Domingo Conte

Real name: Conte, Domingo
Singer and actor
(10 January 1908 - 12 December 1998)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

e was born in the Federal Capital, on Pozos Street (today Combate de los Pozos), ten blocks from the building of the National Congress.

There are two events to stand out. Possibly, after December 1932 and for a long time many ones had frequently heard Domingo Conte ignoring who he was. They might as well have chanted the words of the song when played or even sung it in unison with him. I’m talking about the march of the River Plate club which consists of some words written by Mr. Arturo Antelo on the melody of a traditional march: “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, referring to an Irish location.

The other event was a note, customary at that time, to praise a figure and published in 1937 in the Antena magazine by an uncredited writer. There in a paragraph he is promoted as follows: «...his success made possible for him to own a magnificent house, rather a country estate located on General César Díaz Street, plus a savings account with over seventy thousand pesos, two cars, refined comfort and around twenty suits...»

According to an interview by Héctor Bates in 1934, Domingo soon quit his grade school studies and began to work in a cardboard industry. He was eleven and for a couple of years he kept that job where he got thirty pesos a month. With another friend, a young kid, he used to sing teaming up as a duo. They appeared at some family reunions and even on the street at the door of some houses. One day Domingo Riverol heard them, liked what they did and taught them some elementary guitar lessons so that they would «strum» a certain accompaniment at their appearances.

When he was nearly twenty, along with his friend Pascual Ferrandino, he had his first «professional» performance. It was at the small square on San Pedrito and Rivadavia. The pay was five pesos each on weekends and a bottle of eau-de-vie for a raffle in order to add some more cents.

After this experience, a brother of his —with a friend— had formed a humorous duo and asked Domingo to be part of the show —as singer— in order to start a tour. They visited several towns and they hardly got money to come back, disappointed and starving.

On their comeback he only found the possibility of being taken into account at a theater of the neighborhood: Politeama Asamblea, because it was located on the Asamblea Avenue. He sang and played the role of actor with his natural gifts and that attracted the attention of the playwright Juan Dardés who suggested him joining his theater company. He had a three-year tenure with it and achieved the experience of being onstage facing an audience.

Thereafter he appeared at the Teatro Príncipe on Cabildo Avenue in the neighborhood of Belgrano and there the owner of the Teatro Nacional, Pascual Carcavallo, offered him to be the lead-singing actor of a new play: El poncho del olvido.

Later he appeared at the reprise of El conventillo de La Paloma which in its first stage had starred Libertad Lamarque and reached a thousand performances. He added to its songbook the tango “Cruz de palo”, on request by Carcavallo, which had a wide acclaim.

Thereafter Carcavallo staged La muchachada del centro, a big hit by Francisco Canaro. But he was not summoned for that cast. The role was assigned to Abelardo Farías —Dringue Farías’s brother— but he got ill and died very young. Domingo was immediately summoned to replace him. The main vocalist at that time in the Canaro orchestra, Ernesto Famá, also got ill and so he had to sing the refrain lines. Before the play was removed from the billboard, something he foresaw in time and in order to avoid being jobless he asked for a meeting with Pablo Osvaldo Valle, in charge of LR3 Radio Belgrano, to get a space. Valle placed him no less than in the greatest hit of the radio: Chispazos de tradición. So then he impersonated the Matrero de la Luz and other characters.

Among other appearances he was in Caramelos surtidos, singing two numbers by Enrique Santos Discépolo, and in 1933 in De Gabino a Gardel, playing the role of Gabino Ezeiza.

When Bates asked him about the present tango (1934) he replied: «It’s quite beautiful to sing it but for dancing I prefer the old one».

On LR3 and for several seasons he sang as soloist on the radio station. He made his debut in the movies in 1935 in Bajo la santa federación, directed by Daniel Tinayre, in which he sings El vendedor de calandrias. In 1938, another film: Pampa y cielo, directed by Raúl Gurruchaga. Two other singers were starred in that motion picture: Oscar Alonso and Francisco Amor.

His work has no stop, he switched to Radio Prieto and later to LR2 Radio Argentina, joining the cast of Las tardes de Juan Manuel.

His last work for the movies is in a film by Julio Irigoyen, a man with poor gifts for the world of art and several pictures that were not premiered or hardly lasted a few days on the billboard. In this case the frustrated movie was La mujer del zapatero (1941), based on a French vaudeville. The following year he played a part in Academia: el tango argentino, another film by Irigoyen that was not premiered.

Together with his brother Carlos and a friend, they began to invest on the purchase of dancehalls. One of them was the famous Enramada —with tango and folk music and dancing tracks—. It was located on 4399 Santa Fe Avenue. The partnership also bought the Bonpland salon and the very successful Palermo Palace on 2750 Godoy Cruz Street, among others.

In all his venues Domingo Conte used to appear with a guitar accompaniment or with his orchestra put together for the occasion.

He recorded around thirty numbers. It is worthwhile mentioning the ones made with the Francisco Canaro orchestra: “Rosa de amor”, “El anillo de oro”, “Las vueltas de la vida”, “Rencor”, the pasodoble “Soy tu esclavo”. All were cut in 1932 and for the Odeon company.

Previously, for the Columbia label, with the house orchestra conducted by Alberto Castellanos, he recorded “Nena” and “Pasto verde” (ranchera). Finally, between 1936 and 1940, with guitar accompaniment, he recorded a series of tangos and other pieces.

That note that highlighted his well-to-do life was truthful and Conte, evidently, despite his youth, knew how to invest the profits of his work. We don’t know anything about the second and final stage of his long life nor the date of his death.