Néstor Pinsón

Bermúdez - The last interview to the singer

n March 4, 1993, at a café on Paraná and Corrientes, we talked to Bermúdez recalling periods of his life.

«I always considered my labor as singer more as a vocation than a way of making money. Mine was a love for art, to satisfy my spirit. Every week I vocalize with my teacher Juan Manuel Miró. I had some trouble with my voice and he, through hard work, made me recover my pitch and I think that I am singing better than before.

«I joined the Pedro Laurenz Orchestra by chance. It was because of my friendship with José Rótulo. One day he called me: «Look, I’m with Laurenz, why don’t you come? Alberto Podestá is leaving and he wants to hear you».

«And at Rótulo’s place itself, I met Laurenz and there I auditioned for him and he found it satisfactory. I was just beginning and was quite scared, I knew what meant to replace Fats Podestá.

«The first recording was “Llueve otra vez”. My legs were trembling at the Odeon studios. He chose that number, but other ones sprang up after discussing it. “Más solo que nunca” was the second recording. One day Enrique Dizeo, its author appeared: «Look, boy, this piece is for you, I want you to record it, nobody’s gonna do it before you.» It was recorded and I am sure that it is the best of the ones I did.

«At my place we used to have barbecues very often and it was common to find people connected with the environment: Edmundo Rivero, his sister Eva, Aldo Calderón. Alberto Hilarión Acuña as well, a friendly man, usually picked up a guitar and began to sing. One evening he told me that he had a song for me. Which one? I asked him. Then he sang it. I liked it, I suggested Laurenz to record it and he did. It was “Temblando”.

«I had sung with Alberto Nery when he had his orchestra. It was before my chance with Laurenz. I told Nery about it and he answered me that I had to take the chance. That did not mean that he did not care about my departure, because I noticed he was at a loss when he asked me to find a substitute.

«An evening at the Marabú cabaret, having seen Carlitos Dante’s performance, I told him: «Carlitos, you have to do a favor to me...» So I told him that Nery was very worried. «No, no, I’m tired of leading this sort of life, rambling from one place to another...» Finally he agreed and started with that orchestra until De Angelis discovered him. Dante was about to retire and found himself at the start of his most successful stage.

«A little before recording my last number with Laurenz, I told him it was too much work for me alone. We made shows on Radio Belgrano, recordings, Saturdays and Sundays on radio, balls and cabarets, I was exhausted. Thanks to that, one day Grané, the pianist, turned up with Jorge Linares. He was my partner vocalist, and immediately we recorded “Mendocina”, whose author was one of the owners of the Ocean Cabaret. That was the only duo made by the Laurenz Orchestra.

«Penella, who was my agent while I was with Laurenz, suggested me joining Horacio Salgán who was looking for a partner for Edmundo Rivero. I applied for the contest that Salgán had organized. Out of 35 contestants, José Torres —the singer from Rosario that later sang with Alberto Mancione— and I were finalists. I was the winner, and two days after Salgán called me for an appointment at Radio El Mundo. There, for the first time, I met Rivero with whom we were friends until his demise.

«On Radio El Mundo we played for many balls. The mystery was why we did not record together. I guess that it might have been because Horacio Salgán was an innovator. We played at Tango Bar and our audience, instead of common people, were musicians and singers that came to hear us and find something to criticize. They even copied Salgán’s arrangements or learnt things that they later applied to their works.

«With Horacio, the first song I performed was “Margarita Gauthier”. Other numbers that I remember were: “Yo”, “Lluvia de abril”, the waltz “Por el camino” by Tagle Lara, etc.

«One anecdote: very often Salgán, Rivero and I used to go to the Florida cinema theater where there was an organ. Salgán was allowed to play on it. Then he played and we sang, but not tango pieces but folk songs, zambas and other rhythms. So much was our enthusiasm that Rivero and I suggested him to play folk music. And so it happened. At the venues we had stints, once the routine finished airs of folk zambas began, and Rivero added his guitar. That had wide acclaim.

«By that time Odeon recorded pieces by Colombian composers. Pasillos, Colombian tangos and other things. The Odeon's director told us, Rivero and me, about his project to put together a group to play Colombian songs. Hence Los Cantores del Valle sprang up. They were Elvira Tamassi with her husband, Ubaldo De Lío... They were terrible shit, awful. Rivero wrote the arrangements with De Lío. I sang “Murió mi madrecita”, a tango by Rivero. They had ridiculous lyrics. We also made some duos. However, we achieved a big repercussion in Colombia.

