Abel Palermo

lthough he possessed a strong voice with baritone range and knew all the licks of tango, he was unable to reach the level of his partner, Argentino Ledesma, with whom he shared several hits.

This prototype of porteño boy, very good-looking and with a nice voice, did not reach the level he would have deserved due to his great artistic capabilities because of a disordered life with all the vices that are developed in nightlife and spree.

He was born in the neighborhood of Parque Chacabuco (Buenos Aires) on 432 Zubiría Street, where he grew up with his brother Oscar and his sister María.

His father, Carmelo Aiello, a bandoneon player and composer, wrote the successful polka “El viejito del acordeón” which was recorded by many artists, as well as the milonga “Florcita porteña” that was recorded by Argentino Ledesma and the tango “Criollo de ley” that Juan D´Arienzo recorded.

His older brother, Oscar, devoted himself to study piano. It allowed him to become a member of his father’s orchestra. At age 12 Rodolfo, under the name Rodolfo Alberti, made his debut with that orchestra in the carnival balls of 1940 at the Hurlingham club. He shared the role of vocalist with Guillermo Coral, who later switched to the Francisco Canaro Orchestra and thereafter would work as imitator and comic actor under the name Guillermo Rico.

The Aiello’s orchestra was hired by Radio Mitre. After 1945 gigs were less frequent for the orchestra so his father decided to disband it. Then El Rolo had to devote to other activities because due to his age - 15 years-old – it was quite difficult to work as singer.

Buddies of the café that Rodolfo frequented on Cachimayo and Asamblea, a bus stop and as well a place where taxi drivers used to hang around, offered him stints as taxi driver despite he had no driving license.

In 1948, he was drafted for the military service. Due to his experience as driver he was assigned to the attendance on an army general. Furthermore he stood out as singer and showman in every social meeting held at the garrison.

After the servi he returned to his job as taxi driver. One evening a passenger that got into the cab was maestro Héctor Varela who had just played at the cabaret Maipú Pigall. With a complete lack of inhibition, natural in a boy of his age, he sang a tango piece. The musician invited him to a rehearsal of the orchestra. The result of the audition was positive and he was hired. On June 6, 1950 he made his debut at the Chantecler cabaret located on 400 Paraná Street. He teamed up on vocals with the already consecrated Armando Laborde.

Varela did not like either Alberti or even Aiello as names for his vocalist but when he passed by Lezica square in the neighborhood of Caballito he decided to christen him with the name Rodolfo Lesica, but with a letter s instead of a z.

The Varela Orchestra was comprised of a group of outstanding musicians, mostly former members of the Juan D’Arienzo Orchestra. The orchestra was lined up, among others, by César Zagnoli on piano, the violinists Hugo Baralis, Mario Abramovich and Roberto Guisado, in the bandoneon section, alongside the leader Varela, were Alberto Marchese and Alberto San Miguel, and the announcer was Jorge Fontana, who later would become one of the most important speakers on radio and television.

Due to the remarkable success they were hired by LR3 Radio Belgrano and by EMI-Odeon for its label Pampa. They recorded for the first time the instrumental “El flete”; the Laborde-Lesica duo, the old milonga recorded by Gardel “Un bailongo”; again in duo with Laborde he recorded “Tal para cual” and “La carreta” and as soloist he cut the tango “Paciencia”. In 1952 he released a record in which he evidences all his capacity as interpreter with the tango by Antonio Fiasche and San Miguel “Noches de cabaret”.

He has a style of strong temper, in which his voice color and his good intonation are developing into an ascending career. His performances were witnessed by large number of female fans, that besides being attracted by his singing they were drawn by his look of porteño macho.

In the mid- 1952, because of a love affair and in order to follow the lady in question, he abruptly quit the orchestra and left to Rio de Janeiro but he soon returned after a frustrated romance.

Common friends made possible that Varela reconciled with him. He rejoined the orchestra and shared the spotlight with a debutant, that in a short time would become one of the vocalists best paid in the milieu, a singer born in Santiago del Estero: Argentino Ledesma. Both would release two booms that turned out cashbox hits, Lesica with the tango written by Erma Suárez (Varela's wife): "Canzoneta" and Ledesma with a tango of Catalonian origin: "Fumando espero".

In the early 1957, Ledesma split with the orchestra and was replaced by Raúl Lavié who had a close relationship with El Rolo not only as professionals but also as friends. They succeeded in recording a great hit, the waltz "Señora princesa" as a duo. Unfortunately the public enjoyed the duo for a brief time; there was a strike of the musicians in the orchestra, the duo adhered to it and then they were all fired by Varela. Immediately Lesica and Lavié decided to put together an aggregation and along with the bandoneon players Marchese and San Miguel they formed Los Ases del Tango. They signed engagements, worked on radios, clubs, made tours and recorded the tango "Si te llegara a perder" for RCA-Victor in the late 1957.

In 1958, he joined the orchestra led by the great musician and composer Jorge Caldara and recorded the tango written by Caldara and Mario Soto "Pasional" which was a boom. By the end of the year this daredevil boy decided to behave well and at last married.

In 1959, he joined Varela for the third time, despite Lesica's capers the orchestra leader always liked El Rolo and again along with Laborde and the inclusion of Ernesto Herrera they completed the vocalists of the orchestra.

In 1960, his first daughter was born. Lesica continued with Varela until 1961. When he definitively split with the orchestra that so many unforgettable times brought to tango, as finale of that stage it is important to highlight a story about the probably most successful hit of the Varela-Lesica team. Varela was a close friend of the musician Alfredo Malerba's, husband of the great female singer Libertad Lamarque. In 1956, on a meeting held by Varela and Malerba, the latter told the former that they had brought from Mexico a beautiful bolero that doña Libertad wanted to record as a tango. Varela suggested Lesica that he should try to get it. Lesica visited Libertad and asked it promising that he would record it after she had done it. But Varela and Lesica recorded it immediately and it became a boom. The bolero adapted as a tango was "Historia de un amor". Soon later Lesica met Libertad, at first he pretended not to see her because he was embarrassed, but she instead of making any complaint congratulated him for the recording and the success of the piece.

He started a new stage as soloist in the late 1960 after a brief tenure with Joaquín Do Reyes. Later he was hired by EMI-Odeon and recorded the tangos "Rondando tu esquina" and "Quiero verte una vez más" with Mario Demarco's orchestra and "Corrientes y Esmeralda" with Carlos García.

He very often appeared on the television programs Grandes valores del tango, Sábados circulares, Sábados continuados and in his shows he was accompanied by the orchestra led by Alberto Nery. He cut his last recordings for the Embassy label between 1979 and 1980. The arranger and conductor was Alberto Di Paulo.

Just before his 56th birthday, on July 19, 1984 he died. It was a great loss for tango fans and for the large number of friends that this remarkable interpreter harvested.