Nélida Rouchetto

De Lío - A talk with the guitarist

was born in Buenos Aires on March 11, 1929 and at age 13 I graduated from a music institute authorized by the official education system. When I was 14 I was working as a professional.

«As a 15-year-old kid I was member of the music staff on Radio Belgrano. By that time there were guitarists such as Vila, Antonio Ciaccio and José Cortecce.

«I accompanied nearly all the singers. I missed Carlos Gardel and Agustín Magaldi for a little time. I backed: Ignacio Corsini, Oscar Alonso, Santiago Devin, Nelly Omar —with whom I stayed many years—, Azucena Maizani, Mercedes Simone, always on radio. And from 1947 to 1955, along with other boys, I was with Hugo del Carril who had a heart attack in Montevideo that year, so we had to come back.

«In 1950 I put together a jazz group, a quintet. Lalo Schifrin was on piano, then 20 years old. His mother came with him and she used to tell me «Take care of him, Ubaldo». On violin was Hernán Oliva; on guitar, Guillermo Barbieri, brother of the comic actor Alfredo; a double bass and I playing mandolin. It was Waldir Azevedo-like, it sounded nice. We recorded for the Victor but there were no re-issues. Not even the matrices were left.

«At a cheap venue near the riverside, on 25 de Mayo and Viamonte, some friends of mine worked. They played bongo and conga drums with an old Cuban guitarist named De Castro that was planning to retire and return to Cuba. Then they asked me to replace him and I, rather afraid because I had never played that music before, accepted the proposition. Two years later the owners of the local opened another venue near the city center, on Paraguay and San Martín, the Jamaica. It was a nice place. Jazz and tango men played there, among them was Piazzolla with his quintet.

«There Horacio Salgán with Ciriaco Ortiz used to play and, in the wee small hours of the morning, when there were only a few patrons at the local, Horacio and I liked to play just for fun. The owners who liked tango very much suggested that we should we featured within the show, just the two of us, without Ciriaco. So the duo was born, back in 1957.

«We played for three years. In 1960 we formed the Quinteto Real with Enrique Francini on violin, Pedro Laurenz on bandoneon and Rafael Ferro on bass. Ferro was two years with us. He played in the first recording. Later Kicho Díaz joined us and he played in the second record and thereafter Omar Murtagh was the bassist.

«In 1964 we traveled to Japan. For the Japanese Columbia company we cut two or three long-playing records. Kicho was there.

«I don’t know who influenced me in the way of playing the instrument. We were very close friends with Roberto Grela. However, I think that what I play is original. I played along with Grela, we accompanied the singer Néstor Feria. And look, around 1952 I was in the cast of a show at the Tibidabo and Troilo came to see me. He needed a guitarist for El patio de la morocha. At first I said yes, but in fact I had many engagements. You know what I did, don’t you? I called Grela to tell him that he had to talk to Pichuco. Raúl Berón strongly criticized me for that: «Why don’t you get the gig, Ubaldo?». I couldn’t, and furthermore by that time Grela was almost out of work.

«So that beautiful quartet was born. Anyhow, when Troilo put together a new quartet I was there. But as I had plenty of job I told Pichuco that I would send him a boy that played very well. The boy was Aníbal Arias and that turned out good for them both.

«I cannot foresee a good scene for the accompanying guitarists. They are disappearing. We have now those who back Nelly Omar, Rivero, Laine, Robledo and Marano, and only a few more. Some young boy. The young guys don’t have the chance of getting experience onstage and, was is worse, accompanying singers is not so easy.

«According to Piazzolla’s conception, the guitar is used in a different way, with a jazz color. The guitar solos are sort of jazz licks, playing lines as if they were a sax or a clarinet .

«I don’t pretend to be a winner, all I have God gave it to me. I have music, the possibility of expressing myself through it and God gave me a family, and gave me friends».

Explanation: Ubaldo De Lío says that the Quinteto was formed in 1960 but it is failure of his memory because they debutted on Radio El Mundo on September 1, 1959 and so was published in the “Cantando” magazine on September 29. They were aired on Mondays and Thursdays. Later the same magazine published that in October they made their debut at the Confitería Richmond on Esmeralda Street. They played there throughout 1960 to great success and appeared at many venues.

Published in the Revista Tango XXI, No.11, June 1997.