that occasion the leader summoned again Rivera and a promising singer: Miguel Montero. Besides Lomuto, the following played on that occasion: the orchestras of Francisco Canaro, Osmar Maderna, Horacio Salgán, Rodolfo Biagi and the singers Charlo, Juanita Larrauri and Alberto Castillo, among others.

Orchestra and singer recorded again and cut their last number, “Alma de loca”, in October 1950. Suddenly, on December 23 the orchestra leader died and because of that Rivera was deeply struck. For a long time he withdrew from show business. He reappeared as soloist, nearly ten years later, accompanied by a guitar group.

In the 60s he quit singing for good and devoted himself to a new activity as emcee and speaker. He worked in important programs on LR5 Radio Mitre and LR3 Radio Belgrano.

Lastly, I want to conclude this short chronicle by highlighting the qualities of the orchestra headed by Lomuto after 1949. Besides the capabilities of its leader, the following outstanding musicians joined it: Juan Carlos Howard (piano), Federico Scorticati, Alfredo Cordisco, Ramón Álvarez and Marcos Madrigal (bandoneons), Ernesto Gianni, José Carli, Carlos Taverna and Otelo Gasparini (violins), Alberto Celenza (double bass) and also Alberto Rivera and Miguel Montero on vocals.