Juan Carlos Lamas

Real name: Velázquez, Rafael
(13 October 1921 - 27 July 2004)
Place of birth:
Rosario (Santa Fe) Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

t happened in the early days of September 1958. One afternoon I went to the Ópera cinema theater —which still exists as theater— on Corrientes Avenue. They have just premiered an Argentine movie with Narciso Ibañez Menta: Procesado 1040. The engrossing depiction of the prison ambiance showed its characters. Among them, there was the big boss of the tough guys who looked like Valentino, especially seen from the side, hair plastered straight back, a sullen expression.

Right then, the guy at the seat beside me told the one who was by his side: «Look, it’s Lamas, the Juan D'Arienzo singer!». By that time I was beginning to get acquainted with tango and that was the first time I heard his name. At that time, he had split with the maestro’s orchestra fifteen years before, but the man by my side was a tango fan and knew what he was saying, he had a good memory.

Today when we revise aspects of his career, we realize, that his year-and-a-half tenure with Juan D'Arienzo was the most important stage in his career as a tango singer. His inquiring spirit led him to visit several cities of the world and to explore other facets of art.

Charmed by singing since his teen years, in his hometown he started to sing on the radio almost as a professional. Soon thereafter he appeared at the Teatro Colón of Rosario, for some time was member of a local orchestra and after that he moved to Buenos Aires.

After his arrival in the capital city he soon made friends and had the chance to appear at venues downtown under the sobriquet of Carlos Dumas.

By that time he used to date at some cafés near Corrientes Avenue and Paraná Street. Because of that he came to know Juan D’Arienzo for some meters from there the favorite venue of the bandleader was: El Chantecler (Paraná 440).

We may guess that he found the suitable opportunity to tell him that he sang, and the leader, like on other occasions, agreed to hear him. The appointment was on Radio El Mundo —as later he did with Armando Laborde— and the audition turned out successful after a couple of numbers like “A la luz del candil” and “Pa' que bailen los muchachos”.

It was 1942. His first move was going to the venue as one more in the audience to become acquainted with the beat of the orchestra and, soon later, becoming the fellow singer of Héctor Mauré.

So he began his job following the circuit of the orchestra: radio, cabaret, the carnival balls at the Club River Plate and the customary gigs in Montevideo. Of course, there were also recordings that covered a span of 15 months.

The first three, on September 24, 1942: “Pompas de jabón”, “Vieja recova” and “Embrujamiento”. On October 27: “Carancho”, by Fulvio Salamanca with words by Héctor Marcó and “Seguime corazón”. On December 29: “Pobre mascarita”, by Salvador Granata and Orlando Romanelli.

The following year, on June 23, 1943: the milonga “Música de mi Argentina”. On September 28: “Aquel muchacho de la orquesta”, by Luis Caruso. And on December 27 he cut his last three recordings with D'Arienzo: “Candombe rioplatense”, by Pintín Castellanos and Carmelo Santiago; “Es inútil que la llores”, by Salvador Grupillo and Luis Caruso, and “Viejo tintero”, by Graciano De Leone and Estrella Mamán.

Thereafter he appeared at different venues until he started to travel worldwide. Firstly, he went to Mexico and Cuba, later to Puerto Rico and Spain. Finally, to Italy where he was based for a year in its capital, Rome, where he appeared at theaters. In the plays he sang several kinds of songs —not only tangos— and, also, he played as a comedian.

His next move was appearing in the movies which seemed an almost logical step. He was featured in a ten of movies but there was one which was very important in which he only appears for a couple of minutes or even less and has only a short line but that is enough for a film that shall be always remembered: La dolce vita, directed by Federico Fellini and premiered in Argentina in 1960.

The scene takes place in an apartment full of people. In the middle of the talking and the drinks the renowned actor Franco Fabrizzi steals a gold lighter. Soon the thief is discovered and, with those comings and goings among several characters, Lamas appears. Nothing more than that, but that’s enough.

The small part helped him, on his comeback to Argentina, so that he was taken into account for several films, some of them were very important. By way of example we can mention: Martín Fierro (1968), directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilson, with Alfredo Alcón and Graciela Borges; with the same director, El santo de la espada, also with Alcón and Evangelina Salazar; Amalio Reyes, un hombre (1970), directed by Enrique Carreras, with Hugo Del Carril and Julia Sandoval. He was also requested to appear in several soap operas on television.

At the last stage of his interesting and curious career he made some tours of the interior of the country and Uruguay. And we may also add that he never refused an invitation for singing whenever the proposal was proposal.

This artist from Rosario, that today we remember in Todo Tango, possessed a small but expressive voice, with a good collocation, with perfect intonation and sober interpretation which highlighted a porteño phrasing which was, at the same time, delicate.