Ricardo García Blaya

Mi vieja viola - Humberto Correa and his old guitar

n my youth, knowing the lyrics of “Mi vieja viola” was like being graduated as an expert. Very few tangos display, in so fresh a way, the language of those old neighborhoods, the jargon of the outskirts.

Its lunfardo lines are like a painting, that expresses dramatically, the mimicry that exists between a declining singer and his old beloved guitar. Correa uses the adjective garufera, which alludes to sprees and staying up late and, surely, he was inspired in the tango “Garufa” written by his countrymen Juan Collazo, Víctor Soliño and Roberto Fontaina, committed to disc by Alberto Vila in 1928. Another interesting term is lora which refers, in its oldest meaning, to a fair-haired woman.

It was a piece quite popular at the grocery stores, barrooms and boarding houses of Montevideo in the late 1929. The guitar strummers and occasional singers sang it before its formal publication in 1932. But, its recognition by the public, its definitive consecration took place much later.

Correa was a guitarist that played «by ear», he did not read music. Because of that some colleagues say that the tango piece was filed in the record thanks to the help of a musician, Salvador Frías, who had written its notes on a music staff and, and for that collaboration, he added his name. But on the sheet music, plainly Frías appears as co-author of the lyric. Furthermore in some songbooks the Frías brothers are mentioned. To make the thing more mysterious, I also heard that this man was a guitarist friend of Correa’s who was then at a bad financial situation and, for that reason he added him to the record file of his piece. Finally, Roberto Casinelli and Raúl Outeda, in their Anuario del tango, say that it is a sobriquet of Correa himself. It is worthwhile saying that in the SADAIC files only Humberto Correa appears, so it would confirm the latter version.

The legend says that it was premiered in 1929 by its creator, at the mythical café La Noche, located on the so-called «calle de los diarios» (street of the newspapers), in front of the luxurious «non sancta» (of dubious morality) boarding house with dancehall run by Sarita Davis. Surely at that time he had no idea of the recognition his tango would achieve twenty-one years later.

In fact, only in October 1950 “Mi vieja viola” reached its real dimension as a classic, after it was recorded by Ángel Vargas with his orchestra led by the bandoneonist Eduardo Del Piano. In December another excellent rendering made by the José Basso’s orchestra with the singer Oscar Ferrari was released.

At the beginning of the following year Aníbal Troilo recorded it with Jorge Casal on vocals and, in 1952 Mercedes Simone waxed it with the accompaniment of the Emilio Brameri’s orchestra.

Correa, a man of the Uruguayan interior, from the city of Minas, capital of the department of Lavalleja, was born on April 4, 1904 and died in Montevideo on June 9, 1964. Besides his gifts as guitar player, lyricist and composer he was an actor, storyteller and even playwright.

As a child he made his debut alongside the famous itinerant singer Juan Pedro López, author of the estilo “Mi china hereje” which was recorded by Carlos Gardel and by Ignacio Corsini. During the 20s he formed duos with Roberto Fugazot and Américo Chiriff, author of “Misterio” and “Hopa hopa”, which were also in Gardel’s repertory.

He wrote a book with stories of the countryside: Espejito ‘cachimba and a theater play: Castigo del destino. He composed several tangos, among which “Aquellos amigos”, “A las nueve y cuarto” and “Vía crucis” stand out. He was as well author of the curious version of “Mano a mano” which was sung and recorded by the excellent female singer Nina Miranda in a duo with Roberto Lister. Here the woman answers the complaints made by the protagonist created by Celedonio Flores.

In Buenos Aires he appeared in the theater company of the great actress Blanca Podestá and toured the interior of Argentina along with his wife, the actress and singer Margarita del Valle. They had formed the duo La Gaucha y el Gaucho Blanco which appeared successfully in many carnival seasons in Montevideo.

Outstanding renditions of "Mi vieja viola":

Ángel Vargas with his orchestra (1950)
José Basso with Oscar Ferrari (1950)
Aníbal Troilo with Jorge Casal (1951)
Alberto Marino with his orchestra (1952)
Mercedes Simone with the Emilio Brameri's orch. (1952 and 1966)
Aníbal Troilo with Tito Reyes (1964)
Edmundo Rivero with guitars (1967)
Néstor Prado with the Raúl Plate orch.(1971)
Sexteto Tango with Raúl Funes (1976)
María Garay (1977)
Alfredo Zitarrosa (1981)
Claudio Bergé with Buenos Aires Cinco (1983)
Eduardo Espinoza with Raúl Garello's orch. (1994)
Adriana Varela (1996)
Lágrima Ríos (1996)
Enrique Llopis with Juanjo Domínguez (1998)
Carlos Cristal with Trío Osvaldo Berlingieri (1998)
Tuco Paz with Alfredo Sadi (2002)