Julio Martel

Real name: Harispe, Julio Pedro
(14 May 1923 - 19 February 2009)
Place of birth:
Baigorrita (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Alberto Príncipe

e was together with Carlos Dante, the other emblematic voice of the Alfredo De Angelis orchestra. He was a baritone, with a masculine voice and a delicate phrasing, with the figure of a lead actor and a singular gentleness. His renderings of “Pregonera”, “Pastora” and “Remolino”, in duo with Dante, are unforgettable. (Director’s commentary)

He was born in Baigorrita, a little town near Junín, in the northwest of the province of Buenos Aires. He is the third of six siblings, only one of them would as well be singer, Raúl Oscar, better known under the pseudonym of Lalo Martel.

In 1928 the Harispe family moved to the city of Caseros, close to Buenos Aires. His father was responsible of the local market and, at sunrise, with a small cart pulled by Julio, they loaded the lambs that were sent to the slaughterhouse in San Martín.

In 1936 they moved to the locality of Munro and Julio began to sing. He appeared on a program of the old Magazine Theater on August 18, 1939, where he appears as national singer with his true name, accompanied by the guitarists Hernández and Vega. With bold fonts he appears on a program of the Atalaya Cinema Theater, on the Salón Azul and in other frequented entertainment places of Munro by that time.

In 1941, his mother signed a contract that made him for the first time a singer in a tango orchestra, he was then a minor. The orchestra was led by the maestro Juan Giordano, who exclusively played at the summer season at the salons of the Hurlingham hotel of Mar del Plata and in winter at the rendezvous of the City Hotel of Buenos Aires. They played an international repertory and, according to Julio’s sayings, the most celebrated piece was the pasodoble “El sombrero”.

In the early 1943 he had his great opportunity. The double-bass player Roberto Vivas, sideman in the Giordano orchestra, told him that at Radio El Mundo there was an audition for singers to join the Alfredo De Angelis orchestra. He enrolled, and auditioned accompanied on piano by Juan Larenza and was chosen among hundreds of contestants.

When they were celebrating his triumph, at a table of Mi Refugio barroom, next door the radio station, the glossarist Néstor Rodi, also secretary of the De Angelis orchestra, ordered a cognac. The waiter brought a Martell for him and Rodi told the singer: «So you’re going to be called from now on».

He made his debut at the stage of the Marzotto Café, where as well appeared the singer Floreal Ruiz, interpreting the tango “No creas”.

On September 23, 1943, he recorded his first disc, the tango “Qué buena es” and, until his last recording on December 12, 1950, “Tus palabras y la oche”, he committed to record 63 historical takes as soloist and 17, in duo with Carlos Dante.

The orchestra and its singers were successful. They performed at the Federación de Box (Boxing Association) on Castro Barros Street; in May '44 they made their debut at the Tibidabo dancing hall and opened the Tango Bar. The following year, at the rgentinos Juniors Club, where Alfredo De Angelis’s and José Rótulo’s “Pregonera” was premiered.

But Martel’s consecration together with Carlos Dante in the De Angelis orchestra was, undoubtedly, when in 1946 Oscar Luis Mazza, director of Radio El Mundo, suggested to the leader to sign an exclusive contract for the program Glostora Tango Club to play from Mondays to Fridays from 8:00 pm to 8:15 pm, preceding the successful radio soup opera Los Pérez García in its new cycle.

The personal interpretations that Martel achieved with De Angelis were many. There were songs premiered at the Glostora and the day after people were singing or whistling them on the streets.

There were many tangos that he sang but that unfortunately were not committed to disc, for example: “Qué viejo estoy”, “Sufra”, “Yira yira”, “Guapo y varón” and “Violetita”, among others. A special mention is to be made for “Por qué te habré conocido”, by Rodolfo Scasidi and Carlos Cubría, the latter, bandoneonist in the orchestra, because it was the last tango that Martel performed, with tears in his eyes, when he said goodbye to the orchestra at the carnival seasons at the Club Gimnasia y Esgrima of La Plata in 1951.

Another piece that was not recorded was a successful milonga of the itinerant singer Martín Castro, “Presumido”, sung by the Dante-Martel duo.

Together with De Angelis he ventured into the movies, singing in duo with Dante the song “Pregonera”, on the film El cantor del pueblo (1948) and nearing the end of that year he was starred as lead actor on the movie El ídolo del tango, with the actress Graciela Lecube. On that motion picture he performs three tangos composed by Rodolfo Sciammarella: “De igual a igual”, “Comencé jugando” and “No tiene importancia”.

After splitting with Alfredo De Angelis, he made his debut as soloist in Santiago de Chile, later in Montevideo (Uruguay), where he appeared on radio, television and night venues. There, in 1952, he recorded the tango “Nacional [b]”, by José Puglia and Edgardo Pedroza, dedicated to the soccer club of that city.

When he came back to Buenos Aires, the bandoneonist Oscar Castagniaro, who had just split with the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra, invited him to join his new aggregation. They made their opening at the La Armonía Tea Room and his fellow singer was Roberto Chanel. He also appeared on Radio Belgrano and at many dance halls and Buenos Aires venues.

In 1956, he became soloist again, sponsored by a well-known trade mark of paint, Colorín, and made his debut on Radio Belgrano with his own orchestra led by the violinist Américo Podestá. With it he recorded four numbers for the Odeon label: “Pobre colombina”, “Lechuza”, “Por qué no has venido” and “Fueron tres años”.

Later he made a successful cycle of shows with audience attendance on Radio Argentina, after it he made a tour of Latin America, with the intention to continue in the United States. But in Colombia he was so warmly welcome that he decided to stay for a long time. Here he recorded for the Sonolux label, in Medellín, 20 numbers accompanied by the bandoneonist Enrique Méndez (who had traveled with him from Buenos Aires), the pianist Armando Lacava (who was temporarily there) and local musicians.

When he came back from Colombia, Julio Martel decided to quit singing and devote to his farm. His last show was at the Santa Elena club of the city of Luján (70 kilometers west of the city of Buenos Aires), on December 20 1959.

On 14 May 2009 he would celebrate his 86th birthday. He lived on his royalties as singer, what certifies that his recordings still are important hits.

In his beloved neighborhood of Munro he was like a hero. On the 80th anniversary of that city, in 1992, he was carried in an open car and his neighbors effusively saluted him and from the balconies they threw flowers in his honor. A festival was organized to honor him and a public square was given his name.