Dienstag, 25. Januar 2022

The Trío Argentino and the Orquesta Típica Argentina (Irusta-Fugazot-Demare)

by José Manuel Araque 

The Trío Argentino was formed by Lucio Demare (b. 1906) on piano, and the voices (solo or duet) of Agustín Irusta (b. 1902) and Roberto Fugazot (b. 1902).

In 1923, at 17, Lucio Demare was the pianist for Carabelli Jazz Band at Club Tabarís in Buenos Aires. At the Club he met Francisco Canaro, already one of the most popular Tango musicians with multiple orchestras playing around town. Canaro liked Demare and recorded several shimmies composed by him. 

In early 1925 Canaro was invited to play in Paris, he traveled with his brothers Juan and Rafael. Later he asked Demare to join him in Paris as his backup pianist.
In post-war Paris, the Canaro Orchestra was a big hit at Club Florida, in the Théâtre Apollo. There Canaro met Rudolph Valentino, who suggested that Canaro bring his Orchestra to New York. Canaro returned to Buenos Aires in November 1925.

In late September 1926 Canaro headed for New York with his brothers, he left Demare in Paris in charge of the Orchestra, which continued playing at the Florida, and at the "Thé Dansants" of the Hotel Claridge in Champs-Élysées.

From October through December the three Canaro brothers played in New York. Meanwhile in Paris, in November, the journal Comœdia published a glowing review of The Black Bottom Follies at the reopening of the Apollo, where the Demare-led Orchestra opened for Sam Wooding's Jazz players and Mistinguett danced. Demare's father Domingo also joined the group, he was a violinist. Demare's mother traveled too.
Francisco Canaro arrived in Buenos Aires on December 7, 1926. Juan and Rafael Canaro, and pianist Fiorivanti di Cicco, returned to Paris after Christmas, and joined Demare. The Canaro Orchestra in Paris, now with two pianists, continued playing at the Florida, and at the Thé Dansants that Harry Pilcer ran at the Hotel Claridge. They were in Paris when Charles Lindbergh landed in his Spirit of St. Louis, "the whole city was awake", Demare recalled in an interview. On June 2 they were in a South American Gala at the Opera, and shared the stage with Manuel Pizarro and the famous Tango dancer and teacher Casimiro Aín. 

In August 1927, the Canaro Orchestra went South to Biarritz, and played at the Pavillon Royal.

In Buenos Aires the same year, from March through late September, Francisco Canaro recorded extensively for Odeon, with newcomer Agustín Irusta as his chansonnier. He also recorded a handful of tracks with Fugazot and Irusta singing duet. Canaro and Irusta recorded their last track that year on September 30. Canaro then decided to return to France, and bring the singers to support the Orchestra. Canaro said in his memoirs that he did not travel as an engaged musician, or even as director, that he was "mostly on vacation". But it's possible Canaro was also there for business, as the Apollo had changed hands, and the Florida engagement was no more. 

Since October 5 the Canaro Orchestra sans Canaro played at the
Teatro Maravillas in Madrid. But Demare was not with them, he was in Paris playing for one "Orquesta Granados". Francisco Canaro arrived in Paris in late October or early November, with Fugazot and Irusta in tow, and introduced them to Demare. All of them then traveled in Canaro's Renault from Paris to Madrid, and Canaro floated the idea of forming a Trío.

Since early November, the Canaro Orchestra had moved to the Maipu Pigall’s in Madrid. On November 25, 1927, the Trío appeared for the first time at the Maravillas, in a vignette entitled “Aires pampeanos”, as part of the revue “Noche loca”.

They were an instant success.

Gardel was in town too, singing at the Royalty. He spent New Year's Eve with Canaro and the Trío sang that night with Gardel. On Wednesday January 11, 1928, the Trío and the Canaro Orchestra organized a monster party in honor of Gardel. Three days later Gardel recorded Demare’s tango Dandy.

Canaro soon returned to Buenos Aires, and his Orchestra folded at the Maipu Pigall's. The Trio played at the Maravillas until February 26. It was rumored that the management of the theater wanted to throw a party in recognition of their success, but apparently the offer was rejected. With this the Trío entered the Spanish lore, their life stories became the stuff of gossip columns in Spain.

Along with their success in Madrid, came a recording contract. They moved to Barcelona and recorded their first track, Por el camino (Zamba del boyero), on February 28, 1928. For the next 3 years the Trío recorded for La Voz de su Amo, Gramophone UK’s subsidiary in Spain (His Master’s Voice). The critics loved their repertory full of Argentine folk songs, from Gatos to the "Pericón Nacional". Their recordings sold like hotcakes, "El boyero" was a hit and became one of their signature songs.

