Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marinella - Oscar Alemán In Soundtrack of a Tino Rossi Movie (1936)

Tino Rossi
Tino Rossi  (1907 – 1983) was a French singer and film actor. Born Constantin Rossi in Ajaccio, Corsica, France, he became a tenor of French cabaret and one of the great romantic idols of his time. Gifted with an operatic voice, a "Latin Lover" persona made him a movie star as well. Over his career, Rossi made hundreds of records and appeared in more than 25 films. His romantic ballads had women swooning and his art-songs helped drawing sold out audiences wherever he performed. He is the only French singer to have sold over 700 million records. (excerpt of Wikipedia article ,here ).

Oscar Alemán with National Tricone guitar, 1930s
Tino Rossi began his film career in Les Nuits Moscovites (1934), but his first real success came with Pierre Caron's Marinella (1936), a musical film which was written specifically for him. Needless to say, the theme song from the film proved a great hit. All his films were musicals and capitalised on his success as a singer.- We were pointed to a YouTube video featuring the theme song Marinella copied from the original film, as it is supposed to have Oscar Alemán playing the guitar in the accompanying sound-track. Earlier there have been assumptions that Alemán particpated in recordings with Tino Rossi, but up till now we have not been able to confirm this from lack of discographical info on Tino Rossi's output. However, judging from the soundtrack of the song, it seems likely that Alemán actually participated in the recording of this particular take of Marinella as an anonymous studio musician. The guitar part behind Rossi's vocal sounds much like other recordings by Alemán from the 1930s in Paris, where he from time to time contributed his skills on the National tricone metal guitar as accompaniment for vocal artists like Lina d'Acosta and the Jean, Jac & Jo trio a.o.. - You have the opportunity to download a legal and free mp3 copy of the soundtrack recording of Marinella here. Below is inserted the YouTube video featuring the original 1936 Tino Rossi performance of the song on screen.



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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

Monday, June 09, 2014

In the Quest of Oscar`s Cavaquinho

Cavaquinho
Oscar Alemán's first instrument was the cavaquinho, which he acquired as a boy and taught himself to play. He kept the instrument all his life, used it in stage appearance and recorded his 'O.A. 1926' in a solo performance on the Alemán '72 album. But what happened to his cavaquinho after his passing away in 1980? This question has puzzled the writer of this entry and generated a research of the story of Oscar's cavaquinho. Below Luis 'Tito' Liber gives his account of this story by quoting Oscar's own words on the topic from interviews and articles in Argentinian periodicals and other sources.

In the Quest of Oscar`s Cavaquinho
By Luis 'Tito' Liber
According to my humble investigations, there are two instruments in the property of Oscar Alemán which are lost: one is the original Parisian Selmer (Oscar pawned it by the end of the 1960s). The other is the old 1922 cavaquinho. The only instrument that accompanied him during almost all his life (from 1922 to 1980). Oscar`s most loved one.
Does Selva or Jorgelina have it through Carmen Vallejos? Would his latest wife, María Teresa Benito, had it to Spain? If that possibility exists... well, let`s begin the quest.
I have written a short story of the instrument in Oscar`s own words, with fragments from interviews and other articles. Here it is:

"I had gone to Brazil with my father... there I began and in 1922 I requested to make me an instrument, the "cavaquinho". In 1924, I got a borrowed guitar, and with it - in 1925 - I formed a duet. My first instrument was that cavaquinho, which I bought in Santos when I was a kid and lived alone, because my father had died. It is the same cavaquinho that stands here, on that shelf, and the one I even play today. And I never had to have it repaired!" (Sopeña, G. Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 - January 1975).

"The cavaquinho is a small four stringed Brazilian guitar. I haven`t made the historic record of the instrument, but I think it had been played in Spain, were they called it guitarrico. It is what in the USA and Hawaii they call ukelele" (Oscar Aleman. El tenedor y el cuchillo. Pelo Nº 99 - July 1978).

