Ortega del Cerro tells us his beginnings in singing

n an interview it is customary that at the end the character interviewed is asked for an anecdote, but today we go the other way around, I ask for it right now.

«Yes, I have one which summarizes all my life because it led me towards a future the same way it could have done to another direction and it has to do with my appearance on Radio El Mundo fifteen years ago, that is to say in 1942».

This was the first answer of our important singer, Ortega Del Cerro, thankful for his life had led his steps towards the famous radio station. The years that came after that confirmed his abilities as good interpreter. An unknown man that without wasting stages placed himself in the first levels alongside the best singers. A good voice range, masculine, strong, that perfectly matched the dramatic numbers of his songbook.

—You told us about your arrival, but how did everything start there in Mendoza?

«I used to sing as a kid but for my own pleasure or for some friends about my age that encouraged me to seriously devote myself to singing. And, in fact, I dreamed of doing it professionally but I was unable to believe it. But one day Irma Flores heard me, a great tango woman in my hometown, that persuaded the authorities of LV10 Radio Cuyo to present me on the radio».

—And what happened there? Did you attract their attention or the audience attention?

«No, it was a very short performance because I had no strength enough to go on, something was missing. Time later on their way to Chile the comic actor Augusto Codecá and Héctor Quesada, pianist, composer, leader that, time before, had teamed up with Francisco Lomuto as a duo and also used to work as agent, came to Mendoza. They wanted to hear me, they had been told about me and my friends nearly pushed me towards them. I did it, trembling and convinced that I would fail. But it wasn’t so. That same day they made record “Madre” and “Juera güey” and Quesada told me that I would soon hear from him».

—Did the news arrive?

«They came telling me about a possible debut on Radio El Mundo. I was unable to believe it. It was the first time I was out from home and out of town and I didn’t know Buenos Aires. I arrived and Quesada was waiting for me, otherwise I would have got lost. A few days later I made my debut in Ronda de Ases, then a quite popular radio show. When I was about to step onstage I felt like fainting. I don’t remember which was the first tango I sang. The second one was all right, I think, anyway I had decided to go back home and devote myself to sales».

—Didn’t that mean quitting?

«Certainly, but I bought my ticket and got on the train. Then Quesada and others, encouraged me, got me off the train and I went on ahead. Radio Cuyo, El Mundo and a short season on Belgrano are the only radio stations where I sang».

—And besides tango?

«Yes, my spare time is devoted to the hotel I run in Santa Fe and Riobamba and to be in good shape I have a boxing training. Down there in Mendoza I had ten fights as amateur».

—You are López Ortega, who changed your name?

«Quesada named me del Cerro (from the hill) because I came from there».

—Other appearances?

«Between August and September 1943 I recorded some numbers for the Orquesta Típica Victor: on August 9: “Milonga del aguatero” written by Maruja Pacheco Huergo and Nicolás Siri. The same day: “Una vez” by Carlos Marcucci and Lito Bayardo; on September 9: “Nene caprichoso” and “Tranquilo viejo tranquilo”; on September 20: “Pena calé” by Andrés Domenech and Francisco García Jiménez, and “Y no la puedo olvidar” by Francisco Canaro.

«I want to add that in 1948 I also was with José Basso that had put together his new orchestra after he quit Aníbal Troilo. His vocalists were Ricardo Ruiz and I. We debutted at the cabaret Ocean on Leandro N. Alem Avenue. By that time Basso was not recording.

«I split with his orchestra but I remained on Radio El Mundo. I was accompanied by the staff orchestra led by Andrés Fraga. I was replaced by Francisco Fiorentino in the Basso orchestra, just then he began to cut recordings. Fiore recorded “Mi noche triste (Lita)”. Those were my beginnings in singing, broadly speaking».