Guillermo Rico

Real name: Rico, Guillermo
Nicknames: Guillermo Coral
Singer and actor
(10 February 1920 - 18 May 2013)
Place of birth:
Lanús (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

e is identified as a tango man because he sang in the orchestra led by Francisco Canaro. The latter, very shortly, gave his opinion about the singer’s capabilities, surely with a smile, but faithful to what he thought: «He was a great imitator of singers. People liked him more with the voices of others than with his own».

However, in only seventeen months, he recorded 25 pieces and ten years later, now as soloist, committed to record seven more, a number that many of the many vocalists with Canaro never reached. El Kaiser in his definition was right. Rico joined his orchestra after he split with a humorous group and the public, not very demanding or complaisant with the maestro’s style, accepted him due to his artistic background rather than for his role as tango singer.

He was a vocalist with strength, with strong voice, but lacking in brilliance, with a discreet phrasing and limited for any kind of embellishments. Hence people preferred him as imitator.

But he compensated for that with his image of pleasant good looking boy. He was rather tall, dark-haired, with attractive features and a charming smile.

He started singing at neighborhood clubs in the mid- 30s. Mario Pugliese —Cariño—, creator of the then popular humorous-music group Los Bohemios heard about him and so he joined them to appear at radio shows and tours of the interior of the nation. The pianist was Oscar Sabino.

In 1940 the numerous troupe, more humorous than musical, led by Tito Martínez del Box, La Gran Cruzada del Buen Humor, included him in his cast. He appeared on Radio Belgrano and several venues. With them he as well appeared for the first time in a motion picture in 1943. It was El fabricante de estrellas with Pepe Arias on which some members of the troupe appeared on a scene where Rico imitates Alberto Castillo and Rafael Carret performs his routine as a «duck».

The following year Oscar Sabino, musically associated with Canaro, introduced him to the leader and he joined the orchestra.

The great Pirincho, who was careful about every detail, thought that by a change of name he would make a difference between the humorous singer from the tango singer. For that purpose he suggested the name Guillermo Barragán and later Guillermo Peñaflor, but the singer liked none of these. Finally, hours before the début on Radio Belgrano he ordered to print on the announcement: Guillermo Coral and so the issue was over. So he was known during this period. The other vocalist was the Uruguayan Carlos Roldán. His début on record was Sabino’s waltz, “Incomprensión”.

Later Roldán was replaced by Alberto Arenas. They both appeared at the many performances of the maestro and as well at the 1945 musical El tango en París written by Enrique García Velloso. There he sang, in a duo with Arenas, the milonga “Serafín y Julia Paz”, in duo with the actress Alicia Vignoli: the waltz “No llores más” and only a tango, “Niebla”, that previously Canaro had recorded with the vocalist Roberto Maida, with other lyrics, under the title “El que a hierro mata”.

When he split with the orchestra he appeared at the movie No salgas esta noche, premiered in January 1946. His inclusion at the film was only to sing the tango “El irresistible”.

He returned to La Gran Cruzada del Buen Humor to appear in another movie, Cuidado con las imitaciones (May 1948). Soon thereafter a change took place in the group and so Los Cinco Grandes del Buen Humor was born. Its members were Rico, Carret, Jorge Luz, Zelmar Gueñol and Juan Carlos Cambón. The latter, for years, was associated with tango because he accompanied Mercedes Simone with his piano on several tours and formed the Cuarteto Los Ases. The boys’ career was successful. Radio, theaters, tours of Latin America and Spain and 12 movies are evidence of their work.

He is the gallant character, the one who enamores the star girl, he's the one who saves his crazy friends from all misfortunes. Except “Vecinita” (a lyric of his with music by Enrique Pedreira) in Los peores del barrio he only sings to win the heart of a girl or to perform an imitation according to the simple scripts written for each one of those movies.

They remained, with great success, about a decade until other groups with similar formulae sprang up and then their simple, innocent, naïve patterns to make people laugh —with no rough features—, began to decline. They decided to split and each one followed his own road.

He continued linked to tango through sporadic recordings. His milieu was television, on music programs where he appeared as announcer and, as from an experience in 1973, he continued as actor in soap opera casts. And in like manner he went on until now, but his appearances are gradually less frequent because he is over 80.

In his latter years he neither lost his smile nor his surprised look in the roles he played. With those gestures he still keeps the character he really brought to us, not Canaro's vocalist, but the one in the humorous group that consecrated him, Los Grandes del Buen Humor. Many in my generation, like myself, remember with love and nostalgia those beautiful days of tango and joy.