Adolfo Avilés

Real name: Avilés, Adolfo Rafael
Nicknames: Populin
Pianist, composer, lyricist and leader
(11 May 1897 - 9 December 1971)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Eduardo Visconti

n June 26, 1919 an anonymous reader published the following lines in the section Siluetas y Flirts of the Vida porteña magazine:

«Flirt. —She was a nice fifteen-year-old girl that studied at a school. He was a dark-haired boy with light blue eyes and wore glasses and had a merry temper and an interesting conversation. He is an employee at a house on Paseo Colón Street; like her, he plays piano and composes music pieces, and lives near Rivadavia Street».

The boy with dark hair and eyeglasses was Adolfo and the fat girl was his present wife and the house where he works was the Young Men Christian Association. There he was secretary. The place is connected to his musical history because there he put together his first orchestra.

At age twelve, Adolfo entered the Williams conservatory where he studied piano. But his inclination was another one, he liked to write popular music. Half an hour before each lesson he gathered some classmates and made them hear his last inventions.

His father’s death and the need to contribute with money made him quit his studies but he did not abandon his liking for composing. So in the late 1916 he composed his first tango: “El amasijo”. He managed in publishing it thanks to a friend who later distributed the copies in cafés and movie theaters. It was played for the first time at the Café Domínguez on Corrientes Street but it reached no acclaim.

His next two pieces, the waltz “Almafuerte [b]” and the zamba “Los rosales se han secado” received a certain public acclaim. Meanwhile, he continued as secretary of the YMCA where he was also teacher of gymnastics and swimming. Then he decided to put together an orchestra with the association members to play at the basketball festivals that took place on Saturday evenings.

The orchestra attracted the attention of a manager of Max Glücskmann and of Mauricio Goddard in Odeon. Both suggested him recording for Nacional records. His debut was with a jazz number, the foxtrot “Honolulu Blues”, with an unknown crooner singing the refrain; later the orchestra accompanied recordings by Gloria Guzmán and Carmen Lamas, well-known vedettes of that time. His first hit was the zamba “Los ojazos de mi negra”, dedicated on the sheet music “To Matonia», his girlfriend”.

León Fontova, who used to conduct the classical orchestra at the París movie theater in 1927, invited him to form a tango group to appear at that venue. He had a wide public acclaim and it was an eight-month tenure.

Avilés went on composing and in an article in the La canción moderna magazine in May 1936 it is said that he had published around sixty numbers by that time. The tangos mentioned are: “Cicatrices”, “El poncho del olvido”, “Desolación” (lyrics by Eduardo Viera), “Tesorito” and “No hay derecho”. His most renowned zambas, besides the above, are: “Mal de amores” (lyrics by Eduardo Viera) and “La carreta” (lyrics by Enrique Maroni). He as well composed foxtrots, among them, “Musmé” and “Chrysantheme” (lyrics by Eduardo Viera). His first recorded tango was “Caballito” and was cut by the Roberto Firpo orchestra in 1923 (Nicolás Lefcovich’s discography mentions 1921).

He started on Radio Sudamérica as pianist in 1923. Later on Radio Cultura when he played at the Plaza Hotel with his jazz band. Thereafter he appeared on Radio Nacional and Grand Splendid. In 1931 he opened La hora del cine on Radio América.

Since 1932 he had been working as journalist in papers always about cinema. He also organized a large number of art festivals. Among other magazines he contributed for La novela semanal, Aquí está, Antena, Leoplán, Tanguera. He was correspondent in Hollywood as movie critic. In 1945 his chats were daily broadcasted from the Radio Excelsior small movie theater and he interviewed figures of our movies before a live audience.

Before putting together his orchestra he joined the Trío América, along with Antonio Arcieri (violin) and Antonio Sureda (bandoneon). He run a music house on La Rioja Street where he used to play the sheet music provided by his friend the publisher Máximo Perrotti for his customers.

He had a restless temper, no doubt, because he also ventured in trading. In his place on 1347 Bulnes 1347 Street he used to sell white sugar automatically packaged.

Editor’s office comment: As an example of his personality and manifold activity, our friend and contributor Néstor Pinsón tells us that one afternoon when he was a kid he went to a movie theater, the Cine Cosmos on Corrientes Street, and Avilés himself sold him the ticket and exchanged a few words with the former.

Source: Cuadernos de difusión del tango, nº 26, directed by Salvador Arancio, based on an unsigned article published in the magazine La canción moderna, May 16, 1936.