"I was standing alone in Santos (note: State of São Paulo, Brasil). I was about ten years old, but I was so slim and little, that I seemed to be eight. I slept below the benches of the parks, and opened and closed the doors of the cars to get some coins that let me eat. But I had a goal: buy me a cavaquinho. It was my first instrument and I still have it. It was made especially for me in 1922. I had agreed with a man the construction of that instrument, the cavaquinho, and I payed him all that I earned. I earned 20 reis, 30 reis, 45 reis by day. The luthier thought I was joking, but at the end he had to say: - "This boy is serious". The list of my payments it was written in one of those brown papers used to wrap sugar. It had written at the top the word "Oscarcito." Next the sums and the day I had rendered them: 20, 35, 15, 80, 40. It was all that I earned" (Ardiles Gray, J. Historias de artistas contadas por ellos mismos. Ed. Belgrano, Bs.As. 1981).

"I asked him to make me the best cavaquinho and the man asked me why I wanted the best wood, the best instrument. The cavaquinho costed almost 200 pesos" (Sopeña, G. Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 - January 1975).

"In the afternoons I took a rest and went to the man`s shop (in Gaffet`s Vida con Swing, the luthier from Santos is named Marcio) while his wife, who was a very good woman, gave me a cup of milk and coffe and a piece of bread because she knew that I had not eaten; I studied with another cavaquinho that was at the shop window. One day, happy beacause I had got two pesos to carry to the shop, I arrived there and found the door closed, saying 'Closed by mourning'. I rang the bell and the lady got out. She embraced me, and kissed me crying. Her husband had died... and his last words were: "Don`t charge Oscarcito a cent. All is payed..." And besides, he ordered to gift me the best case. The same case I have today! So, everytime I play my instrument on the scene, a deep emotion comes from inside; because I remember my entire life. There lays everything: how I slept below the benches embraced to my cavaquinho, how I carried the last two pesos - I had never got so much -, the closed shop, to where I could not go for two days because I hadn`t got anything... The first instrument that I have got and the last one he had made" (Sopeña, G. Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 - January 1975).

"Finally I could buy the instrument I loved so much. I started to play in some cafés with my cavaquinho. After my number, the boss allowed me to pass my small dish (Note: where the customers put the coins). While I was opening the doors of the cars I left the instrument kept in his little dancehall. The boss loved me very much and he took care of it" (Ardiles Gray, J. Historias de artistas contadas por ellos mismos. Ed. Belgrano, Bs.As. 1981).

Young Oscar Alemán built an early prestige playing in cafés and dancehalls. In 1924, Gastão Bueno Lobo was in Santos, when he found 15 years old Oscar playing the cavaquinho in the streets of the city. Having noticed the extraordinary potential of that kid, from that day onwards, Bueno Lobo became Oscar`s guitar teacher.
In Buenos Aires, December 1927, he recorded with Les Loups the side Criollita (Victor 79968B), waltz in choro style composed by Bueno Lobo, where Gastón played the cavaquinho.

One of Alemán`s earliest photos in Europe - Madrid 1929 -, shows him with a cavaquinho, not with a guitar; and critic Leonard Feather himself had recognized Oscar`s skills on cavaquinho: "Oscar Aleman, an Indian from Argentine who started playing ukelele at Brazil, he is a decade in France" (Feather, L. Melody Maker. Feb-Mar 1939). Notice that Feather rightly calls Alemán "Indian", not "American-Black", as if he had talked with Oscar about his true origins.
Madrid, 1929
Back in Argentina, during the 1940s and 1950s, Alemán and his Quinteto de Swing  recorded one theme, Apanhei-te cavaquinho (Ernesto Nazareth) (Odeon 22303B, June 1945) - but with guitar - and played live some chorinhos accompanied by his small instrument (for instance, Tengo un cavaquiño in 1946, and an early live radio interpretation of his OA 1926 ragtime in c.1955).


