Abel Palermo

e was one of the interesting voices in tango, a genre at which he maybe arrived a decade later —when tango was beginning to decline— but his memory will always last among those who knew him and enjoyed his company. His great vocal facility, his special sense for interpretation, and his discipline and responsibility about taking care of his voice made him become a great professional.

I was lucky to share with Alfredo, for two years, the classes for vocal training with our dear maestro Digiorgio, in Ciudadela, but I specially treasure his friendship.

We spent many evenings at the Richmond during 1955 and 1956, when we talked mainly about singing, especially about Carlos Gardel, and there he also confessed to me his great admiration for Agustín Magaldi.

Surely, that was the reason of his magaldian style, but with deeper tango inflections. His renditions of “Triste destino” and “Disfrazados” certify this opinion.

He was born in the neighborhood of Parque Patricios, in the city of Buenos Aires. Son of Eduardo Alfredo Pérez and Aurora Margarita Domínguez. His father was a guitar strummer and singer, not only did he pass on his vocation to him but also he encouraged him, accompanied him and was the greatest admirer of Alfredito.

At age 12 he made his debut at the historical café on Boedo Street, El Arco Iris. In 1945 he continued at El Parque Goal on Avenida de Mayo. Later he was summoned by the orchestra leader Miguel Ángel Giordano.

In 1948 he appeared with the orchestra led by Enrique Alessio until the latter, in 1950, switched to the Juan D'Arienzo Orchestra as lead bandoneon, to replace Héctor Varela.

Since then he carried out his career as soloist, until the great Pedro Laurenz, who reappeared in 1952 with his orchestra, called him, and with him he recorded for the first time for the Odeon label.

On June 25, 1952, the orchestra recorded the instrumental composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto, “Quejas de bandoneón”, and on the other side, “Cuando me entrés a fallar”, written by José María Aguilar and Celedonio Flores with Alfredo Del Río on vocals. They were followed later by: “La gayola” by Rafael Tuegols and Armando Tagini, “Puente Alsina” by Benjamín Tagle Lara and “Nunca es tarde (Todavía estás a tiempo)” by Eduardo Pereyra and Celedonio.

In October 1954 the most important event in his career took place: he joined the orchestra led by El violín romántico del tango, don Alfredo Gobbi, because the successful singer Jorge Maciel had split to switch to the Osvaldo Pugliese Orchestra. The other vocalist with Gobbi was another great singer: Tito Landó.

This orchestra was admired not only by its followers, but also by leaders and tango players, such as Aníbal Troilo and Astor Piazzolla who, after Gobbi’s demise, both dedicated a tango to him. “Milonguero triste”, Troilo and “Retrato de Alfredo Gobbi”, Piazzolla.

The first recording session was in December 1954 for the Victor company to cut the Arturo Gallucci’s and Raúl Hormaza’s tango “El hijo cruel”. But the event that would mark the Gobbi-Del Río team took place the following day, when they recorded a number that for many years would be a popular boom and which sold thousand of copies: “Triste destino”. A very curious tango with exotic lyrics that defy the usual subject matter of tang. Written by Agustín Magaldi in collaboration with his half-brother Antonio Tello, but Magaldi himself, unfortunately, failed to commit to record.

Since then the records of the team were a cashbox success. Later two wonderful pieces came, written by two contemporary poets of high finesse and great poetic quality: “Por una muñeca” by Manuel Barros and the milonga “A mis manos” by Julio Camilloni. It is worthwhile to highlight that the melodies for those poems were composed by Emilio Balcarce and Alfredo Gobbi, respectively.

Later came “Un tango para Chaplin”, and on the other side the waltz “Que nadie sepa mi sufrir” in a duet with Tito Landó; the tangos “Lágrimas de sangre”, “Te estaba esperando”, “Sin madre” and as duo with Landó “Tuya” and the waltz “El solitario”. The latter was the last number recorded in this stage with Gobbi.

In the late 1956 the leader Francisco Rotundo tempted with a rewarding offer to join his orchestra in which he performed along with Enrique Campos on vocals.

During his tenure with Rotundo he recorded for Odeon “Dicha pasada”, a number that had been forgotten by the vocalists and which, since this recording, began to be in vogue again in the songbooks of many singers.

Other recordings were: “Destino de flor”, “Nunca es tarde” and the Antonio Tello's tango, a smash hit in the 30s by the great Agustín Magaldi, “Disfrazados”, in which Alfredo made a memorable rendering evidencing a great vocal quality.

In the mid- 1957 he split with Rotundo and, together with the bandoneonist Eduardo Rovira, who had split with the Gobbi's orchestra, formed the Del Río-Rovira team. They appeared on Radio Splendid and recorded for the Allegro label, committing to record the tangos: “Frente al espejo” and “Yo quería ser feliz”, and the instrumental “Bando” composed by Astor Piazzolla. Unfortunately, it did not last long, in the early months of 1958 the aggregation was dissolved and Del Río came back to his beloved orchestra, the one led by maestro Gobbi.

With Tito Landó they recorded again the ones which would be the last pieces of one of the most brilliant orchestras in the history of tango. This farewell was held at the Orfeo label in April 1958. He played duo with Landó for the waltz “Mi colegiala” and, as soloist, in the beautiful tango “Dame tiempo”, by Alberto Podestá, Cristóbal Ramos and Francisco Yoni. In 1959 Landó split with the orchestra and was replaced by Ángel Díaz El Paya, who had already joined the group in 1949.

In 1961, Alfredo is summoned by maestro José Basso to substitute for Alfredo Belusi. With he cut three numbers, the milonga “Cobrate y dame el vuelto” and the tangos “Una historia más” and “Volver”. The other vocalist with Basso was El Tata Floreal Ruiz.

These were the times when the gigs for tango began to turn into small shows, stints at restaurants or inns and some sporadic tours. In fact, the big orchestras disappeared and most singers had scarce appearances.

Crisis also touched Alfredo. His appearances were sporadic. On September 21, 1978, when he was about to be 46 years old, a heart attack put an end to his life. Two days before he had made his last performance at the Club de los muchachos de Villa Madero, accompanied by the bandoneon player Eduardo Cortti and the Cordone brothers on guitars. The last piece he sang was the milonga “La duda”, by the guitarrist Pedro Pombo.

The numbers recorded by Del Río were, 15 with Gobbi, 4 with Laurenz, 5 with Rotundo, 3 with Basso and 2 with Rovira.