Néstor Pinsón

amá was born in Buenos Aires in the neighborhood of San Cristóbal. He left more than three hundred recordings as vocalist and he can be regarded, even though he was not the first one, as the estribillista (refrain singer) par excellence. Out of that great number of recordings there are no more than twenty on which he sang the lyrics in full form.

His was not a voice to be showcased, not even his style which was not much different from those of his peers at that period, furthermore his intonation was far from perfect. But his interest for entertainment, which was evidenced when he was very young and his pleasant manners, plus a nice appearance and a good patronage placed him on the top ranks of his time.

He started in theater, later he was vocalist with Osvaldo Fresedo and, shortly, with Carlos Di Sarli. The association with Francisco Canaro that lasted a year, meant tours, radio and theater plays, and made possible his way up to fame.

Canaro’s popularity was great at its peak and Famá was part of this successful stage, one of the golden chapters of our tango.

Notwithstanding the amount of recordings, his career was not long, only fourteen years in the show business, at thirty-five he was already retired from the showbiz. In July 1977, our friend, the historian Oscar Zucchi interviewed him and the singer said:

«I was born in an area of the Spinetto market and when I was a young kid I was already studying the basics of singing with the maestro Francisco Corbani. He was besides my music teacher at the elementary school I was going to... And he was as well teacher at the municipal theater for children Lavardén, where I was lead actor and singer. It was at the time when Marcelo Alvear (1922-1928) was president of Argentina and I used to sing at public squares, at ceremonies organized by the Buenos Aires Town Hall. I appeared dressed in a white tuxedo with knickers. So I began.»

And he went on saying: «When I was a boy I tried to be a notary public, but it lasted very little. I changed it thanks to the great king of tango that was Carlos Gardel. I admired him without knowing him personally. My first professional experience was at a play at the Teatro Nacional. My mentor was the chief of police, who got me an audition at the theater. One day I went to the director Pascual Carcavallo’s office, which was behind the stage and there I was introduced to Claudio Martínez Payva and the musician Atilio Supparo. The guitarist Rafael Iriarte appeared, he was called (El Ratita) because of his small body, I sang his tango “Trago amargo”. Soon thereafter, as I was capable to recite —at the Lavardén I had studied with Alfonsina Storni—, I did “Las tristezas del inca” by Santos Chocano. I was accepted. There was need to premiere a new play because the one that was on stage had to be replaced because Libertad Lamarque was pregnant, then she was already a big name».

Talking about the opening, he commented to us: «A great person, a gentleman helped me, he took me to his place everyday. There he sat at the piano and we rehearsed with two of his tangos “Botija linda” and “Margarita Punzó”, he was Gerardo Matos Rodríguez. I premiered both numbers, together with Salvador Merico’s (who was the conductor of the theater orchestra) “Alhaja falsa” at the play “La rosa de hierro”.

«In the early 1928, I went to Paris with Osvaldo Fresedo. In fact, Sofía Bozán was expected to travel, but in the last minute she was unable, so I traveled instead. In Buenos Aires, with Fresedo I did not play in public, I only made recordings for the Odeon label. Instead, in Paris, we opened the cabaret Nouvelle Garrón, on the rue Fontaine, in Montmartre. Soon we visited Gardel who had appeared at the cabaret Florida that was placed at the bottom of the Paris casino.»

The singer confessed to us at this time of the conversation: «Gardel, after the show, came to see us because we worked until four in the morning. Every evening he turned up with a different woman... There are times when some people ought to put their tongue somewhere else, those who say that Gardel was a sissy. What women! What ladies! That way, I would have also wished to be gay!

«We were also with Fresedo at the Paramount, at the Lido and, on January 6,1929 we were the only Argentines, together with Gardel, that performed at the annual benefit event called The Milk Cup, where the principal artists and authorities of the nation were gathered, including the president of France monsieur Doumel.»

He returned from Paris without Fresedo, without a coin but with much fun on his shoulders. After he arrived in Buenos Aires, Carlos Di Sarli suggested him recording with his sextet and the maestro asked him: «Are you happy?, and without waiting for an answer he added: Don't take offence, and he put fifty pesos into my pocket. I'm saved, I thought, it was much money. The cost of a streetcar ticket was ten cents.

«Francisco Canaro, with a keen commercial perception, appointed me for an audition, the orchestra was present and I knew it was going to be recorded. I chose to sing “Lo han visto con otra”, I could not fail because I had been singing that piece with Fresedo for a year. The recording was made in the first and only take».

Later came the theater, where he appears in the play La Muchachada del Centro, much later for the carnival time at the ÓperaTtheater, in all them successfully.

Throughout his talk we can guess that he was a worker in tango, he neither kept his recordings nor did he accounted for how many they were. He recorded around two hundred and forty numbers with Canaro.

An interesting story took place when he recorded the refrain of Enrique Maciel's and Héctor Blomberg's “La que murió en París”, because Gardel was also at the recording studio to record it with Canaro, but with the complete lyrics. What is strange is that there is no evidence that Gardel had recorded that tango.

Besides Fresedo, Di Sarli, the Orquesta Típica Victor and Canaro, he was as well with the Orquesta Típica Porteña, the Orquesta Típica Columbia (2 numbers), with Juan Canaro and, then as soloist, accompanied by the Alberto Gambino orchestra in 1936. With guitars he recorded two numbers: “Tardecita gris” (by Ciriaco Ortiz and Juan Sarcione) and the waltz “Rosamel [a]” (by Carlos Di Sarli and Héctor Marcó).

He appeared shortly in several films, at soap operas on the radio, some further tours and at the end he came back to Francisco Canaro, and he split with him in 1940, together with the singer Francisco Amor. They both put together their own, which was conducted by Federico Scorticati, but they did not succeed in recording.

Ernesto Famá was also author and composer of several numbers, together with Luis César Amadori, Antonio Botta, Enrique Dizeo and other friends.