Francisco Lauro

Real name: Lauro, Francesco
Nicknames: El Tano / Pancho Picaflor
Bandoneonist, bandleader, composer and lyricist
(17 May 1897 - 12 August 1960)
Place of birth:
Mola (Bari) Italy
Néstor Pinsón

his odd representative of the tango milieu of the 30s and 40s was born in Italy. Even though he had his time of artistry, the latter was backed and even surpassed by the special character he was. People were more aware of the funny stories he gave rise to than of the pieces he composed.

Today that tango men are an endangered species, who remembers that the orchestra led by El Tano Lauro existed? Surely, just a few with many years of experience in life, veterans in the milongas who recall times of glory in their youth.

Astor Piazzolla who, as orchestra player made his debut with Gabriel Clausi in a short stint, switched to the Francisco Lauro’s which had more jobs and meant the possibility of getting more money. But before he had an audition with the leader: «I saw a big guy large as a wardrobe, tall and wide. I began to play Mozart. He looked at me and said nothing. Then I went on with Gershwin, so he came nearer and told me in my ear: «Finish with that fantasy and play a tango beat in four, chan chan chan chan». I did it and he interrupted me: «All right, come back tomorrow, you’re in the orchestra». Thereafter he switched to the Aníbal Troilo orchestra.

It was around 1938 that a new tango group appeared: Los Mendocinos, led by Lauro. Were they from that province? Not at all. It turns out that they had been appearing at a restaurant known as Un Rincón de Mendoza. Through the ranks of that aggregation passed Juan Sánchez Gorio, Bernardo Blas, Jorge Caldara, Alfredo De Angelis, Eduardo Del Piano, as well as the vocalists Alberto Ortiz, Luis Mendoza. The latter joined Sanchez Gorio later and Argentino Oliver, among others.

It was a simple little orchestra with a songbook of well-known tangos, milongas and waltzes with a quite danceable beat. About the same time they also appeared at the Café Germinal. Furthermore, they made their debut on LR3 Radio Belgrano. It seems the name Los Mendocinos was successful because when De Angelis put together his own orchestra he used to call it Los Ex Mendocinos.

Also Bernardo Blas, a pianist that accompanied a good number of singers, among them Carmen Duval and Sabina Olmos, and had joined the Edgardo Donato orchestra, took advantage of the situation and formed his group with the name Los Auténticos Mendocinos. Time later everything came back to normalcy, El Tano definitively recovered the name with his Sexteto Los Mendocinos.

Curiously, he was unable to play bandoneon. He had an instinct and musical ear to compose and give some hint, but he lacked that capability. Oscar Zucchi, the greatest connoisseur about bandoneon and its players, along with Julio Nudler, another tango scholar, coincided that he pretended to play it. His instrument lacked the harmonic box and only emitted a deaf snort. His boys, on a formal performance with audience, made him a joke. They all agreed that when playing a tango, at a certain time, when the instrument had to be wide open, they would stop playing and so his snort would be quite audible. The leader did not pay much attention to it and went on as if nothing had happened. Nudler wrote an article in which he names them as «músicos figurantes». They were included in an orchestra to simulate a large number of players and to pretend to be an important orchestra. But the point here is that the figurant was the leader himself.

He was a guy with very good humor, fond of jokes and he even laughed at his own mistakes and at his intricate way of speaking. He was much loved by his peers.

He composed the waltzes: “Corazón ingrato”, “Madre no llores”, “Tu eres mi vida” and “Una canción a Santiago del Estero”. The milongas “Beso gaucho”, “Milonga brava”; the pasodobles “Gloria de Sevilla” and “Corazón gitano” and, among others, the tangos “Perfidia”, “Qué performance”, “Lo que no se olvida” and some folk songs. He recorded more than 20 numbers for the Victor label.

Bibliography: Notes by Héctor Palazzo, Julio Nudler, Oscar Zucchi and Horacio Ferrer.