José Luis Padula

Real name: Padula, José Luis
Guitarist, pianist, composer and leader
(30 October 1893 - 12 June 1945)
Place of birth:
(Tucumán) Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

his musician son of immigrants, born in the northern province of Tucumán, delved into tango and folk music. His father was Italian, he transferred to him his inclination for music. As a child he played harmonica and guitar. Unfortunately he became an orphan at age 12 and he didn't have the support of his mother. About her very little is known. For that reason, being still very young, he went out to the streets to work for his living.

He had the idea of attaching his harmonica to the guitar. He fixed it to a stick fastened by a belt to the upper part of the instrument and so it reached his mouth. The curiosity that such a combination woke up in people, added to his musical intuition and his facility for melody, allowed him to travel throughout his province and other neighboring places until arriving in Rosario city, in the province of Santa Fe.

All this roaming as a drifter made him an impenitent bohemian. He managed to live, but always with the last cent in his pocket, however, he provided for his wife and six children when he definitively settled in Buenos Aires.

Manuel Escobar, a pianist from Tucumán, several years his junior, frequented his table with other friends and he remembered that someone once asked Padula if it was true that at the café España —where he played in an orchestra—, he had placed the lead sheets on his music stand upside down because he had no idea of music reading. «It was true», he answered.

He was naturally gifted and he ended up having a clean style full of rhythm and suggestions when on the piano he played tangos. And Escobar continues: «He was a man of a good physical complexion, correctly dressed according to his possibilities, fond of nightlife, talkative and joker, author of original phrases, coffee-addict, and named by some as “The one-eyed” because of his closed right eye. He was a talent and a lovable fellow.»

Based in our city since 1936, his first stint was at a cheap café of Avellaneda, where he earned two pesos with his guitar with the attached harmonica. But when by chance in the attic of the local he found a piano and the owner of the local heard him practice, the latter suggested paying him twice if he also worked as a pianist. His stay in the city was not permanent, he frequently made trips to Rosario and Córdoba when gigs arose.

In Tucumán with his tango orchestra, he appeared on Radio Aconquija (today Radio Independencia) and in Buenos Aires, on Radio Prieto where his vocalist was Ángel Vargas. With this great singer he recorded two of his compositions: “Brindemos compañero”, with lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo and the ranchera “Ñata linda”, with words by Lito Bayardo.

Previously, by 1932, he joined the orchestra led by Ernesto Ponzio and Juan Carlos Bazán. He also worked in the reminiscing revue De Villoldo a Gardel staged at the Teatro Nacional. In it he played Villoldo's role, because of his versatility with musical instruments.

His most successful piece was the tango “Nueve de julio” which was committed to disc by a great number of players . It was published in the city of Rosario in 1918 as tango-milonga, without lyrics. Bohemian and without money, he sold its royalties in five pesos to a gentleman named Trebino, to collect them when it would be published in France by the publisher Salabert. Later he ordered in Buenos Aires a new issue to Editorial Perrotti. When this was published it appeared with a non-authorized lyric written by Eugenio Cárdenas. Lito Bayardo said about this that he found out this absurdity in the late twenties and he began a research on his own and then filed a lawsuit with the consent of his friend Padula who accepted that Bayardo wrote a new lyric which was later recorded by Agustín Magaldi.

Bayardo told us a nice anecdote. They were in Rosario finishing to fit his lyric to the tango, the musician was in the house playing the piano, while, he came out for an engagement. Magaldi was expected at five in the afternoon to be introduced to the composition. During his errands he met Gardel who was spending some days in Rosario, it was 1931. «Gardel requested me an old estilo that he had sung to me: “Amargura (El Floridense)”. I found the sheetmusic and he wanted to go to my place so that he would check it. When we entered we found Padula and Magaldi rehearsing. Gardel who knew the music came closer and reading the draft of the lyric sang a second voice. It was a pity not to be able to record that unique moment».

And to conclude with Bayardo, another anecdote: «In bad times I came to Buenos Aires with my wife, during the crisis of the thirties. We rented a room on Belgrano and Cevallos and so bad the things were that I thought of pawning my guitar... One day José Luis turned up, he had some idle time while he was waiting for collecting some money that Editorial Columbia owed him. I had to leave for a while and I lent him my guitar telling him as a joke that he may compose some thing. When I returned he made listen a ranchera that I liked. He asked me to add to it a lyric and I had already imagined some lines. I entitled it “La mentirosa [b]”. In the afternoon I suggested going to our friend Perrotti's. Padula reviewed it on the piano and I hummed it. «Very good.», the publisher said. «And the sheetmusic?»— he asked. Of course, there was still none. Then I told him that soon he would have it, but that at that moment we needed some money in advance. He gave us five pesos, three for the musician and two for me. It became a remarkable success, it was played worldwide.»

Padula composed other remarkable numbers: the tango “Tucumán” that D'Arienzo recorded; “Lunes”, possibly his other most well-known piece, with lyrics by Francisco García Jiménez, that, among others, Alfredo De Angelis recorded, with Carlos Dante on vocals; the milonga “Picante”, recorded by Biagi; “Memoria”, recorded by Fresedo in 1926; the tangos “Bicho feo” and “En tren de farra”, recorded by Juan Maglio. The Orquesta Típica Victor committed to disc: “La mentirosa [b]”, “Lunes” and the waltzes “Noche de estrellas” (which also Canaro recorded) and “Noches de invierno”.

With the collaboration of Lito Bayardo: the waltzes “No dudes de mí” and “Me duele el alma”, recorded by Virginia Vera; and the rancheras “La mentirosa [b]”, —already mentioned— and “Afilando”. Also belong to him: “Pirincho”, “El chiflado”, “El borracho”, “Pasó en mis pagos”, “Dulce tango”, “La diana”, “El varoncito”, “25 de Mayo”, “Noche de estío”, “Mi vida”, “Tristezas del alma” and many others more.

In sum, this archetype of Buenos Aires, owner of an extraordinary natural talent, an impeccable melodist that despite he was unable to read or write music made a living of it and left creations that lasted through time and today are authentic classics of tango.