Néstor Pinsón

El Pollo Ricardo - “El Pollo Ricardo”, a short story of two friends

n September 1940 the Carlos Di Sarli Orchestra recorded this tango to great public acclaim. The orchestra leader liked this piece so much that he cut it on three occasions: in September 1940, in March 1946 and in July 1951. In the latter case, on the new 33 RPM discs for the Music Hall company which only had two tracks per side. This fashion lasted in the label at least until 1954. Furthermore, Di Sarli opened this new format in Argentina.

Who was this Pollo? First of all I want to clear out an existing confusion. A well-known sports journalist who is used to dive into other proposals, on one occasion, talked for a long time about this tango and the title character in his radio program, but not revealing immediately his true identity. When he discloses the incognita, he mentions Ricardo Güiraldes. Even though the latter was a tango dancer and had the same first name, he was not the person to whom the piece was dedicated.

The true Pollo was an Uruguayan, born on September 29, 1890 who when he was a kid he already mingled with adults at the bohemian café reunions, like those at La Giralda, on Andes and 18 de Julio or at other more intimate, the Londres, according to the story told by Juan Carlos Legido in his book La orilla oriental del tango.

He already was a promising dancer when he came to know Luis Alberto Fernández. The latter became very fond of him and began to call him Mi pollo. His name was Ricardo Scandroglio and his friend, only three years his senior, dedicated to him the tango at issue in 1911, according to his own words quoted by Legido.

Legido goes on: «The boy was as well pianist and author of some pieces. We have to mention the one with which he paid in return the dedication. He named it “En puerta” and we don’t why. Once he said: “Fernández played piano by ear, he was a guy with inner and outer qualities, an elegant man who was always gentle”».

El Pollo Ricardo” was premiered by the Uruguayan orchestra led by Carlos Warren. The first recording I listened was by Francisco Canaro and his Quinteto Don Pancho in 1938, but the specialist Enrique Binda told us that three more were recorded previosuly, by Celestino Ferrer, in the United States and by Juan Maglio Pacho, for Telephone label.

Also are standouts the renditions of Juan D'Arienzo who recorded it in 1947 and 1952; Ricardo Pedevilla’s and the recording of the César Zagnoli’s trio. The latter, in 1974, cut also “En puerta” for the Victor label.

The composer of the piece, Luis Alberto Fernández, was born in Montevideo on March 29, 1887 but music was not his profession. He was a public official, since 1905 and for a couple of years, clerk in the Montevideo police, later employee in the Administración General de Puertos (Harbor Administration) and, from 1927 to 1941, chief of police of the eleventh and the first precinct of the Department of Durazno, where he suddenly died of a heart attack in September 1947.

A note in a journal in 1993 outlines a brief portrayal of him: «He was a bohemian man fond of dancing, like Matos Rodríguez. He belonged to the Montevideo of the first quarter of the century. He was tinged by the tango style of Agusín Bardi, José Martínez, Graciano De Leone and others. He shared tables with Prudencio Aragón, Carlos Warren and Eduardo Arolas. His reputation was being a loyal friend, a leader respected by his peers because he never retreated. When he sat at the piano to play tangos and milongas, his manly stature reached a singular feature».

He composed other tangos: “Paja quemada”, “El abrojo [b]”, “Rajé de Montevideo”, “Duda”, “Dejame volver”. All of them with lyrics by Ceferino Albuquerque; also “Intervalo”, with lines by Enrique Cadícamo.

And as finale to this short story, we can say that Fernández and Scandroglio were two nice characters that belonged to the music and the bohemia of the dancehalls like so many that Uruguayan tango brought.

Some recordings of “El Pollo Ricardo”:
Orquesta Juan Maglio (1918)
Orquesta Celestino Ferrer (1918)
Quinteto Don Pancho (1938)
Orquesta Carlos Di Sarli (1940)
Orquesta Carlos Di Sarli (1946)
Orquesta Juan D'Arienzo (1947)
Orquesta Donato Racciatti (1948)
Orquesta Ricardo Pedevilla (1950)
Orquesta Carlos Di Sarli (1951)
Orquesta Dante Puricelli (1952)
Orquesta Juan D'Arienzo (1952)
Orquesta Aníbal Troilo (1954)
Quinteto Real (1961)
Quinteto Pirincho (1962)
Cuarteto San Telmo Federico-Grela (1965)
Orquesta Héctor Varela (1966)
Sexteto Mariano Mores - Sexteto Rítmico Moderno (1967)
Orquesta Mariano Mores - Orquesta Lírica Popular (1974)
Cuarteto Héctor Stamponi (1975)
Orquesta Leopoldo Federico (1975)
Trío Federico-Berlingieri-Cabarcos (1975)
Sexteto Tango (1976)
Orquesta de Cámara para el Tango Dir: E. Iriarte (1977)
Orquesta Alfredo De Angelis (1982)
Orquesta Osvaldo Berlingieri (1985)
Trío César Zagnoli (1990)
Trío Gomina (1995)
Sexteto Tango Real (1995)
Orquesta Leopoldo Federico (1996)
Dúo Aníbal Arias-Osvaldo Montes (1997)
Orquesta El Arranque (2000)
Orquesta Típica de la Guardia Vieja – Dir: Joaquín Amenábar (2002)
Quinteto Los Tauras (2003)
Dúo Salgán-De Lío