Norberto Chab

Parada - Manuel Parada’s tales

f about guitar players we have to talk, we, the researchers of the history of tango, who find pleasure in listening many times to the singers of the early decades of the last century, have paid attention to his name because it is linked to the successful Gómez-Vila duo, and also to the best times of Azucena Maizani backed by the Enrique Delfino’s piano. Manuel Parada was born in La Coruña, Spain. His show business career ended before the famous 40s, save for some sporadic reappearance back in the 50s. He later walked along other roads.

«I arrived in the country in 1910 and my family settled in the Barracas neighborhood. I may say that there I was born again. By the time of World War I I began to be interested in the many bandoneon players and guitar strummers who lived in the neighborhood and therefore I was tempted to play guitar. My father bought one for me made by an Andalucian of the vicinity. Before having studied I played in the backyard and a neighbor who heard me then offered himself to teach me some lessons. He used to teach with a method, the same one I kept on using throughout my life and when I devoted myself to teaching. Time later that man moved to La Boca. As I wanted to go on studying with him we agreed to meet twice a week. But later I told the teacher I preferred to go only once a week. But I said nothing of it to my mother. When she gave me the coins for the streetcar, the day I had no class I went to the Kalisay moviehouse in Patricios. Fortunately I was a studious boy and once a week it was enough for me. I didn’t want to miss the movies at all.

«Graciano De Leone lived on the corner of Tacuarí and Ituzaingó. From time to time I saw Arolas passing by. Across the street, in front of my house El Quija Quevedo lived. He was an Uruguayan that played with Arolas. And he was the one who asked permission to my father, when he knew I played guitar, to join the groups that were formed to play at weddings and baptism parties. So I came to know a great number of tango men. I met Aieta that was then just beginning and played with him in those basements or cafes. At that time there were plenty of them. There I saw dancers like El Mocho and others who later became famous. And I was also with the most bizarre guy that stepped on San Telmo, El Yepi José María Bianchi. The latter, as I was a kid, used to watch over me and to protect me. He, instead, didn’t care for himself at all. He was very fond of alcohol. On one occasion he summoned me for a baptism in La Boca. The pay was three pesos. We were playing “El apache argentino”, “Royal Pigall”, all those numbers, when someone passed by with beer. He drank. I didn’t. Soon later another one with cognac came. He drank and so did I. My God! The only thing I remember is that El Yepi was telling me: «Manolito, you’re my kind of boy».

«Towards 1920 I had already achieved a certain ability and I started to take gigs in variety shows. With the Romero brothers, both singers, I formed a trio. With them I appeared downtown and we played at the matinees of the Teatro Casino to great acclaim. The Navarrine brothers and the outfit Los de la leyenda used to appear there too. Regretfully, it did not last long, but I didn’t care much about it because I was already playing excerpts as soloist. Some folk tunes, some classical stuff. By that time there were not many players of that kind. I can name Pettorossi, Mario Pardo, but we did not play tangos yet. Soon thereafter I was associated with two telegraph operators working in the post office and so the Marquez-Cánovas duo was put together. We used to appear at the Casino and at the Esmeralda (later Maipo,) when Gardel-Razzano were on tour. We were paid a fortune, thirty pesos nightly. People from San Telmo and Barracas came to see me. I was a sort of spoiled child for those neighbors and friends.

«The Vega-Díaz duo was the most rewarding experiences I had. It disbanded because Roberto Díaz, due to personal problems, had to leave the country. But we paved the way at that time. We were the first duo that recorded for Victor. We made five comebacks at the Esmeralda. Due to our success in records sales we made tours throughout the interior and the records were sold at furniture shops, notions stores and even drugstores. Every tour of ours lasted from six to seven months. Once when I was in Mendoza I got acquainted with Alfredo Pelaia. He was delighted when he heard us and wanted to come to Buenos Aires. One evening when we were playing at the Empire he turned up. He asked us to recommend him a singer. I suggested him Ítalo Goyeche. He found the latter and he formed his duo but he was needing an accompanist. As at that time Díaz had traveled to Chile and Vega, to Spain, I joined them. And I also played my stuff. But Pelaia was quite selfish. For example, he didn’t mention my name in the records we cut. And later he was mean about the money I was to be paid, then that was enough for me so I quit.

Enrique Delfino we backed Azucena Maizani for the Odeon label in a number of recordings. Also Sofía Bozán and Ada Falcón. Later I switched to Brunswick with Azucena and recorded some solos. By that time I met a man named Roque at the Bar Marzotto (now Restaurante Arturito, on Corrientes near the corner with Cerrito). On one occasion he told me: «I’m going to introduce you to my nephew who wants to sing». So I came to know Alberto Gómez who arrived with his partner, Augusto Vila. Both had a good intonation and were pleasant. For six months they were rehearsing with me in a room I had on Rivadavia avenue. I taught them how to accompany themselves on guitar and, when we made our debut at the Teatro Apolo, it was a boom! Soon they changed their names because before they were appearing as Aducci-Devicente and I labeled the group: Parada-Gómez-Vila. We went out with our show and it was a hit. But the disaster came with the first recording. We cut a sample recordiong with our rendering of the waltz “Adiós, adiós” and the tango “Soy un arlequín”. We didn’t even think that it would be published. Vicente Spina was in the studio so I suggested him to accompany us with his guitar. But, in fact, the record was released. When I had the record in my hand I read that on the record label Gómez-Vila was printed. I asked for an explanation, I wanted to know why the name of the trio, that had been appearing in theaters for two years, had not been kept. Everybody seemed to know nothing about it so I split up.

«Thereafter I formed a guitar quartet to appear on radio and also I put together another trio but, in fact, I was disappointed, I was becoming less interested. However, I continued until 1936. That year I was on Radio Belgrano. I began to teach and was member of the board of directors of SADAIC. Ah!, in December 1958 I re-appeared. By then the actor Francisco Petrone had created his Circo-Teatro Arena, a big tent placed in Plaza Miserere where several plays where staged. I remember one: Juan Moreira, because for that occasion Petrone persuaded me to act and there I was with my guitar, impersonating a gaucho.

«I had a chance to accompany Gardel but it didn’t come true. It happened in 1928. Aguilar came to see me and single-mindedly told me: «Won’t you like to go to France with Carlitos?». I didn’t say yes because I didn’t want to unexpectedly quit Gómez-Vila. Time later Alfredo De Ferrari, a friend of Gardel’s, came to see me and he told me something that El Zorzal had said about me. «If Paradita comes with us he’ll pale us». And he added: «He does not want you to come with us he’s afraid of you. He says that when you appear singers are paled». He assured those were textual words by Gardel.

«I composed several things, but the greatest satisfaction for me was the tango “Llevame carretero” that Gardel recorded in 1930.»

Published in Tango, un siglo de historia, 1880-1980, Editorial Perfil.