Héctor Palacios

Real name: Eguía Palacios, Héctor Eloy
Singer, lyricist and composer
(20 March 1909 - 8 April 1987)
Place of birth:
Rosario (Santa Fe) Argentina
Héctor Ángel Benedetti

n 1937 in a poll organized by La República newspaper, Palacios was chosen as Carlos Gardel’s Successor”. Around 39.473 votes raised him to that place, a rather long distance from the runner-up (Agustín Magaldi, with 26.233 votes) and the rest of the chosen ones (Ignacio Corsini, Charlo, Alberto Vila, Alberto Gómez, Oscar Alonso). Fifteen years later, in an interview the singer recalled the episode explaining that he had never thought of comparing himself with El Zorzal, whom he considered unsurpassable because of his technique and feeling.

Héctor Eloy Eguía Palacios —such is his complete name, soon and wisely shortened into Héctor Palacios— was born in Rosario, province of Santa Fe.

Since the beginning he had an incentive which was denied to many artists: there were already several musicians in his family and his father, Pedro Manuel Eguía, especially encouraged the aptitudes of little Héctor, so much so that he favored his debut when he was only eleven. Brief is the memory of this performance, which took place at the Royal Park of Rosario, and as well blurred are the images of his first appearance in a theater play (in some local presentations of Alberto Vaccarezza’s Cuando un pobre se divierte by the Eduardo Ricart’s theater company) and of his debut on radio back in 1923 on LT3 Radio Sociedad Rural de Cerealistas.

His image is clearer at age fourteen singing alongside Magaldi. There are no precise data about a probable previous step as member of the Volpi-Galdi troupe, to which Agustín belonged (in fact, and as Irene Amuchástegui has well said in her book Agustín Magaldi, la biografía [Buenos Aires, 1998; Aguilar. Page 29], the information about Magaldi’s own activity in this period is scarce or contradictory). But we know thanks to Palacios himself that don Eguía, in some way, teamed the two boys up. They did not sing as a duo, instead they did it separately and with their own repertory. They were announced as «the melodic tenor singer Magaldi and the precocious guitarist and singer Héctor Eguía Palacios (Hectorcito)» (see the interview by Héctor Bates in the Antena magazine, April 27, 1935). After touring several towns in the province of Santa Fe, where they raised money only by raffles organized before their performance, they ended this venture. Then, the news of a Magaldi-Palacios duo are completely mistaken like that belief, widely spread among the Magaldians, that they both tried their luck together in the city of Buenos Aires.

Contrarily, Palacios would do it after Magaldi. After his precocious tenure on LT3, he quit singing for two years; but he decided to resume it and made some trips from Rosario to the Capital. Finally in 1930 he sang in the Buenos Aires radio stations: on LR5 (firstly, Radio Brusa and later, Radio Excelsior), thereafter on LR7 Radio Buenos Aires, and at last again on LR5.

With this recognition he settled definitively in Buenos Aires and started to sing regularly at the Teatro París, getting up to six hundred pesos a month. After a two-year season he switched to LR9 Radio Fénix.

His interesting tenor register, with a natural vibrato, excellent for the bass notes, and an original style of interpretation of his own -even though later imitated by other singers that sprang up in the thirties— soon launched him as an interesting cantor nacional capable of easily swapping between the city song and the rural music, but his final choice was tango.

He began a fabulous flood of hits with frequent appearances in theaters in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Other radio stations that broadcasted him in this decade were LP6 Radio Casa América, LS6 Radio del Pueblo, LS2 Radio Prieto and LS8 Radio Stentor.

There is an anecdote that in 1933 he appeared alongside Carlos Gardel and over thirty outstanding figures of music and theater, when on April 7 he performed in a festival at the Teatro San Martín to raise funds for the sportsmen Raúl Riganti and Antonio Gaudino who had to run in the 500 Miles of Indianapolis. With the money raised the trip and the stay for these drivers were paid. The event was aired simultaneously by four radio stations, something uncommon for that time.

