Armando Laborde

Real name: Dattoli, José Atilio
Singer, lyricist and composer
(27 April 1922 - 12 December 1996)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

he style of the Juan D'Arienzo orchestra had its fans in a great part of the tango community, especially among the fans of dancing, who were highly attracted by its fast staccato beat.

There were also people who listened to him with indifference, because they were fond of more musical orchestras, with better elaboration and with other type of repertoire. But no one doubted at that time, from the year 1935 on, that thanks to his appearance, tango recovered his privileged position at a time when North American music was prevailing.

Musicians with a modern tango conception, stylistically far removed from D'Arienzo, recognize that for the revival of the genre, today the appearance of a new D'Arienzo would be needed. This is said as an example, as an expression of will, since the circumstances are very different.

As of 1940, D'Arienzo had two emblematic singers. One was Alberto Echagüe, with a repertoire deeply dramatic, at times scratching the ridiculous and, in other cases, humoristic and in a language typical of the outskirts.

The other, Armando Laborde, an excellent singer with great in-born capacities, good intonation and a pleasant color of voice, about which many have wondered what would have happened had he joined other orchestras, more elaborate and with more paused beat. But the truth is that D'Arienzo´s beat caught him and in this the orchestra's success and the good pay had much to do. So much so that he split with the outfit twice to try his luck somewhere else but he had to return. His comebacks to the orchestra were received with happiness since singer and leader needed each other.

Some time he confessed: «Juan used to kill us, at the speed he played there was no throat that could resist.»

His work at the recording studios lasted forty years, since his debut on record on December 26, 1944 with the numbers “Magdala” and “Color de cielo”, until 1984, when accompanied by the orchestra led by the bandoneonist Alberto Di Paulo he committed to disc ten numbers for the Magenta label, which nothing added to his career, repeating some hits of yesterday and the sole novelty was “Malena”.

He never gave up his simplicity of neighborhood boy, either in his way of expression or in his simple but precise reasoning.

In a long interview once he told me: «I was born as José Atilio Dattoli, on April 27, 1922, although I legally was born on the day 30, because my Daddy, who worked for a living as butcher, forgot to record his birth three days after the true date, because of his obsession for horse racing. I went to grammar school, later to high school and I have some knowledge of accounting... Later, of course, I did my stuff, I sang with small outfits of my neighborhood, Palermo. I was on several auditions on some radio stations with well-known orchestras: Manuel Buzón, Ricardo Tanturi and Horacio Salgán, among others. My friends took there, but I was never called.»

«Until one day when my friend, the composer Alberto Tavarozzi, called me at the café where I used to go with my friends to have a drink and play cards after work. He told me he had persuaded Juan D'Arienzo for auditioning me, because the maestro was looking after a voice, after the withdrawal of the singer Héctor Mauré. They lent me some money to take a cab and I hurried to Radio El Mundo. We waited about two hours for D'Arienzo but he did not turn up, by then I thought it was a Tavarozzi´s story, who many times used to imagine more than what was right.

«But the following day, in the afternoon, I was phoned again, this time it was D'Arienzo's voice. Hours later he auditioned me, I sang around twenty tangos and he accepted me. Some time later I came to know that the leader was hesitating between Carlos Bermudez, ex-singer of Pedro Laurenz orchestra, and me. They chose my youth, my good-looking person and because I was unknown.

«The maestro told me: «You have to learn two numbers, you go to Juancito Díaz's place (the pianist) and rehearse until you have them ready».

«It was the end of the year and with almost no time to rehearse with the orchestra I recorded my first two numbers, my legs were trembling.»

All this was happening a few days before the trip to Uruguay that D'Arienzo had planned for the season at the luxurious Hotel Carrasco of Montevideo. About this tour, Laborde said: «There the interviews started, everybody wanted to know who the new D'Arienzo´s singer was. Among so many questions, I made a mistake when somebody asked which orchestra I liked and I answered: «Aníbal Troilo's». That evening D'Arienzo almost killed me and he shouted at me: «The only orchestra you like is D'Arienzo's».»

Another interesting story was that of his artistic name: «I was for several days “the no-name singer”. Sometimes I used a name and the following day I changed it. But due to my recordings in Buenos Aires, the record company wanted a definitive name for the record label, then the incredible happened. One night coming back by bus from the Hotel Carrasco to downtown Montevideo, D'Arienzo happened to ask the driver about his name:

—«¿Me, Mr.D'Arienzo?»
—«Yes, you!» With that hoarse voice so rough, so his own.
—«My name is Armando Laborde».
—«Here it is, that´s your name».
«And so my artistic name was born.»

Coming back to his discography with D'Arienzo with whom he recorded 145 numbers I want to highlight “Con alma de tango”, by D'Arienzo and Carlos Waiss, “Desde aquella noche”, by Fulvio Salamanca and Carlos Bahr, and “Una y mil noches”, by Alberto San Miguel, Orestes Cúfaro and Carlos Bahr. All of them belonging to the maestro's first stage.

He later sang with Héctor Varela with whom he recorded 24 numbers, among which “Noches de cabaret”, by Alberto San Miguel and Antonio Fiasche stands out.

In 1952, he came back to the orchestra of D'Arienzo with a hit, among others: “El vino triste”, by D'Arienzo and Manuel Romero.

In 1957, he teamed-up with the singer Alberto Echagüe with the background of the orchestra led by Alberto Di Paulo, recording four numbers, and in 1959 he returned with Héctor Varela.

In 1964, he returned to D'Arienzo's orchestra for the second time, in which he stayed until 1974, and recorded one of his greatest hits, “Yuyo brujo”, by Héctor Varela, Benjamín García and Carlos Waiss.

Undoubtedly, Armando Laborde was a singer liked by the connoisseurs of the best tango, his success was linked to D'Arienzo's, but paradoxically, his artistic abilities were not exploited according to what his quality deserved.