Spring of 1928 was a very busy season, a veritable Tango-fever took over Barcelona. Amongst others Bianco-Bachicha played at the Teatro Nuevo, with their star violinist Agesilao Ferrazzano and singer Teresa Asprella. The impresario Francesc Buxó signed the Trío and on March 10 Demare's Orquesta Típica Argentina debuted at the Principal Palace in the Ramblas. Demare formed his new Orchestra with his father Domingo on violin, and his brother Lucas on bandoneon, and himself at the piano, and initially called it "Alma Criolla". Héctor Artola (formerly with Bianco-Bachicha) and Pedro Polito (formerly with Canaro) on bandoneons, and 3 other musicians (violins, bass, drums), completed the formation. The Trío and the Típica also played at the cabaret Eden Concert, which was run by Buxó. 

Over the next 3 years, musicians that joined in the Típica included Antonio Romano and Alberto Celenza (bandoneons); Víctor Hugo, Bernardo Stalman, Jesús Fernández and Samuel Reznik (violins); and Romualdo Lo Moro (drums). But in general it seems the formation was fluid, with many Argentine players joining temporarily as they came to Europe and stopped in Barcelona. The name was simplified soon to "Orquesta Típica Argentina".

In May 1928 the Trío started recording with the Orchestra too. The Orchestra's repertory leaned heavily on Tango, and highlighted some of Demare's early compositions.

They played at the Principal Palace and the Eden Concert until mid June. In Summer they traveled around Spain, with shows at the Olympia in Valencia, the Concert Café in Alicante and the Plaza de Toros in Córdoba. 

In the Fall Buxó brought them back to the Eden Concert and to the Teatro Nuevo. They were very popular in Barcelona, the press kept talking about them. In late November there was a melee in a cabaret where they were performing, because Irusta had publicly expressed his sympathies for a local soccer team. 
In December they celebrated their first anniversary with a series of concerts at the Salón Doré at the Granja Royal. They also played at the Teatro Barcelona with the Argentine theater company Rivera-De Rosas, the same troupe that introduced Carlos Gardel to Spain in 1923. They were too busy at times, and had to negotiate with Buxó for less shows at the Teatro Nuevo to allow for some rest.

In January 1929 they returned for a month to the Principal Palace in Barcelona, and in early February they recorded two Movietone videos in Parc Güell which are apparently lost. In these shorts they sang their popular songs Por el camino, El carretero and Dandy. 

Then they went on a small tour of Spain, with shows in Reus, Tarragona, Vilafranca, Lérida and Zaragoza. All of Spain was enthralled with them, their songs played on radio all over the peninsula. Their extensive repertory set them apart from other orchestras of the era, they changed it from day to day. In April 1929 they played for a couple of weeks at the Cine Avenida in Madrid, and were guests at the final show of the Compañía Rivera-De Rosas.  

The tour continued with shows at the Teatro Campoamor in Oviedo, Santander, Bilbao and Vitoria, before returning to the Principal Palace in Barcelona in late May, just in time for the opening of the International Exposition. Barcelona was abuzz, the Expo was a huge success, people from all over the world came to visit. The Trío then opened a contest for the lyrics to a tango composed by Demare in honor of the city. 

Señorita Pilar Canosa won the contest.

The Trío was very busy recording for La Voz de su Amo through June 1929, including a curious "Tango Romanza" composed and played by Demare with the Típica's lead violin Samuel Reznik. 

In early September 1929 Cuban newspapers started announcing the imminent arrival of the Trío and the Típica claiming they had played for months at the Ambassadeurs in Paris (with Osvaldo Fresedo?), but we found no more evidence of this other than an earlier interview with Fugazot where he mentioned "they were going to Paris". He also mentioned the Trío's interest in playing in the United States where "no Argentine orchestra had been able to crack the market yet". Demare and Irusta and the rest of the Orchestra arrived in Havana in early October but they were forced to start their show without Fugazot, who for some unknown reason split from the troupe. Fugazot was then forced to travel to New York in transit to Havana. Osvaldo Fresedo was already in New York when Fugazot arrived on October 8, so we speculate they met. Then on October 13 Fugazot boarded the liner Orizaba and arrived in Havana on October 16. Through November 28 they played more than 50 dates at the famous Teatro Campoamor, sometimes playing three times a day (1PM, 5:15PM, 8:30PM).

Havana loved them. The Cuban press noted that up until their visit the biggest Argentine Tango names to have visited the island were José Bohr and Francisco Spaventa. They included songs by Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona in some shows, and premiered their version of Discépolo's Victoria, Canaro's Las vueltas de la vida and Delfino's Griseta (never recorded) in others. They also played on Cuban radio and at the cabaret Sans Souci in Arroyo Arenas, sharing the stage with a local jazz band and with Ignacio Piñeiro's Sexteto Nacional. 

