Héctor Ángel Benedetti

Juan Maglio Pacho: the TX series

he poet Francisco García Jiménez used to say that Pacho, nickname of the bandoneonist, composer and orchestra leader Juan Félix Maglio (by deviation of the Italian pazzo, mad), came to be synonym of disc, especially in the interior of the country, thanks to the enormous popularity the musician reached and to the extraordinary spreading of his recordings.

This story, which was never confirmed and that seems somewhat dubious, was told as follows: "His fame as composer and player was so great, especially due to the distribution of his original recordings. Even though people in Buenos Aires regarded Maglio’s activity as decrepit, faded or forgotten, the Nacional disc went on picking his new recordings and distributing them successfully in the interior of the Republic. If the administrator of a cattle station wished to hear tangos he sent a laborer to the traditional «general store» with a brief order: «—Go buy a Pacho»". (From: El tango. Historia de medio siglo. Buenos Aires, 1965; Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, page 26). That is to say, according to García Jiménez «a Pacho» was equal to say «a disc» no matter if it was recorded or not recorded by Juan Maglio.

It’s necessary to insist that this tale does not seem to be quite legitimate, but what is real is that the Pacho discs had an impressive circulation in the 10s. Especially the ones released by Columbia Record.

Maglio joined José Tagini’s enterprise, owner of the Columbia Record company, in 1912. Soon later not only he deserved a special publicity that differed from the rest of the artists of the house but also he would become partner of the company thanks to the contribution of his own capital and so he had a share in the profits. As well as in the losses as it will be seen below.

At the beginning, Maglio was included in the disc serial that Columbia Record had started with the T 135 and that, according to the catalogues of the period, was labeled as «Repertorio criollo». Under that label national anthems, danceable pieces, tangos, folk songs, etc. were released but as well some flamenco songs, canzoni napolitane (Neapolitan songs), typical Basque music, scene comiche (comic scenes), scenes of the Italian-Turkish war, Mexican songs and other beats that had nothing to do with criollo styles. In this serial we find discs of artists such as José Betinotti, Francisco Bianco, Genaro Espósito, Carlos Gardel, Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi and Mrs. Gobbi, Vicente Greco, Eugenio López, Arturo Mathón, Diego Munilla, Arturo De Nava, the Orquesta Columbia, Ambrosio Río, Saúl Salinas, Juan Sarcione, Ángel Villoldo and many others more. Maglio’s first record is the T 520 and includes the tangos “El Caburé” and “Armenonville”. The matrices belong to the serial 56.000. The record labels are similar to those of the rest of the cast: blue background with letters and fillets in white and gold with two large sixteenth notes above.

But in 1913 the great demand of his recordings caused that he were allowed to have his own series and a label completely different. Those are the discs that bore the letters TX before the number.

In fact, the numbering continued the serial T, either in discs as in matrices (the latter had already reached 57.000); the true curiosity of the TX’s was their different exclusive design. The background color was white with blue letters. The discs no longer had the legend «Columbia Record» but now each one was known as «Disco Doble Columbia» (Columbia double record) because that was what was written on the lower part forming a half circle. And what was most striking, because it made them unique items perfectly recognizable, was: Maglio’s photograph and his signature in the upper area above the hole. Either the disc number and the matrix number were placed in the lower area, at the bottom.

The phrase «Disco Doble Columbia» was filed in the record of patents on May 4, 1912 by the Columbia Phonograph Company Gen'l under the number 36.560. Associated with the sixteenth notes' vignette, this phrase was frequently read on the record covers. Part of the publicity shown on such record covers («Music on both sides», «A different piece on each side») today may seem rather obvious; but it wasn't in the case of this company whose early recordings were one-sided discs.

The first TX disc by Maglio was the TX 759, one side with the tango “El apache argentino” composed by Manuel Aróztegui (matrix 57.196) and on the other, the tango “Jeanne” written by Maglio himself (matrix 57.198). His group was lined up by the leader on bandoneon, José Bonano (Pepino) on violin-cornet, Carlos Hernani Macchi on flute and Luciano Ríos on guitar. The latter was soon replaced in 1913 by Leopoldo Thompson. The tango orchestra was, as we can see, just a quartet: enough for what was customary then.

Around a hundred numbers were recorded on TX discs among tangos, waltzes, polkas, mazurcas, folk rhythms and even some fox-trot and a two-step.

But this period of wide output and great prosperity was interrupted by the economic ups and downs in the international markets. The Tagini House was severely affected by the depression originated by the Great War causing its shutdown and the end of Maglio as shareholder.

There was even another serial of Columbia Record which included recordings by Pacho: the «Special Discs S Serial», known in the jargon of collectors as «yellow columbias» because of the color of their labels. While the average price of the discs by Columbia Record was $ 2 m/n (2 pesos national currency), the price of the S serial was $ 3 and $ 4 m/n; but old or cracked discs were paid $ 1 m/n. Here assorted foreign and national matrices were published. Many of them had already been released; among the artists that appeared in the S serial we can mention Florencio Constantino, José Mardones, Katleen Parlow, Orquesta Típica Greco, Ramón Blanchart, Rondalla Filarmónica Porteña and others.

After the cancellation of his recordings in Columbia Record, Maglio —who also at a time underwent an exodus of his musicians— reorganized his outfit and switched to other labels: he recorded for Era, Tele-Phone, Victor Record and Nacional Odeon.

So great was the number of TX discs released that still today is an ordinary thing to get them, and they are easier to find than the records released later by this great bandoneonist.