José García

Real name: García, José Francisco
Violinist, leader and composer
(22 July 1908 - 5 April 2000)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Emilio J. Pichetti

e was born in the neighborhood of Barracas —in the southern area of the city of Buenos Aires—, since the age he reached the faculty of reasoning an interest for music awoke in him; he played several instruments, among them, piano, violin and bandoneon. His intention was not, as in fact happened, to become the leader of a tango orchestra. His purpose was a very different one, but reality teaches that the most natural thing in life is that plans and projects, conceived at a time when future is regarded with that great optimism we all have in our youth, will be later modified.

He studied at the Conservatorio Nacional and his instructors were, naturally, the most renowned musical names of the epoch. He as well thought that with the passing of time he would achieve the status of a famous violinist. That instrument was the one he learnt and to which he devoted himself with all his enthusiasm and vehemence necessary to achieve success.

Soon after he finished his studies, José García put up a conservatory in Lanús. He tried to pass on the knowledge he had acquired through hard work to the kids with musical inclinations of that locality. Soon the enthusiastic brand-new teacher was favored by a great number of fervent students.

In 1926 he formed an infant orchestra lined-up by students of his Conservatory. Some of them later joined his polished outfit Los Zorros Grises.

His favorite composers were Schubert, Beethoven and Gounod. But he had a parallel ability that the public never knew: artistic painting.

In 1930 several radio stations in Buenos Aires moved their studios to the theaters offering varied attractive shows, but this caused the beginning of the decline of radio artists. José García, who besides a teacher was a friend for his pupils, realized the passing success of such shows and decided to put together a tango orchestra with enthusiastic boys, who made it an interesting nuance of the show staged at the San Martín theater of that time.

On the eve of the opening an important detail was solved, the clothes of the members of the orchestra. At that time gray flannel suits were sold at a tempting price, less than thirty pesos, so the orchestra was uniformly dressed immediately. The audience warmly welcome that pack of kids and, because of the color of the suits, called them «los grises» (the greys). García accepted such name but, soon later, he no longer liked it so he thought it was better to precede it with «zorros» (foxes). Hence the name José García y sus Zorros Grises, using the Rafael Tuegols’s tango “Zorro gris” (grey fox) as introduction and music theme.

The first aggregation of 1936 was comprised by the following musicians: Juan Carlos Barbará (piano); Rodolfo Morán (double bass); Francisco Caamaño (piston); Hipólito Morán, Juan Aprobat, Domingo Perego y Mario Lalli (violins); Héctor González, Alfredo Ponce, Roberto Quiroga, Luis Mastorini and Alfredo González (bandoneons); Augusto Gothier and Nilda Wilson (singers). The leader was José García, who initially played the violin but later he only conducted.

That was a very disciplined group, perfectly polished that in the late 30s challenged the best orchestras of the period at a time when all them were renewing themselves, like the case of Juan D'Arienzo, Miguel Caló, Osvaldo Fresedo, Francisco Canaro and when the orchestras of Aníbal Troilo, Ricardo Tanturi, Carlos Di Sarli and Lucio Demare were starting.

The Zorros Grises Orchestra belonged to the kind of the so-called rhythmic groups, with a well marked beat and also it had the peculiarity of besides playing pieces of the tango genre, it added other merry international danceable styles such as corridos, rhumbas, boleros, marches, etc. This meant a big public acclaim and great popularity.

In 1938 its pianist Juan Carlos Barbará split with the Zorros Grises and put together his famous pop orchestra (orquesta característica). He was replaced by Rodolfo Lozano.

The principal performances of the outfit were as well at tearooms and at the Carnival balls of the big sports clubs to much acclaim. They always kept their polished style. Its consecration on radio was at the so-called Palacio on Belgrano 1841 occupied by three broadcastings. After his debut on Radio Porteña he was hired as exclusive artist by Radio Belgrano.

In 1941, the singer of the group was Carlos Alberti, the following year Alfredo Rojas joined them. He was the most popular and permanent singer, whose real name was Asdrúbal Sterla Webster. He had an excellent pleasant strong voice with perfect nuances.

The group changed several musicians of its personnel in 1943 and the line-up was then as follows: Carlos Figari (piano); Rodolfo Morán (double bass); Elías Slom, Rodolfo Filoso, Carlos Deambroggio e Ítalo Morán (violins); Nicolás Castillo, Luis Masturini, Héctor González and Pablo García (bandoneons); Alfredo Rojas (singer). That was the time of its biggest popularity.

The orchestra finally managed to record. It signed a contract with the Odeon label and on January 23, 1942 recorded the Horacio Pettorossi's tango "Fea" with Alfredo Rojas on vocals. Between that recording and April 16, 1945 they recorded 40 numbers; 33 were sung by the abovementioned Rojas, 1 by Nilda Wilson, 2 by Rojas and Wilson in duo and 4 were instrumentals.

Other singers that were vocalists in its later period —1945 to 1947— were: Luján Cardillo, Osvaldo Cordó and Alberto Santillán.

As composer, José García wrote 28 numbers, from which these stand out: the tangos "No pudo ser", "Nocturno de tango", "Esta noche de luna", "Si escucharas mis amores", "Jesús de Nazareth" and "Desolación"; the waltz "María Triniá" and a corrido titled "El mentiroso" which meant for him the greatest popularity and cash-box success.

Leader of one of the best tango orchestras, as far as artistic quality is concerned, he withdrew from the activity in 1950 and, like so many other figures, was and is unjustly forgotten.

But as no one is a prophet in his own land, his music was much more recognized in Colombia where he released 3 long-playing records. And in like manner in Chile, a country in which people feel a great admiration and respect towards him.