When their formal commitments to the Campoamor ended the Trío split temporarily: Demare stayed in Havana with the Típica, while Irusta and Fugazot decided to play in the interior of the island. They reached out to guitarist Rafael Iriarte from Argentina to join them, and in December they touched smaller cities like Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. When Irusta, Fugazot and Iriarte returned to Havana on December 26 they played for the recluse of Havana's famous prison Castillo del Príncipe, and then again at the Campoamor sans Demare.

As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, another group arrived in Havana that Christmas calling themselves "Trío Argentino", this one by Carlos Spaventa, Luis Scalón and guitarist Héctor Morales. In early January 1930 Demare and the Típica were still playing at the Sans Souci and had taken on new commitments at the Thé Dansants of the Hotel Almendares. They reunited with Irusta, Fugazot and Iriarte for a handful of shows at the Campoamor before they sailed to Mexico.

The Típica stayed behind in Havana, and played other venues like the Havana Yatch Club. It's unclear from the available evidence if Demare went to Mexico at all, or if Irusta and Fugazot went only with Iriarte. At the end of January the orchestra lost one of its members when Romualdo Lo Moro decided to rejoin Bachicha, who was coming to Havana to play at the Campoamor and at the cabaret Chateau Madrid. Lo Moro was part of the Canaro troupe that made waves at the Florida in Paris in April 1925. With his wife he also danced and taught Tango dancing. Incidentally, Bachicha's orchestra included notable musicians like Agesilao Ferrazzano and Horacio Pettorossi, and singer Juan Raggi. 

It was quite the busy season in Havana, from March 13 through March 21 the Típica played at the Sans Souci for the American dancing couple of Rosita and Ramón. Ramón and Rosita were instrumental in bringing Osvaldo Fresedo to New York the previous September, and it's likely they had also met Demare and his Orchestra in Barcelona in May or in France in Summer 1929 (or both). Irusta and Fugazot were back from Mexico on March 17 and joined the Típica at the Sans Souci.

As a token of the gratitude of the city of Havana on Sunday March 30 at 10AM Ernesto Lecuona organized a party in honor of the Trío at the Teatro Payret. The show was a huge success, so much that they had to do a second show on April 4. Lecuona and Demare performed several numbers on two pianos, including Lecuona's new Tango Tus ojos azules. On April 1 the Teatro Campoamor also organized a big farewell party for the Trío and for Bachicha. Many Cuban artists were part of these functions, and the President of Cuba Gerardo Machado attended the show at the Campoamor. It seemed clear the Trío was going to return soon. 

In May the Trío went back to La Voz de su Amo's recording studio in Barcelona, committing to record the tangos Las vueltas de la vida and Tus ojos azules.

They also recorded the exquisite vals Lupe, which has led to speculation about a relationship between Demare and Mexican star Lupe Vélez. Vélez's role in El Gaucho (with Douglas Fairbanks in 1926) made her the most popular Latin actress in Hollywood, and she was in several movies in 1929 transitioning from silent films to talkies. The newspapers mentioned that the Trio was going to California looking for a movie contract, and we know Lupe Vélez was in Sonora that February. But we have no evidence at all of a Demare-Vélez meeting in Mexico, or that they ever dated. Nonetheless, the piece was explicitly dedicated to Lupe.

In June they were at the Empire in Paris.

The Trío returned to the recording studios in late September and for the next 6 weeks. Then they went back to Madrid in November 1930, and played at the Alkázar and the Latina.

On December 14 they arrived in Havana again and played for weeks at the Teatro Nacional and the cabaret Chateau Madrid. Then they moved to Dominican Republic, Mexico, Perú and others. Samuel Reznik split from the Típica and stayed in Cuba.

The Demare family arrived in Buenos Aires in January 193. Irusta and Fugazot arrived later, from March through August they recorded a handful of tracks with Canaro and a gorgeous version of the vals Lupe with Osvaldo Fresedo.

The Trio (and some members of the Típica, including Lucas Demare) returned to Spain in late 1932, and for the next year recorded a few more tracks for La Voz de su Amo. They also starred in two movies, Boliche and Aves sin rumbo, directed by Antonio Graciani. Lucas moved on to movie-making.

They went back to Argentina in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. They started their own solo careers, Demare formed a new Orchestra with new singers.

The Trio had a reunion-tour in 1948 in Cuba, and recorded some tracks there.

The discography of the Trío and the Típica can be found here.


1. El Tango en España by Juan Manuel Peña (Abrazos, 2010)
2. El Tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes by Oscar Zucchi (Corregidor, 1998)
3. Mis bodas de oro con el tango by Francisco Canaro (Corregidor, 1957)
4. Interview with Lucio Demare, by Eduardo Soriano, 1974 (todotango.com)


1. Leonardo Palludi in Porto, for his invaluable input to this article and the Discography.
4. Camilo Gatica y Mark John, for their incredible work restoring glory to the sound of an era.

Revision history

1. The original version of this article is being published on March 21, 2022


To Emilio and Rosita in Barcelona 💚