He also played his little instrument during Duke Ellington receptions at the USA embassy in Buenos Aires, 1968 and 1971. By 1975 Alemán still performed with the cavaquinho, for instance, at the café-concert Aristóbulo shows.
Alemán '72 , LP text
Much more, the emotion Oscar felt each time he played his cavaquinho, was captured during the recording sessions of Alemán `72 LP (Redondel SL 10.508, Nov. 1972) in a masterpiece. Here the inner cover note by Carlos Mayon: "It is to mention his interpretation of "OA 1926". There, what had to be a solo of cavaquinho, it was replaced at the recording room by a solo of Alemán... because he not only played the cavaquinho, but all his body vibrated in the interpretation of the theme, and that was essential to get to record. The recording technic, Carlos Piriz, so understood this, and with an adequate and not orthodox microphones placement, he could get along with the sound of the instrument, the noise of his feet marking the rhythm, the movement of all his body, his voice and the intermittent beating of his breathing."


Its presence in the 1970s, was remembered by Oscar`s student Guillermo Iacona: "He always taught with a classical (or creole) guitar and the very Parisian Selmer remained in its case, as was the cavaquinho" (Iacona, G, J. & E. Tributo a Oscar Alemán. pp 182-184. Bs. As. Whitefly 2012).

Oscar in his music study, 1978
Notice guitar and cavaquinho box to the right
The cavaquinho is a four stringed Portuguese instrument in the shape of small guitar (like the Hawaiian ukelele, the Indonesian kerotjon, the Spanish guitarrico, the Canarian timple and the Venezuelan cuatro), brought to America by the europeans. Its metal strings are played with a plectrum. The fretboard is divided in 17 frets. The body is most frequently made of spruce or cedar soundboard with Brazilian rosewood, or maple, back and sides. The portuguese word "cavaco", in english means "chatter"; this remains the way cavaquinho acts in brasilian music: as voice accompanyment. The cavaquinho is used by traditional groups from North Portugal, Brazil (samba, choro), Cabo Verde and Mozambique. The Brazilian cavaquinho is larger than the Portuguese. The Brazilian tuning is the traditional D-G-B-D (the Portuguese is D-B-G-E) (from Cazes, H. Escola moderna do cavaquinho. R. de J., Brazil. Ed. Lumiar 1986).
Cavaco and cavaquinho
Alemán, as he did with the guitar, he played the instrument in a spanish classical style, with his fingers, and with a single plectrum or "uñero" in his thumb (the man was a master!). Probably he used a tuning called natural or Coimbra (D-G-B-E), more adapted to guitarists, as it replicates the 1st to 4th strings of the guitar. Lamentably, he is no longer with us to affirm or deny this; but someone with a better ear than me may tell.
Oscar on stage 1974 - cavaquinho fingerstyle!
Oscar`s 92 years old little instrument perhaps is laying in the hands of someone who does not know its story, or it is kept in the dark of an old case. The worse is that, being destructed by bad use and time, it doesn`t exist anymore. If someone knows something... Write a comment!

T.L.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sweet Georgia Brown - Dulce Georgia Brown

 
 Ben Bernie and his orchestra did the first recording of Sweet Georgia Brown on March 19, 1925. Bernie was the co-composer of this jazz standard. Ben Bernie (1891 - 1943), was an American jazz violinist and radio personality, often introduced as The Old Maestro. He was noted for his showmanship and memorablebits of snappy dialogue
.  
 Here's Ben Bernie's original recording of Sweet Georgia Brown from a Soundie, uploaded at YouTube
    
 Oscar Alemán recorded the tune with its Spanish title, Dulce Georgia Brown, first time with his initial Quinteto de Swing in the first session for Odeon recorded on Nov 21th, 1941, and issued on the B-side of Odeon 45780. Personnel are: Guillermo Hernán Oliva v, Oscar Alemán vo g,, Dario “El Johnny” Quaglia g, Andrés Alvarez b, Ramón M. Caravaca dm. - The audio of this recording has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below
  
 Next time Alemán made a studio recording of Dulce Georgia Brown was on Nov.12th, 1954 with his Conjunto: Alberto A. Barbera p, Oscar Alemán dir g vo, A Aldo “Nene” Nicolini b, José Ragusa dm + ? perc - This recording was issued on Odeon 74247A and is played in a faster tempo than the first recording of the tune by the Quinteto from 1941. It is one of the first recordings for Odeon where Alemán uses amplified guitar, and judging from the audio he has complete control of sound and technique and moreover he gets the chance to play solo almost all the way through the arrangement. His vocal scat singing is unison with the guitar in one of the choruses, and his soloing on this recording belongs to one of his best ever recorded i.m.o. - Enjoy the audio from an uploaded video take at YouTube
    
