Ricardo García Blaya

ne evening I had the chance to be with him in the tango venue La Cumparsita in the neighborhood of San Telmo. We both were among the audience of a mediocre show. We didn’t know each other and we didn’t exchange a word. It was at a time when he was at the peak of his popularity. The artists that appeared onstage saluted him and highlighted his presence. I was struck by his good-looking appearance and his humility.

I witnessed his performances on several occasions. He displayed a virile expressive phrasing that reminded me of Alfredo Belusi’s, even though many mistake it for Julio Sosa’s. He sang passionately, with good diction and his self-assured, elegant figure was in command of the stage foretelling a promising future.

He was born in Rojas, province of Buenos Aires, 230 km far from the Capital city. He was the only child of a family of workers. He once said he was lazy in school. He loved music and since an early age he had begun singing folk music with a vocal group. He quit school in the second year of high school. When he was based in Buenos Aires he studied guitar and piano at the Instituto Fracassi.

By the time he was sixteen he tried to work for a living and had quite different jobs. He sold eggs and ice-cream, was an employee at the Post Office, at a bakery in the neighborhood of Chacarita, but he never quit singing.

Fortunately, one day Héctor Varela heard him and introduced him to a talent contest in Grandes Valores del Tango, on TV channel 9. Since then he was tied to tango.

He himself told me that that contest was in 1979 and that the following year he also won the national contest organized by the Authors and Composers Society, SADAIC. He stood for the Federal Capital with two tunes by Juanca Tavera and Osvaldo Tarantino: the tango “Ilustre desconocido” and the milonga “Me llaman el Negro”.

Alejandro Romay, owner of channel 9, hired him for nine years. Since then he began to appear in several programs of that TV channel, among them Eduardo Bergara Leumann’s La Botica del Ángel. According to his own words: «The funniest and most interesting events happened during the recordings of the cycle but, regrettably, we can’t make them public».

Later there was a frustrated tour of Japan: «I was about to travel with Pepe Basso, but finally I changed my mind. I preferred to stay in Argentina. So Fernando Soler had to be summoned quickly but unfortunately for him in Japan my name was not changed in the bills. Then this confusion may lead people to think that I was there but the one who really appeared was Fernando».

On many occasions he acknowledged his respect and admiration for Alfredo Belusi and he always, in his shows, recalled this anecdote: «When I was still a tenderfoot in the profession I visited the Social Rivadavia, in Mar del Plata, and the owners when they recognized me because they had seen me on TV asked me to sing. I had no charts with me and the musicians, in fact a trio led by a pianist named Julio Dávila, did not want to back me. Then El Negro, who had been listening to the conversation, came, drove me to his dressing room and told me: “Skinny, I know that you sing many tunes of my songbook and you have my same range. Here’s a folder with my charts, choose the numbers you want to sing". I never forgot that attitude of a consecrated singer. I didn’t even know that he knew me».

Among the orchestras he preferred were those led by Aníbal Troilo and Osvaldo Pugliese and, as for singers, he also admired Roberto Goyeneche, Julio Sosa, Alberto Marino, Edmundo Rivero and Floreal Ruiz.

He sang with the most important aggregations of his time: José Basso, Osvaldo Berlingieri, José Colángelo, Osvaldo Piro, Néstor Marconi and Osvaldo Tarantino, among others.

«I recorded two records for CBS-Columbia, and one more was published only in Japan that I neither heard nor was I able to have a copy. The first one was cut in 1983 and was entitled A partir de hoy. The charts were written by Pepe Motta and Chino Eduardo Cortti. The latter was lead bandoneon in José Basso’s orchestra. The second disc, in 1989, was entitled Recordándote. The arranger was Armando Calderaro (Pajarito)».

He toured Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia. Between 1985 and 1989 he was based in Venezuela where he worked for Intercontinental hotels. During that period he traveled to Argentina to appear at the most important night venues: Michelangelo, Cambalache, El Viejo Almacén and Señor Tango. At the Caribbean country the Columbia company re-issued one of his discs.

Today he lives in the United States, in the city of Fresno, California. He appeared in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. In October 2003 he traveled to Europe to appear in Zurich (Switzerland).

Recently he told me about his decision of quitting singing: «The reason to quit, dear Ricardo, is because I think that I have already finished a stage and ‘cause I always admired the intelligent guys in this trade like Julio Martel. I want to withdraw from my activity, which can be regarded good or bad, but before I start to decline. You know that time goes by and I don’t like to think that in a couple of years I’ll be waiting for a stint knowing that they would call me out of pity. I prefer undergoing an uprooting now rather than going to extremes that you and I very well know. Furthermore, I’ve realized that tango is spoiled by the owners of venues who don’t care about good sound and have the singers waiting till late without taking into account what they are or what they were. But above all there is a lack of respect for the human being, which is what most matters. In other words, now I don’t find joy in doing what I like to do with dignity.».

We regret the retirement of this beloved friend but we respect his courage for saying what he feels and his honesty that matches his artistic, professional quality.