Roberto Morel

Real name: Spinelli, Oscar Norberto
Nicknames: Roberto Spinelli
Singer and composer
(25 May 1926 - 21 January 1991)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Abel Palermo
| Néstor Pinsón

s it used to happen by that time his inclination for singing occurred at a very early age. While he was at grade school he was member of the children choir of his school, San José de Calasanz.

Soon after his teen years he had his first professional chance when, at the well-remembered Munich on Boedo Street, he replaced his peer Carlos Peralta.

In 1946 he teamed up with Vicente Romeo, the creator of the waltz “Un placer”, to form the Romeo-Spinelli duo to appear at barrooms and different venues in Buenos Aires. In the late 1952 Romeo split with him and followed other path. Then the singer applied for an audition with the orchestra led by Edgardo Donato and soon, on January 2 of the next year, he recorded his first two tracks for the Pampa label: “Berretines de bacana”, tango by his colleague Carlos Mayel and lyrics by Julio Budano, and “Apronte”. Donato suggested that he would use the stage name Roberto Morel.

In November 1953 they went on tour of the littoral area and crossed the border to Paraguay. When they arrived there they appeared on radio, casinos and at a large number of ballrooms. Thereafter they came back to Argentina and went to the city of Resistencia, province of El Chaco but there were some problems and the impresario decided to return to Buenos Aires. The leader and all his musicians did so but Morel and Raúl Angeló, the other vocalist of the orchestra, stayed. For some time they worked with guitar accompaniment in the customary circuit of radios, theaters and dancehalls of the area.

He again joined Donato and, on June 10, 1955 recorded his last number with him: “Novia de pueblo” written by Orlando Calautti and Rosario Arena.

The following year he appeared as soloist on LR4 Radio Splendid along with the guitarists Carlos Lema, Carlos Orsa and Nelson Olivera. The program was named El Muchacho del Café after an idea of the emcee, the young girl Lidia Elsa Satragno (Pinky), who used to identify Morel as The Boy at the Café.

In 1957 the Radiofilm magazine organized a contest for singers which was aired by radio from a theater in the capital city. Finally, Ernesto Herrera turned out winner and, among the ladies, a girl from Rosario, Carmen Verónica Martínez, was chosen. The latter soon later married with Morel. The runner-up was Nelly Vázquez.

Two years later he got an important season at the Confitería El Olmo, located across Plaza Once, on the corner of Pueyrredón and Bartolomé Mitre, where he was accompanied by Roberto Grela and his guitar group.

In January 1961 he appeared at the Confitería Richmond on Esmeralda Street. The following year, along with his wife, he conducted a program on Sundays on LS6 Radio del Pueblo, Sobremesa de Tangos. With them, Miguel Nijensohn was with his orchestra and there, between chats and interviews, both artists performed their numbers.

Some sequences mentioned here were taken from a note that, because of his demise, wrote our colleague: the late Héctor López.

As composer, the following pieces belong to him: “Plata”, “Paralo Sauro”, “Lo que nunca deschavé” —with words by Roberto Giménez—; as composer and lyricist: the milongas “Entre curdas” and “El descolado”, both with Carlos Mayel and Aldo Queirolo; the tangos “Palito docena media”, with Mayel and José Paradiso; “Yo nací para Palermo”, with Mayel and Modesto Silvano Botti, and several numbers more.

With the Edgardo Donato orchestra he recorded: “Aprontes” and “Berretines de bacana”, both on March 2, 1953; “El descolado”, on July 25, 1953; “Pa’l nene”, on November 27, 1953; “Una canción” and “T.B.C.”, on August 11, 1953, the latter teaming up with Raúl Angeló as duo; “Un poco tarde”, on April 24, 1953; “Qué globera” (Edgardo Donato and Octavio Martinzano), on June 10, 1954; “Fue mi salvación” (Ascanio Donato and Alberto Cosentino) and “Has llegado”, both on March 25, 1955; “Novia de pueblo” (Orlando Calautti and Félix Rosario Arena) and “El disloque” (Donato and Nolo López), both on June 10, 1955; “Yo nací para Palermo”, on December 17, 1954.

Thereafter, and with accompaniment by a guitar group, he recorded the waltz “Creo en la madre”, co-written with Juan Mario Maffia and Aldo Queirolo. The above recordings are not his complete discography.

We can infer from the titles that many of them are connected with gambling in general and, especially, pools, horse racing, the Hipódromo Argentino (horse racetrack) of Palermo. It hints about how gambling strongly attracted our Boy at the Café like many others of his peers, fond of horse racing and gambling (card games). To such an extent that a popular commentator of that time who signed as M. M. de las Carreras published the following note in the Pingos (Horses) magazine directed by another renowned turf journalist, Miguel Ángel Busso:

«By the time he died we have got accustomed to frequent barrooms and cafés where the fans of horseracing met at a table to analyze the program of each week. By that time there were races on Saturdays, Sundays and on some important holiday. So we discovered picturesque characters with plenty of stories. Each week: a different neighborhood. One day we had a phone call in the Editor’s from a man who introduced himself as Oscar Spinelli and appointed us to meet at a café on Uruguay Street at 8:30 pm. I asked him why at that precise time and place and his answer was: «If we cannot meet at that time there’ll no note». I talked about it with Busso and he agreed and we went with a photographer. When we arrived we saw that Spinelli was waiting for us at the door of a café facing Radio Splendid and he was no other but Roberto Morel. «Every week you go to a different café to talk about horses and now I invite you to mine and here we’ll get a nice note because you’ll find race-goers by the dozen».

«Soon later we found ourselves in the larger room of the radio station accompanied by the then director Pablo Cumo who was, among other things, supporting actor in many movies and had been secretary and right hand of the actor Florencio Parravicini. Morel dedicated to us several tangos connected with the subject of his passion which was also ours. Among them, one that belonged to him and he still had not premiered. “I’ll do it, he told us, without previous rehearsal”. He had written it to honor the jockey Cayetano Sauro and he named it: “Paralo Sauro”».

The latter paragraph deserves an explanation. Morel wrote the music and, possibly, prompted its title and the lyrics but the words belong to Francisco Oscar Cittadino. The curious thing in the sheet music is that it mentions that it is dedicated to the jockey Cayetano Sauro by many other people besides the composer and the lyricist.

By now, we have no doubts that The Boy at the Café, besides having fun with the sport of the kings, contributed to the maintenance of horse racing tracks and the rest of the equestrian activity. But it is fair to admit that he was a good singer and a great person.