Néstor Pinsón

ome on, Lazzari, hear him!» exclaimed Curi, D'Arienzo’s agent. «What for? Me, an audition?... No! They came for me, I’m not here to ask for a job. I don’t want auditions. I want to talk to D'Arienzo».

He had his way, at times, conceited. Finally Juan D'Arienzo came: «I'd like to speak just a minute with you», he told him in a demanding tone, but D'Arienzo agreed. They walked towards a corner in the studio where there was a piano, but no one sat at the piano. Then he told him: «Listen, maestro... —and he started—: hace cinco días, loco de contento...» So he sang the first section of “Justo el 31”. Juan D'Arienzo called Jorge Curi and ordered Carlos Lazzari that he should listen to him and dismiss the other applicants, who were waiting in a number around forty. Afterwards he approached Eduardo Del Piano who was the one who had brought him and told him: «Eduardo, it's OK, he's the one I was looking for».

So began the second and last successful duo of the orchestra in its long career, the first Echagüe-Laborde, and now Jorge Valdez and Mario Bustos.

This took place on Radio El Mundo and was an idea of Eduardo Del Piano's, a friend of D'Arienzo's and Bustos's, when they came to know that the renowned duo was quitting. By then the young vocalist was appearing at the Palacio with his own orchestra led by Osvaldo Piro.

He was born near the corner of Yatay and Díaz Vélez in the neighborhood of Almagro. He was the oldest of five siblings whose parents were the Spaniard Casimiro Álvarez and the Italian woman Mercedes Grazioti. His father, as soon as he arrived, settled in the neighborhood of La Paternal and opened a small barbershop. One day, at the back room, a piano appeared and since then it was customary that on a part of the cabinet, neatly protected, a Primus heater was placed. There French fries with paprika: cachelos were made almost daily. And as it should be, the small room became a get-together for friends, nearly all of them musicians, many of them guitar strummers, like Don Casimiro himself, who accompanied on several occasions no less than Agustín Magaldi. The latter was a stutterer, so was what they said, and nobody was able to understand how he managed to sing.

When he was a kid he used to sing at home all the time, besides attending school and playing soccer in the street. As a young boy he was fond of billiards and when he began to frequent the café Cervantes on Méjico and Entre Ríos, he was already known as el Duque (the Duke), because of his inclination to use elegant clothes.

He attended high school studies at the Otto Krause technical school. Among his fellow students two buddies sprang up: León Zucker, later the singer Roberto Beltrán and Mauricio Borenstein, later the actor Tato Bores. Both encouraged him to get involved with tango. His mother's brother, an actor who appeared on radio and theater, Tito Grassi introduced him to the guitarist José Canet. The latter took his guitar, played an arpeggio and told him: «Hey, sing!». And after hearing Mario he hired him. So his career as singer began.

His two buddies and Canet introduced him, then, to Domingo Federico who was looking for a substitute for Oscar Larroca. The leader liked him and on August 1, 1948 he made his debut on Radio Splendid. Federico named him Mario Bustos, till then he had sung as Mario Escudero. A curiosity: there were three vocalists in an orchestra because besides Mario, Enzo Valentino and Hugo Rocca were there. He made his debut on record on October 14, 1949 by singing “Justo el 31”.

After eighteen months he left because Eduardo Del Piano decided to put together his own orchestra and suggested him to be his vocalist alongside Héctor De Rosas. On September 17, 1951 he cut “Margot”, his first recording.

The tenure lasted until the late 1954. There were many gigs but very few recordings. This unpleasant feature also haunted Del Piano who led an orchestra with clean, clear sound, ideal for listening, with Mario, a baritone with a pitch —except Edmundo Rivero— to which the record producers were not used to. They played six-month seasons at the “Adlón” tearoom, on a first floor on Florida Street, and at many other locals. His rendition of “Tiburón” composed by Julio Pollero and Luis D'Abbraccio with lyrics by Enrique Dizeo became a boom.

Being a professional, during his tenure with Domingo Federico, he studied with a singing instructor. The latter found a series of problems in his vocal cords that were worsening in such manner that, after his tenure with Del Piano, he decided to quit show business. He worked in the editing office of the newspaper La Prensa and from time to time he had a stint, but he had to avoid straining his voice, it was a great effort for him, he had to restraint himself a lot.

Julio Sosa suggested him to visit Dr. León Elkin. Then came surgery, a waiting time and the final recovery. The return was not easy, he was eager to come back but he was doubtful.

It was his brother Nenín and the circumstances what made his comeback possible. The former had met one of the partners of El Palacio del Baile who then asked about his brother and told him he would be pleased to hire him. He said he needed a week to give an answer. He had to find the musicians for the accompaniment and to get the repertory ready.

They persuaded Osvaldo Piro, and later some musicians that played with Ricardo Pedevilla. Still a pianist was needed and finally Oscar Palermo, who only was devoted to classical music, appeared. They raised some money to print posters that said: «Mario Bustos and his orchestra led by Osvaldo Pirox». Rehearsals, almost none, it was mainly head-arrangements.

The debut was acceptable and later it was better because the big dance-floor of the Palacio —101 meters long and 50 m wide— was crowded in each meeting. That continued for three months; the Rubén Granata jazz band also played there. The outfit performed at different venues of the city until he joined D'Arienzo. The latter was a sagacious guy, he knew what he wanted and he succeeded in exploiting the style and the assurance of Mario Bustos.

The debut was at the Marabú and soon the recordings began. Possibly D'Arienzo's proficiency as musician was poor but he had intuition. During rehearsals, in his own way, he was a stimulating leader with his indications and he was right, the parts sounded better. At venues, where it was customary to play three rounds, he never appeared on the first and the orchestra's sound was different when the leader was onstage, his presence made it grow.

Their relationship never was good and it did not end well. Juan had a rough way to say things and Mario did not like it, he was as well hard to deal with. There were jealousy, minor confrontations, a permanent uneasiness in exchange for a good job and popularity. D'Arienzo loved to be in front of a camera so when they were on a television set he came close to the singers and conducted them with his finger. Mario told him not to do it because he didn't like it. Until one day he bit his finger. Everybody thought it was part of the show, but in the inner circles they know it was out of anger. The same happened when he sang «no te quiero más ...» and Juan reached the mike and said the following line «ni te puedo ver».

Later came the stage as soloist that began with the accompaniment of the Carlos Galván trio, some times with Jorge Dragone, some times Julio Pane, also Marcheto... later Osvaldo Requena, Armando Lacava, Enrique Ferri... In 1966 he went to Japan as guest artist with Florindo Sassone. On their comeback they appeared for a month on Radio El Mundo.

In 1978 his brother Nenín, then announcer at the Marabú, had the idea of celebrating Mario's 30th anniversary with tango. It was a sort of test because the Marabú was closed on Sundays and the festival was held on a Sunday evening and it turned out successful, so much so that the performances continued for several months with an average of 700 persons per show.

And the finale came. It was nearing the end of 1979 and his brother thought that it would be nice to reunite the Bustos-Valdez duo on December 30, but that could not be. In the morning of the 26th he was talking on the phone with Jorge Dragone because that night they were appearing at the El Viejo Almacén when he began not to feel well. He took a taxicab and went to the Hospital Italiano. He had a heart attack. They were days of uncertainty until January 2 when he died.