Alberto Echagüe

Real name: Rodríguez Bonfanti, Juan de Dios Osvaldo
Singer and author
(8 March 1909 - 22 February 1987)
Place of birth:
Rosario (Santa Fe) Argentina
Ricardo García Blaya

y relationship with Alberto Echagüe is very special because I was a very close friend of his son Osvaldo, unfortunately he died very young.

I cannot be impartial, because I had the luck of listening to him with the best of witnesses, who told me stories that were true images of a boy towards his artist father.

There was a mixture of the resentment for long absences, the misunderstanding of a tango environment that was declining with the passing of time and that nothing had to do with his circumstance and his education. To such an extent that Osvaldo led his life far from his father and with a critic vision, even ashamed of him.

But something very funny happened after the death of the singer. The distant attitude became a deep recognition that drove his son to understand and regard with pride the human and artistic value of his father.

Together with him, I learnt to know about the popularity that this artist had in the forties, but the most important thing was to appreciate the pearls of his repertory, making my own Osvaldo´s two preferred tangos: “Indiferencia” and “Este carnaval”.

It is true; Echagüe was not technically a great singer and even more if we make a comparison with the vocal excellence that abounded in the forties. But let us recognize that when Juan D'Arienzo´s speed allowed it, a sensitive voice, dramatic at times, appeared capable of wisely telling the story in the lyrics.

He was the singer most important of the orchestra, as for the cashbox, but furthermore, he was a gentleman, an honest man whom fame never changed and that, in spite of the disadvantages of his artistic career, he succeeded in bringing up a family and being loved by all those who knew him.

I can't avoid finding something familiar with Ángel Vargas. I don't know if it is the canyengue style, or the provocative phrasing, or the range, but they have something in common, apart from the fact that both sang for Ángel D'Agostino. But the truth is, that the careers of one and the other were marked by the quality and repertory of two orchestras very different, where evidently, Echagüe was not benefited.

In early childhood he started singing in the city of Rosario (the most important city in the province of Santa Fe, 300 km far from Buenos Aires).

In the early thirties he moved to Buenos Aires and debuted on Radio Stentor with his artistic name Alberto Echagüe.

In the year 1932, he was singer in the Ángel D'Agostino orchestra, performing at the Casanova cabaret and in the París Theater. D'Agostino himself was who introduced him to Juan D'Arienzo, the latter invited him to Radio El Mundo to listen to his orchestra. There the spark of one of the teams most popular of the forties was lighted: D'Arienzo-Echagüe.

Gutiérrez Miglio, in his book El tango y sus intérpretes, volume 1, says that on that occasion when «it is the time and the orchestra breaks in with the tango “Madre”, Alberto Echagüe indicates D'Arienzo with a gesture that he is willing to sing the refrain. The leader nods, answering affirmatively and Echagüe sings. Soon later the artistic director of the radio station arrives and asks who has sung... D'Arienzo answered him and the director told him: That's the singer for your orchestra».

They played at the Chantecler cabaret, on Radio El Mundo and a great number of dancing salons and clubs. The boom was amazing, committing to record 27 numbers, starting with “Indiferencia”, on January 4, 1938, a beautiful tango by Juan Carlos Thorry and Rodolfo Biagi, ending this stage on December 22, 1939 with “Trago amargo” (by Rafael Iriarte and Alfredo Navarrine).

Tempted by the pianist Juan Polito, Echagüe split with the orchestra and continued his labor with Polito, appearing in the classic Richmond tearoom, besides dancing parties and performances at clubs and local theaters.

The relationship of the singer with El Rey del compás (The Rhythm King) had various stages, which continued until the year 1975. The second of them began in 1944 and lasted until 1957, it is the longest, and the most successful as well. The orchestra is a hurricane and the singer is no less. The quality of the numbers is quite uneven and the repertoire was aiming at a commercial boom and not at an artistic goal.

In spite of what was commented, some numbers are outstanding: “Este carnaval” (by Luis and Miguel Caruso), “Paciencia” (by D'Arienzo and Francisco Gorrindo) and the unique version of “Esta noche me emborracho” (by Enrique Santos Discepolo) are evidences of this statement.

The other singer of the orchestra was Armando Laborde who, because of his style and vocal features, was an ideal complement to Echagüe's work. So much so that in the year 1957 both split with the orchestra and put together their own under the direction of the bandoneonist Alberto Di Paulo. They recorded for the Odeon label “Soy varón” and “Nosotros”, and for Philips “La refinada” (milonga) and “Carloncho”.

Three years later, in 1960, he joined the orchestra of Juan Sánchez Gorio and sang on Radio El Mundo, recording 2 numbers.

Our singer was already a consecrated soloist, devoted to entertain in dancing locals and to sing on radio and television.

In 1968, he began the third and last stage with the maestro D'Arienzo, he traveled to Japan and achieved an extraordinary success. The funny story is that the orchestra traveled without its leader who was awfully afraid of traveling by airplane.

Times had changed, the artistic decline was noticeable, but the fans were still loyal to the rhythm and the voice of the famous team. Of this period I regard as interesting the tango “Mala suerte” (by Francisco Lomuto and Francisco Gorrindo) recorded on December 11, 1974, and “Vamos Topo todavía”, dedicated to the Uruguayan jockey Vilmar Sanguinetti, on January 31, 1975, that is to say, a year before of D'Arienzo's death and the last of the team.

Alberto Echagüe was an indefatigable traveler; he toured all America and the United States, where he was five times.

He is author of the tangos “Gladiolo”, “Tus cartas cómo tardan” and “La tango”, all them with music by Carlos Lázzari; “Alias Orquídea”, with the television producer Alfredo Gago and “Porque tú me lo pides”, with Enrique Alessio.

These lines were written with the tenderness and feeling of the most beautiful memories, and it intends to be the posthumous homage to the father of my dear friend Osvaldo Rodríguez, whom I shall never forgive for his departure.