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 Jo

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oscar Alemán in a 1970s "Rock" Magazine

Oscar Alemán 1978 in Pelo magazine
In the late 1950s and during the 1960s Oscar Alemán experienced a decrease in the public success  he had benefited from during almost two decades in Argentina. New music styles like rock'n'roll displaced the public interest from jazz and swing, a young generation of musicians was taking over the scene in show business leaving older musicians little chance to have a steady work as performers or recording artists.The impact of these factors was in Alemán's case that he gradually chose to retire from the public scene when his contract with Odeon ended in 1958. He spent the 1960s in semi-retirement and had fewer public appearances than previously, although he from time to time was a featured guest performer in radio and TV shows. - But how was Alemán's attitude to the changing musical taste of the public? In a 1978 interview published in an Argentine music magazine for young people, he expressed his candid opinion about rock music and  rock musicians. Below we have the pleasure and honor of publishing Luis "Tito" Liber's record of the contents of that interview, which he kindly forwarded to share with our readers. The original article interview was in the Spanish language, of course, but Luis's version is in English.
Frontpage, Pelo magazine #99, July 1978
Oscar Alemán in a 1970s "Rock" Magazine
by Luis "Tito" Liber
In many radio, newspapers and magazines interviews along Aleman`s career, the topic was Oscar incredible Ellington-Reinhardt-Baker anecdotes, but not music. This article from argentine Pelo ("Hair") magazine (#99, July 1978) is most about music... and it`s in a yougster`s rock magazine, not a jazz one!!! Notice that the same number includes an article about Gato Barbieri, and previously had included an interview with jazz pianist Mono Villegas.
In Argentina, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, with the arrival of television, came the "new wave": kids that sang rock and roll tunes in spanish. Along with the military regime prohibition of night-meetings (it was the end of the massive danceballs called "milongas"), the old stars of tango and jazz lost their jobs. But the 1970s were the days of fusion, and Oscar didn`t seem to like that union of styles. We know that jazzmen and rockers have never fit very well. And Oscar hasn`t been the exception. The old jazzman felt that the new young musicians were stealing his place in showbusiness (that is to say, they are leaving him without his job). Though he didn`t understand the incipient rock movement (the kids were essentially troubadors, not musicians), he thought that rockers weren`t skilled musicians at all.
"Rock is a rhythm that doesn`t satisfy me, as boogie doesn`t satisfy me too. Boogie is four phrases invented by Mr. Fats Waller for the left hand, and you have to improvise on that. And what improvisation is? It´s jazz. If you want to improvise on rock, what are you going to improvise? You are not going to improvise tango or rancheras, but jazz." Now a great sentence:
 "Rock musicians eat the food with their hands. The dish is ready but they have to be educated, to learn to use forks and knives. Jazz is good education. To evolve, rock has to go to jazz. It`s the basis."
Oscar critizises Bill Hailey`s performance during his show in Buenos Aires ("the man of the curly"), saying that the only good player in his band was a black guitarist; the others only did the clown.
"Rock musicians are too much noisy, they play very loud. They use to lose the sense of accompaniment for the solos; they all want to highlight increasing the volume; then, you can`t distinguish anything."
Alemán says that once he had a rock musician as a pupil: Claudio Gabis, a blues guitarist, member of the group Manal. "He said that he was leaving to USA because the public from here didn`t understand him" (Claudio went to study at Berkley, and he returned to Argentina in 1980s democracy times to give seminars of improvisation at the Centro Cultural San Martín; a very recommendable player!).


Oscar didn`t play rock'n'roll very well. If you listen to his version of "Bailando el Rock" (Rock Around the Clock -Freeman/De Knight-), you can appreciate he didn`t know the classical yeites and runs (Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore and Chuck Berry for instance). He does a correct performance, but using "boogie" phrases. That`s because, he wasn`t influenced by R&B or country and western music.
"In one occasion I made a rock. I used to say it was a rock, but it wasn`t. I improvised on some boogie chords played faster. Rock chords are the same of blues and boogie." He`s talking about his own theme "Improvisaciones sobre Boogie Woogie", where he plays a much better performance, with a great scat. During the rock-era, he played this theme live, announcing to the public that it was a rock...but it wasn't.


