Juan Caldarella

Real name: Caldarella, Juan
Guitarist, musical saw player, leader, composer and actor
(15 May 1891 - 20 March 1978)
Place of birth:
Sicilia Italy
Ricardo García Blaya

e are now talking about a quite peculiar and appealing character born in Sicily (Italy) who proudly kept the accent of his fatherland, an amusing feature of his personality, full of humor and witticism, that would add flavor to his artistic gifts.

He began his professional career in the early twenties at different venues by accompanying a large number of vocalists with his guitar and, in the following decade, as musician and actor, joining the cast of Chispazos de Tradición, a successful radio soap opera aired by Radio Nacional. This radio station was owned by Jaime Yanquelevich and after 1933 was named Radio Belgrano.

By that time he led a duo along with the accordeonist Renzo Massobrio and cut some recordings of his own pieces for Discos Nacional Odeon: “La regalona”, “Mañanita de sol”, “La salteña” (rancheras) and “Toma tus cartas” (tango). Later, by the inclusion of Osvaldo Schelotto on piano, it became a trio in which he used to play guitar and double on musical saw. This aggregation grew with the addition of Elvino Vardaro on violin but it always appeared as if they were a trio either on records, billboards or programs.

For recordings they used different names according to their needs and the agreement with the record company. So on the disc labels the names of the Trío Los Nativos or Trío Los Pampeanos or Trío Los Provincianos (do not mistake it for the Orquesta Típica Los Provincianos) would appear.

In the early 50s he recorded for RCA-Victor with his orchestra and the singer Mercedes Sucre.

Many years later, in 1958, the draftsman Juan Carlos Colombres, (Landrú) had the idea of putting together a quartet he named Jacinto W and his Tururú Serenaders. Its personnel included three well-known talented musicians: Héctor Sormani (drummer), Hernán Oliva (violinist) and Juan Caldarella (musical saw and other miscellaneous instruments). Furthermore it included a singer, Héctor Juncal, a tango vocalist that had joined the Pedro Laurenz orchestra in 1946. They recorded a few records and appeared on TV channel 7.

As composer we can regard him as a prolific creator but it was the impressive acclaim of only one of his numbers what led him to the hall of fame along with the brothers Alejandro and José Scarpino (the latter, author of the lyrics): the tango “Canaro en París”, an all-time classic composed in 1925. But there is an addition: the famous final variation —signature feature of this number— which belongs to him. The funny thing is that it sprang up by means of an unexpected resource.

According to our friend, the bandoneonist Gabriel Clausi, who witnessed it at the back of a cheap tavern where they used to play. It was a backyard where the owner served them food between one appearance and the other. With his usual comic humor, Caldarella was in the mood of playing the tango piece —recently composed— but this time blowing a comb wrapped in cellophane which produced a quite special nasal sound. The melody was normally played until, nearing the end, he began to blow some strange linear contours, at fast speed, half seriously and half jokingly and, from then on the beautiful final variation was appearing. Thereafter he wrote it in the music staff for showcasing bandoneon players. I share the opinion of those who think that that variation consecrated “Canaro en París” as an immortal tango piece.

With Alejandro Scarpino he also co-wrote “Seguime si podés” (a very interesting tango, for many, overshadowed by the fame of “Canaro en París”), with lyrics by Antonio Anselmi, which was committed to record —as an instrumental— by the orchestras of Francisco Canaro (1928), Juan Sánchez Gorio (1952), Osvaldo Pugliese (1953) and the Sexteto Tango (1982). Others, among many ones, were: “Sierra Chica” with words by José Scarpino which was recorded by Francisco Canaro with Agustín Irusta (1927); “Sultana”, camel-trot, recorded by the Francisco Canaro Jazz Band (1924); of “Aquel beso” with lyrics by Cipriano Pérez, “Besos ardientes” with words by Francisco Brancatti and “Corazón a corazón” with lyrics by Celso Piano we do not know any recording.

We can come to the conclusion that Juan Caldarella was an important figure of our tango either as composer or due to the summation of his art work. The recognition of his merits and his honesty inspired this humble portrayal.