José Luis Anastasio (h)

e was born in the neighborhood of Mataderos, in the city of Buenos Aires. Son of immigrants from the isle where the Stromboli volcano is, in Sicily, Italy. His parents were Giuseppe Anastasio and Carolina Tesoriero (cousin of the famous goalkeeper of Boca Juniors, Américo Tesoriere).

Giuseppe died in an accident when he fell down from the tower of the San José de Calasanz church on Avenida La Plata and Directorio when it was being built on October 15, 1913. He was an expert on art molding and was only thirty years old at that time. One month later his son José Luis was born. He was given that name by his mother Carolina to honor her husband and her father Luigi that emigrated from Italy to France. Thereafter he would change his name into the stage name Carlos Mayel. He was the last of the four children of that marriage.

Some years later Carolina, a 26-year old widow, married another Italian, Nicolás Alagia, and had five more children: María Inmaculada, Domingo, Nélida, Alfredo and Ernesto. The latter two also dived into music: Alfredo Alagia, as lead vocalist of a group that Waldo Belloso put together, and Ernesto Alagia as guitarist.

From an early age José Luis had to work. Firstly, as shop assistant at a grocery store. To save some coins every morning he jogged around forty blocks to go to his working place —from Carhué and Avenida de los Corrales up to Parque Avellaneda— and on his way back he did the same.

So until he learnt the craft of shoe stitching that his cousin Fats Bonaventura taught him and then he organized a workshop with all his family. Therefore their economic situation began to change. The money that Don Nicola, his stepfather, got as bricklayer was used to build and enlarge the house and the profits obtained at the workshop were assigned to feed the family.

His liking for singing began, obviously, in the workshop. Later he made some appearances but he previously took some singing lessons with an Italian operatic teacher and also studied guitar with a renowned guitarist, however, he never quit his craft which he continued until his retirement. Singing and musical composition were for him a secondary activity and even though they were his two great passions throughout his life he never decided to fully devote himself to them. He was not a café customer. He only, some other Friday, frequented the old café El Águila to get in touch with his friends: songwriters, composers, singers and musicians. He never stopped practicing his vocal exercises to keep his voice in good condition.

He stood out because of his brilliant voice, his good intonation and his melodic style. He started around 1932 on LR9 Radio Fénix, one of the first radio stations in Buenos Aires, with the orchestra headed by Héctor de Estéfano, also known as Osvaldo Peña. His early guitar lessons were by Ángel Domingo Riverol who introduced him and accompanied him on some occasions. Later he switched to the Rómulo Mercado orchestra which played at balls in Mataderos and in other neighborhoods. He made his debut with the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra in 1939 and his tenure lasted until 1942. He recorded eight tango numbers with the maestro: “Camino”, “Marcas”, “Careta careta”, “Nidito azul”, “Esta noche”, “Si el corazón supiera”, “Es costumbre o es cariño” and “Llamada de amor porteño”. It is interesting to know the way Mayel met Fresedo.

A house in Floresta was the home of Guillermo Meres —an excellent pianist, composer and arranger who transcribed to the music staff a large number of my father’s compositions and accompanied him on piano on the radio and at other venues when my father still wore short pants— and was the meeting place for: Enrique Dizeo, Guillermo’s mother —Martha Meres— (who also sang very well) and other relatives, singers, and poets who used to spend musical evenings. Dizeo was the one who introduced my father to Emilio Fresedo who, after hearing him, recommended him to his brother Osvaldo. The latter auditioned him on his piano and told him that the following week he would made his debut in his orchestra.

Let me tell you that for 4 years Guillermo Meres was my music teacher for free on a piano that my father had bought in 1954 from Alfonso Lacueva, the composer of “Intimas

The sobriquet Carlos Mayel was Dizeo’s idea. The latter thought that my father’s outlook and voice resembled Carlos Gardel’s (according to Dizeo!). The intention was to stress the e but the public stressed the a and used to say «Máyel» and so it stayed.

In 1942, after he split with Fresedo, he was invited to visit Doña Berta, Gardel’s mother. He sang the estilo “La mariposa (Gorjeos)”. Berta, touched, gave him a pair of boots, a poncho, a hat and a small picture with Gardel’s photo plus a dedication and an autograph.

Antonio Sumage (The Aviator), Gardel’s driver, was a good friend of Dad’s and visited him frequently and brought candies for his son (the one who writes this portrayal).

In the period 1942-1947 Mayel formed a group with five guitars and began to appear on radios, tearooms and clubs with a growing success as soloist.

His oeuvre includes over 300 pieces even though he only filed in the record around its half. He wrote many ones in collaboration with Francisco Laino and others with Celedonio Flores, Enrique Dizeo, Reinaldo Yiso, Aldo Queirolo, Francisco Amor, Carlos Acuña, Martín Castro, Afner Gatti, Víctor Álvarez, Julio Budano, José Paradiso and others.

He also wrote lyrics, quatrains and décimas that he musicalized but he never regarded them as important. However, he wrote a huge written work, interesting and long, in rhymed lines that I collected and entitled Consejos del resero that I think I will publish if my time allows me.

Among his best known compositions that were committed to record are: “Apronte” by Edgardo Donato with Roberto Morel on vocals, by Edmundo Rivero, by Juan Carlos Godoy, among others; “El descolado” (words by Aldo Queirolo) by Edgardo Donato and by Ricardo Chiqui Pereyra; “Yo nací para Palermo” (lyrics by Modesto Botti), by Edgardo Donato; “Berretines de bacana” (words by Julio Budano), by Edgardo Donato; “Palito docena media” (words by José Paradiso) by Jorge Vidal and by Carlos Mayel; the milonga “Entre curdas” by Jorge Vidal, Lucrecia Merico and Ernesto Ariel; “El mayoral del tranvía” by Alfredo De Angelis with Julio Martel and by the British group Tango Siempre as an instrumental.

Other outstanding numbers: “Carlitos está entre nosotros”, tango dedicated to Gardel (words by Gerardo Amoedo); the milonga “Celedonio Flores” (words by Julio Budano) and the tango milonga “Roberto Firpo” (lyrics by Francisco Laino).

The milonga “Entre curdas” was included in the movie El último aplauso (2009) (Der Letzte Applaus) and the tango “El mayoral del tranvía”, in Leonardo Favio’s Aniceto (2008/2009).

After my birth in 1947 and, after my mother’s suggestions, Dora Haydeé Fuentes, he quit show business although, from time to time, he made some commercial recordings. Among them there is a record with guitar accompaniment that includes 12 tangos and milongas of his own. Also there are several recordings with the orchestras led by Juan Carlos Caviello, Francisco Brancatti, Ricardo Martinez Trío and with the guitar group fronted by Lorenzo Ranieri.

Despite he withdrew from public performances he left a large number of private and unreleased recordings in which he sings and accompanies himself on guitar and includes many pieces of the Gardel’s songbook and his own numbers. I can state that my father went on composing melodies, writing lyrics and singing until the last hours of his life.