Oscar even was a skilled blues player. Of course that he had black roots (Afro-American-Brazilian rhythms), but all in a jazz venue, not bluesy at all (listen to "Saint Louis Blues", "Oscar Blues Nº 1" and "Nº 3" i.e.).


This interesting interview also includes an almost poetical description of his triumphant come back to the bench of the park in Guarujá in 1946 (where he had slept in his childhood): "At that time I returned to sit on that bench with a whisky and a brilliant in my hand. To sit and cry. I was no longer below it, but sat ON that bench."
Oscar flatters bandoneonist/composer Astor Piazzolla and pianist/composer Horacio Salgan for playing tango arrangements with a jazz tendency, in a time when almost nobody had that opinion in Argentina (the conservative narrow-minded "tangueros").

Oscar Alemán 1978 in Pelo magazine
By the time of this interview, in January 1978, Oscar was proud of receiving a letter from France notifying him that his biography was to be included in an upcoming guitarplayers encyclopedia (I think it was 'Histoire de la guitare dans le Jazz' by Norman Mongan; published in 1986 by EPI Editions Filipacchi, France).
Alemán, knowing that he was a genius, was a very proud man, almost selfish (sorry Oscar). He was the leader and nobody could be over him (this led him to separate from Hernán Oliva). This attitude wasn`t excessive, because during two decades (1940s-1950s) he was the best South-American jazz player, and no-one had his international background (later would appear Lalo Schiffrin and Barbieri). Opposite to his public sense of humour, in his last years he became an angry and sad man, rensentful and frustrated for considering that his genius deserved more acknowledgement.

T.L.
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Posted by Jo

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Abril en Portugal

"April in Portugal" is a popular song, also named "The Whisp'ring Serenade." The music was composed by Raul Ferrão and lyrics  written by José Galhardo  as a fado named "COIMBRA, E UMA LIÇÂDO DE AMOR", in 1947. English lyrics written by Jimmy Kennedy were set to the music, though many of the most popular versions of the song were instrumentals.- The Vic Damone recording referred to at the sheet above was released by Mercury Records as catalog number 70128.


ABRIL EN PORTUGAL was recorded by OSCAR ALEMÁN Y SU ORQUESTA DE JAZZ as an instrumental fox-trot for Odeon, Buenos Aires April 7th, 1953, and it was issued on the shown Odeon 55613 78' rpm disc at the A-side. - The audio of this recording has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below - enjoy!

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Jo

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Saudades

The tune 'Saudades' was composed by Alfredo de Siano and recorded by a.o. Eduardo Armani y su Orquesta, probably late 1940s or early 1950s (- the recording by Armani was released on the 78 rpm  Victor 60-0474), and the style of music is noted as a 'batuque'. The batuque is the Portuguese word for 'batuku or 'batuk', which is  a music and dance genre originated in Cape Verde and adopted in Brazil and other Latin American countries. The title of this batuque, 'Saudades', is the Portuguese word for 'nostalgies', however, in Brazil the word has a more specific meaning  - it's a way to express a certain mood of longing for a simple and carefree life in a rural setting combined with a knowledge of a lost opportunity thus adding a shade of melancholy sentiment to the mood, often experienced by the many migrants from rural areas in the big cities.

Eduardo Armani was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 22 1898. He began playing violin in cinemas and theatres when he was fifteen years old. As his career progressed he conducted the orchestras when the famous French groups of Moulin Rouge, Folies Bergere and Casino de Paris visited Buenos Aires in 1921 and 1922. He also played first violin in the orchestra that accompanied dancers Isadora Duncan and Ana Pavlova in their tours of South America. Armani's classic academic training allowed first violin with the National Symphony in the 1920's. Armani started playing Jazz in 1919 and continued for the next 40 years. His first jazz band was called the Armani-Cóspito Jazz Band which he co-directed with René Cóspito from 1928 to 1932. In 1931 he premiered Rhapsody in Blue in Argentina. Armani Orchestra played on radio (from 1925) and in the most famous hotel ballrooms and cabarets in Buenos Aires in the 1920's through 1940's. Armani died in Buenos Aires on December 13, 1970. [quoted from artist profile by Luis Contijoch at the Red Hot Jazz web ]

