Abel Palermo

t was a neat orchestra, with timing and, above all, in the vocalist’s service. The latter, whatever his style, was able to display all his vocal capacity, his personality, his phrasing in a symbiosis which produced as result a perfect harmony between music and singing.

So a parade of singers of such level like Carlos Roldán, Mario Corrales (Mario Pomar), Floreal Ruiz, Enrique Campos, Julio Sosa, Jorge Durán and Alfredo Del Río passed through the ranks of his aggregation. They were all vocalists that reached the soul of tango audiences.

He was born in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Belgrano. Son of an important entrepreneur of the paper industry, after his father’s death he took over the management of the enterprise. Due to his interest in music he began to study piano in his childhood. He graduated as piano teacher and as such he worked in different conservatories.

At age 17 he put together his first outfit and in 1944 he won a contest for tango orchestras held at the traditional venue Palermo Palace. He made his debut at the San José de Flores club in the neighborhood with the same name in the carnival season of 1945. The poet Carlos Waiss was the announcer and commentator.

During 1947, he succeeded in a tango venue of Corrientes Street, no less than the Café Nacional. Since then his orchestra that played the charts written by its lead bandoneonist Enrique Rossi and in whose bandoneon section Luis Stazo played as well, began to carry out an important work at dancehalls. Its vocalists were Horacio Quintana and Aldo Calderón.

But that was not what Rotundo aimed for, because he had realized that in the most important orchestras success was based mainly in their vocalists. He came to the conclusion, with his friend musician and arranger Tití Rossi, that he had to hire first-rate vocalists. For that reason, by the end of 1948, he summoned Carlos Roldán who was in Montevideo and in March of 1949, he hired Mario Corrales, who had just split with the Osmar Maderna Orchestra. Corrales stays during a year and later is incorporated to Carlos Di Sarli’s Orchestra, who changes his artistic name to Mario Pomar.

But after the 1949 carnival seasons Rotundo still clung to the idea of incorporating a consecrated figure. He suggested Rossi tempting Floreal Ruiz in his period of full boom with Troilo.

It seemed impossible to make it true but after several meetings he persuaded Floreal, with a proposal of $ 100.000, a part of it served as compensation for Aníbal Troilo and RCA-Victor. Besides that money, they signed a deal for $ 3000 a month for 40 months.

In July 1948, Floreal Ruiz split with Troilo and made his debut in October with Rotundo. Since then the orchestra, which was playing three shows a month, began to play over twenty at the best cabarets. As well came radio and record hits. The excellent Floreal’s tenure with Rotundo took place since 1949 until 1957. Twenty-five numbers were recorded, some of them great hits like “Un infierno”, “Melenita de oro”, “Infamia”, “Esclavas blancas”.

In 1952, Rotundo achieved a new commercial impact by hiring Enrique Campos, who succeeded in carrying out with Rotundo one of the most brilliant stages of his career. He recorded anthological pieces like the tangos “Libertad”, “Llorando la carta”, “Ebrio”, and with Floreal Ruiz, perhaps the most perfect interpretation in duo of the waltz by Charlo and José González Castillo, “El viejo vals”, a cash-box record hit.

In 1953 when Julio Sosa split with the Francini-Pontier Orchestra, he was lured by Rotundo to join his team. He offered the amount of $ 5000 a month. The former immediately agreed. During the two years that Sosa spent with the orchestra, he achieved, what later would be, the style that would make him succeed as soloist and which would lead him to be one of the greatest voices in tango. His numbers: “Justo el treinta y uno”, “Mala suerte”, “Bien bohemio”, “Levanta la frente”, “Dios te salve m'hijo”, “Secreto”, surpassed all cash-box forecasts.

In the late 1955 another great vocalist, Jorge Durán, as well passed through the ranks of the orchestra. He recorded two pieces, the waltz “Poema para mi madre” and the tango “Sus ojos se cerraron”, both cut in December of that year.

The last big contract made by Rotundo was when he hired the singer Alfredo Del Río —the one who sang with Alfredo Gobbi—. A testimony of it are his two recordings: “Todavía estás a tiempo” and “Destino en flor”.

The last singer of this brilliant stage of Rotundo was Roberto Argentino, who recorded only one number: the tango “Qué tarde que has venido”.

All these recordings were made in the studios of the Pampa label, which was a branch of the Odeon company.

Because of a cruel political persecution and for his Peronist ideas, he was banned like many men of the world of our national and popular culture. His wife, the female singer Juanita Larrauri, also suffered persecution and was finally incarcerated for having been a personal friend of Eva Perón's and senator of the Nation. During her prison days she shared hours with a gentleman in life and in art, don Hugo Del Carril. Due to these episodes, Rotundo came back to his paper enterprise.

Very few orchestras in so little time, just eight years, achieved the popularity of Francisco Rotundo.

As composer with Reinaldo Yiso, he reached an outstanding success with the tango “Un infierno” through the renditions of Floreal Ruiz and Alberto Morán. He as well composed the instrumental tango “Para florearse”, “Siempre tu voz”, “Rezongo malevo”, “Un cariño”, “Sin remordimiento” and with Ernesto Rossi, a tango dedicated to the soccer club Estudiantes de La Plata.

In the late 60s he quit running his printing shop and returned for some years to his old flame: music. He summoned his friend and brother-in-soul Tití Rossi to open, firstly in the neighborhood of Liniers and later in Villa Luro, his local La Casa de Rotundo, where he put together a new orchestra. Outstanding figures of our city music performed on that venue: Jorge Casal, Carlos Roldán, Alfredo Del Río, Mario Bustos and Alfredo Dalton, and also maestro Horacio Salgán.

Rotundo, besides being a tango great, he was a friend, with codes and gentlemanliness, unjustly forgotten, so I rescue him from oblivion in this contribution for Todo Tango.