Leopoldo Thompson

Real name: Thompson, Ruperto Leopoldo
Nicknames: El Negro
Bassist, guitarist and composer
(1890 - 21 August 1925)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

he appearance of the double bass in the music groups meant a rhythmical summit, the unavoidable instrument to keep the beat of tango. It came to stay forever. And, like in many other occurrences it had in the following years, Francisco Canaro was responsible for it, even though, possibly, as much as Roberto Firpo.

When both bandleaders joined and enlarged their orchestras for the carnival balls held in Rosario in order to achieve a better sound —microphones were yet inexistent—, they introduced the novelty of a double bass in the hands of Negro Thompson, who had already appeared in several recordings with Firpo.

There had been others before him, but his was the name that became famous and was customary due to his presence in the aggregations of the period. He furthermore stood out in the creation of certain resources that still today are used. As an example we have the canyengue effect, a sound that is produced by hitting the strings with the bow or with the palm of the right hand. Also he used to emphasize the beat, tapping only the body of the double bass and, on other occasions, body and strings.

The beginnings of Thompson were as guitarist, alongside Eduardo Arolas, at the grocery store La Buseca on the corner of Montes de Oca and Saavedra and, later, at the café La Turca on Necochea and Pinzón. He was member of the Cuarteto Criollo La Armonía, along with Carlos Macchi on flute, José Bonano on violin and Manuel Firpo on bandoneon. Fortunately they left some recordings.

As bass player in 1918, before the abovementioned appearance in the Firpo-Canaro Orchestra, he played in a quartet with Arolas, De Caro and Cobián. In 1919, in a sextet led by Arolas. In 1920, in a quartet headed by the bandoneonist Eduardo Bianco. In 1922, in a sextet conducted by Osvaldo Fresedo and, in 1923, he joined another sextet led by Juan Carlos Cobián.

Furthermore, he was the first double bass player of the important aggregation of Julio De Caro. His tenure was short. He appeared, showed his stuff and passed away. They say that when he was playing with the maestro at the Ciro’s Club he had a severe liver ailment, maybe a pancreatitis, caused by the quick ingestion of a cold drink.

In the De Caro’s sextet he was replaced, first, by Hugo Ricardo Baralis, soon later by Enrique Krauss and thereafter by Olindo Sinibaldi.

He was a restless musician but as a composer he left little material. Let’s remember some titles: the tangos “El consultorio”, “Tren de farra”, “Mano Brava”, “Buen viaje”, "El chistoso" and “Pierna 'e palo”.