OSCAR ALEMÁN y su Orquesta (Alberto A. Barbera  p, Oscar Alemán dir g vo, Alberto Ramos  g, Aldo “Nene” Nicolini  b, José Ragusa dm) recorded 'Saudades' for Odeon on the 29th of September 1952 in the same session that produced three wellknown tunes: 'Hombre Mio', 'Tengo Ritmo' and 'Daphne'. The September 29th session 1952 is one of the most inspired by Alemán and his Orchestra from this period in my opinion, and the recording of 'Saudades' confirms this impression, I think. It was issued on the above shown Odeon 55489 and was later also released on a 78 rpm Parlophone in the U.K. (- the flip side of that issue had a recording by Eduardo Armani y su Orquesta: 'Baion Del Desierto (Baiao No Deserto)').

Alemán's version of 'Saudades' is an amazing example of his guitar artistry and mastering of Brazilian music without changing the mood of the tune. The audio from this recording has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below - enjoy it!


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Jo

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bésame Mucho

Consuelo Velázquez (1916 – 2005) was a Mexican concert pianist, songwriter and recording artist. Velázquez, who is said to have begun playing the piano at the age of four, started her professional career as a classical music concert pianist, but later became a singer and recording artist. She  was the songwriter and lyricist of many Spanish standard songs, most notably the enduring 1940s-era standard "Bésame mucho", a romantic ballad which was soon recorded by artists around the globe, making it an international hit. - "Bésame mucho" was composed in 1941, Consuelo Velázquez wrote the original Spanish lyrics for this tune (a bolero) when she was 25 and, as she liked to say, had never been kissed. The song's haunting melody is based on the aria "Quejas, o la Maja y el Ruiseñor" ("Plaints, or the Maiden and the Nightingale"), from the 1916 opera "Goyescas," by the Spanish composer Enrique Granados. The  lyrics have a simple dramatic urgency: Bésame, bésame mucho, / Como si fuera esta noche la última vez ("Kiss me, kiss me a lot, / as if tonight were the last time"). The English lyrics (Bésame, bésame mucho, / Each time I cling to your kiss, I hear music divine) add a generous dollop of schmaltz. The English version, written by Sunny Skylar in 1944, was a hit that year for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, with vocals by Kitty Kallen and Bob Eberly. "Bésame Mucho" is not so much an enduring standard as a global phenomenon. Translated into dozens of languages and performed by hundreds of artists, the song has been an emblem of Latin identity. [info extracted from Wikipedia profile of Consuelo Velazque and obiturary in New York Times By MARGALIT FOX, Published: January 30, 2005]


Below is inserted Consuelo Velázquez' own instrumental version of "Bésame mucho" from a TV presentation




OSCAR ALEMÁN y su Quinteto de Swing (Manuel Gavinovich  v, Rogelio Robledo  p, Oscar Alemán  g (dobro) vo dir, Oscar Guillermo Barbieri  g, Luis Gavinovich b, Ramón M. Caravaca  dm  Band vo) recorded "Bésame mucho" for Odeon on 7th Sep. 1943, it was released as the B-side of the 78 rpm Odeon 45885 and soon became a smash hit,  the royalties for this recording alone were enough to let Alemán live a comfortable life during this period. The tune "Bésame mucho" became a part of Alemán's standard book throughout the remain of his career, there are many examples of performance of the tune among the un-issued, private recordings of radio and TV shows, and he also recorded the tune again on the IMPACTO IMP-14014 LP from c.1965 (re-issued on the FA5366 CD by FREMEAUX & ASSOCIES: OSCAR ALEMÁN - BUENOS AIRES 1965-1975).

- Here is the 1965 version of "Bésame mucho" uploaded at YouTube with inserted entertaining film clips from a bygone era - enjoy!


NB! On the 20th February this year all true Alemániacs will celebrate the 105th anniversary of El Maestro!
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Jo