In March 1936, he was included in the Victor company’s catalogue and so he cut his first record, Nº 37.905, with two numbers of his own: on side A, the tango “A mi madrecita” (matrix 93.122 take 1); and on side B, the waltz “Qué tienen tus ojos” (matrix 93.123 take 1). That year two more discs followed, with the numbers “La canción del estudiante” (march), “En el lazo” (gato polkeado), “Mano a mano” (tango) and “Álzame en tus brazos” (waltz), swapping from guitar accompaniment to orchestra. Simultaneously to his recordings as soloist he appeared as chansonnier of the Orquesta Típica Victor. Still in 1936 he cut other three recordings. He switched to the Odeon company and recorded as from 1937 several numbers, including his boom as singer: the tango “Remembranza” written by Melfi and Battistella.

By then he had already reached such an important place on the radio (for example, the memorable programs emceed by Jaime Font Saravia, sponsored by Waterman Hats) that the gates of the movie industry are opened for him. He appeared in El casamiento de Chichilo (dir.: Isidoro Novarro, 1938).

In the forties he was very busy. Accompanied by guitars played by the Julián brothers he sang on LR2 Radio Argentina; he often gigs on both banks of the River Plate; he tours extensively throughout the interior of the Republic; in January 1940 he joins again the Victor company (he recorded until April 1942); and was starred in a new movie: El cantor de Buenos Aires (dir.: Julio Irigoyen, 1940), a title that from then on will become an antonomastic name for Palacios himself.

He was member of the staff of the most important radio stations of the period, and was starred in El cantar de mis penas (a movie not commercially released; dir.: Julio Irigoyen, 1941); Un muchacho de Buenos Aires (dir.: Julio Irigoyen, 1944); El alma en un tango (dir.: Julio Irigoyen, 1945); and A La Habana me voy (dir.: Luis Bayón Herrera, 1950). In Mexico was shot Se acabaron las mujeres (dir.: Ramón Peón, 1946) in which he was starred along with Vicente Padula. In this film Palacios is featured wearing a swallow-tail coat that had belonged to Gardel.

Even though the recording studios did not summon him since 1942, in the early fifties Palacios was a figure much more present than what we can guess. After a two-year tour of the Latin American countries (prolonging a tour that, in fact, was supposed to last two months), he made a break and that temporary inactivity originated a series of rumors: they said that he had decided to withdraw from show business, that he was planning to devote himself to teaching... Although they were just vacations, the public always needed him.

So by the mid- forties he was heard on different radio stations in Buenos Aires, he was permanently hired, and simultaneously he was featured as leading figure in the live shows during the intermissions in the best movie theaters. Let us remember that as from May 1954 intermissions shows were obligatory in all theaters with over eight-hundred seats. Even though not all the spectators approved of the measurement because most of the shows were of a low quality and used to end in booing, Palacios would be an ardent advocate of it since it resulted in an important source of jobs for the milieu.

In 1955 Victor Records summoned him again to cut four numbers (two with guitars and two with a tango sextet). The first was the milonga “Muchas gracias mendocino”, a homage to the boxer Pascualito Pérez who months before had become the first Argentine winner of a flyweight world championship. Other numbers of that series were the tango “Yo protesto”, the song “Pájaro chogüí” and a new rendition of his old hit: “Remembranza”.

After a new tour of Latin America, harvesting an impressive success in Cuba, he returned to Buenos Aires and little by little he was withdrawing from show business, although he cut several recordings more and was required from time to time by television programs.

As author he wrote his first composition at age eleven: a tango titled “El negro Flores” with lyrics by his father; Palacios premiered it in the play Cuando un Pobre se Divierte mentioned above. This opening number was followed by polished pieces like “A mi madrecita”, a tango with lyric and music of his as homage to his mother —Amalia Palacios— who died when the singer was ten years old; “Qué tienen tus ojos”, a waltz in collaboration with F. Collia; “Viejo portón”, with Máximo Orsi; “Hacé bulín”, with Manuel Sabino; “Ya sé que siguen hablando”, with Iván Diez; “Se fue Gardel”, with Andrés Rubio; “En nombre de Dios”, with Nolo Gildo and Beguel; “D’Arienzo vos sos el Rey”, with Amleto A. Villa; and others such as “Viejo mío”, “¿Sabés por qué?”, “Comprendo que hice”, “Sangre del suburbio” and several more.

Héctor Palacios passed away in the city of Buenos Aires. Those who knew him closely said that he kept a long-time hobby until his last days: he raised birds, but without cage. He had the ability to train them, and at the same time the grandeur to keep them free. And in like manner he led his life as singer.