«We had a stint with Salgán at Tango Bar when a Colombian gentleman, Washington Andrade, called me. He was author of some of the numbers we had recorded and he was very well-known there. «Look —he said— I've come to hire you. You are a boom in Colombia. If you arrived there now you would get money in large quantities.» Rivero did not dare to venture into that. It was a pity, we could have earned much money.

«A memory for Ciriaco Ortiz. I was with his orchestra in 1948. We appeared at the Casino in Mendoza. After meeting him in person I asked him: «Excuse me, maestro, how much are you going to pay me for these stints?». «Don't worry about it very much, Bermúdez, with me you will laugh like mad...»

«As well I performed with Pedro Maffia. My relationship with him was very special. Maffia was an outstanding player. At a show I saw how two men came closer to the stage and stayed looking at him. When the piece was over they asked him: «What is there inside your instrument that produces so beautiful sound?» One of those evenings in Mendoza when I was with Ciriaco, Maffia turned up and they played together. It was extraordinary.

«I was a friend of Juan Carlos Howard's and one day he told me that he was about to put together a sextet. He asked me if I would like to be his vocalist. I said yes and it turned out OK. As for the boys, I remember Máximo Mori, Arnaiz, a violinist García, a bass player that later worked with Héctor Varela... it was quite a brief story, but we managed to appear on Radio Splendid and we recorded two discs, four music numbers. I don't know if they were released.

«I can't forget Juan Bava, the father of a soccer referee. I was the vocalist in his orchestra. We played at balls held in the neighborhoods until the time I took part in a contest sponsored by the Cocinero oil for cooking. Due to that I succeeded in recording for the first time. I recorded the Atlanta club march.

«My first trip abroad was to Chile, I visited several cities up to reaching Arica. From there I went to Perú. Later to Colombia and there I had a big surprise. At the hotel I turned on the radio and five minutes later they aired a piece I did with Laurenz. Later I tuned another station and the same happened. I phoned the radio stations to thank them. The response of the people at the radio was extraordinary, soon a car came from one of the broadcastings. We talked and made arrangements for the following Sunday.

«One day I encountered a crowd. There was a police control at the entrance because nobody was allowed to enter the studios. It was around 1960, after so many years they still remembered my stay in the Laurenz's orchestra and Los Cantores del Valle because in nearly all the "jukeboxes" or turntables at the barrooms you could find the songs I recorded with Rivero.

«There was a great love for tango then, generally you saw, when entering a barroom, the walls covered with photos of tango artists.

«While performing in Perú I teamed up with two Argentinians, Julio Genta and a nephew of the Servidio brothers. We worked together and it turned out fine. In 1969, also in Perú, I recorded “Frente al mar” and “El último café”, for the Sonoradio label, accompanied by the bandoneonist Domingo Rullo (he had no kinship with the flutist), the jazz pianist Enrique Linch (artistic director of the label), six violins, cello, bass.

«In 1970 I was around Ecuador. I recorded an LP for the Fadisal label. I couldn't get Argentine musicians to accompany me so I did it with the unit Los Reales, they were two Ecuadorians —one blind—, and a Mexican. A guitar and two requintos (treble guitars). They got three guitarists more and a bassist. As we had neither sheet music nor records, I whistled or sang the tunes for them. The recording company wanted Ecuadorian music so we cut four pasillos and a waltz. The rest, tango tunes and some milonga.

«I began talking about Juan Manuel Miró and I want to finish speaking of him, my singing instructor. Years before (1985) I was performing at El Viejo Almacén and I had my voice totally out of shape. Somebody recommended him and I went to see him, I explained to him the situation. That my vibrato was flagging, that it did not work and other details. «Let's see, sing “Cambalache”.» He asked me to do it in a tonality I was unable to, then he added: «Your voice is ready for a geriatric institution.» He was right.

«I did my best, he used all his knowledge and in five months he totally recovered my voice, I regained my lost register, because I was unable either to reach an octave and today I vocalize in two octaves and a half.»

Carlos Bermúdez died four months later, on July 23, 1993. He was born in Caseros (province of Buenos Aires) on June 7, 1918.