Astor Piazzolla met Carlos Gardel in 1934, after bringing him a craft that his father wanted to give the singer.
Gardel liked the young man very much and found him useful to do his shopping in NY, since Astor knew the city very well, in addition to being fluent in English (a language that Gardel was totally unaware of)
They met while “El Zorzal” was filming “El día que me quieras” in the United States. The young Astor Piazzolla served as an English translator also when Gardel's admirers approached him. He also accompanied him to the best clothing stores to buy his classic striped shirts and they created a bond that the composer of “Adiós, Nonino” could never forget.
Astor Piazzolla y Carlos Gardel
The following year the singer invited him to participate in the film that he was filming in those days "The day you love me" as a young newspaper salesman. Outside the cameras, Piazzolla showed Gardel how the bandoneon played, and Gardel told him:
«You're going to be something big, kid, I'll tell you. But you play tango like a Galician». To which Piazzolla said "I still don't understand tango", and Gardel replied: "when you understand it, you are not going to leave it."
Gardel invited Piazzolla to join his tour of America, but his father decided that he was still very young, for this reason, his place was taken by the Argentine boxer José Corpas Moreno. This early disappointment turned out to be great luck, as it was on this tour that Gardel and his entire band lost their lives in a plane crash. In 1978, in an imaginary letter to Gardel, Piazzolla joked about this fact:
... I will never forget the night you offered a barbecue at the end of filming The Day You Love Me. It was an honor for the Argentines and Uruguayans who lived in New York. I remember that Alberto Castellano had to play the piano and I the bandoneon, of course to accompany you singing. I was crazy lucky that the piano was so bad that I had to play by myself and you sang the themes of the film. What a night, Charlie! There was my baptism with tango.
First tango of my life and accompanying Gardel! I'll never forget. Shortly after, you went with Lepera and your guitarists to Hollywood. Do you remember that you sent me two telegrams to join you with my bandoneon? It was the spring of 1935 and I was turning 14 years old. The old men did not give me permission and neither did the union. Charlie, I was saved! Instead of playing the bandoneon, he would be playing the harp.
GARDEL y PIAZZOLA (in Spanish)
THE LETTER FROM PIAZZOLLA TO GARDEL
The complete transcription of Piazzolla's letter to his friend Gardel
Buenos Aires, year 1978
Perhaps calling you Charlie you will remember the 13-year-old kid who lived in New York, who was Argentine and played the bandoneon. In addition, he worked as a quill with you in "The Day You Love Me. I named you Charlie when you asked me at your house how to say Carlitos in English. Do you remember when I brought you a wooden doll that my old man had carved? That morning you dedicated two photos to me, one for Vicente Piazzolla and another for "the nice kid and future great bandoneon player." From 1934 to today, 1978, 44 years passed and I really did not fail you. Do you remember when you took me to your filming at Paramount Studios on Long Island? February 1934, the worst snowfall of the year, two meters high and 10 below zero and I your translator of compliments to the girls who wanted to meet you. I will never forget the two bikes that we grabbed with Tito Lusiardo and broke trying to warm up.
In the afternoons he used to accompany you to buy clothes in big stores in New York. We toured Sacks, Macys, Florsheini and finally you bought your happy shirts with vertical and horizontal stripes. Dozens of them, patent leather shoes, borsalinos, etc., as if you had extra twine. I showed you all my city (I was proud to know so much; also ... I had lived there for eleven years), especially in my neighborhood, Greenwich Village, where I took you to know the best Italian canteens, and you, with diving problems , you took care of yourself; Not counting the times you came to my house where you tried the nonina Asunta ravioli, as well as a final of quince fritters. How you liked to eat well!
I will never forget the night you offered a barbecue at the end of filming "The day you love me." It was an honor for Argentines and Uruguayans who lived in New York. I remember that Alberto Castellano had to play the piano and I the bandoneon, of course to accompany you singing. I was crazy lucky that the piano was so bad that I had to play by myself and you sang the themes of the film. What a night Charlie! There was my baptism with tango. First tango of my life and accompanying Gardel! I'll never forget. Shortly after, you went with Lepera and your guitarists to Hollywood. Do you remember that you sent me two telegrams to join you with my bandoneon? It was the spring of 35 and I was turning 14 years old. The old men did not give me permission and neither did the union. Charlie, I was saved! Instead of playing the bandoneon he would be playing the harp.
The new era of my life begins. We return to Mar de Plata in '36. The love of music catches me and I study the bellows madly. My bandoneon and I are going to Buenos Aires and I make my debut with Anibal Troilo. Do you know who Troilo is? He was you, playing the bandoneon. It's like saying, your follower. We were in 1939 and you had been God for 4 years. Your films and records went up desperately. Now the giles discover that you sang well! They remember that moment when they preferred to listen to other singers. Your theater was empty. Your going to Europe was premonitory and your presentations are becoming more and more important. Then the United States, your films, Hollywood, Central America and Medellín, the end of the route. Do you know something? I don't like the plane either, except for that catramina that you took. But ... after your absence, the new characters from Buenos Aires begin to appear, Charlie ... You ruined the lives of the singers, those who used to say: "Luckily Gardel left and there is more work for us", and others answered: “Guard, boys! The discs remain ”.
Taking advantage of this moment, a new social class appears: "Gardel's widows", characters who bought or had your records. Radio announcers and "critics" automatically became; Besides, they all said they were your friends and they had never seen you in their lives. These people who have their clan formed throughout Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and many other countries, have been living thanks to you for almost 45 years. But the thing does not end there. After 1936 the Gardelianos, Gardelones, Gardelitos or Gardeluchos were born. They are strange creatures that use your smile, your same pilchas, your same way of walking and speaking, but what they cannot do is sing like you.
Charlie, I know you'll be dying of laughter, no wonder. I can tell you that most of the singers wanted to be Gardel, and Gardel was all of them. Word has spread here that your records rehearse at night, that's why you sing better every day. I'll tell you a nice one, Charlie: certain singing teachers at the Teatro Colón make your records listen as a singing model and I'm sure you'll always be looking at us from up there and think that you would have liked to sing the great tangos of the 40s; Besides, I would have written for you and I would have made the arrangements for you and played the bandoneon. We killed Charlie!
The only thing I don't want to use in the orchestra is the harp. There you will have a collection of all colors. You who know angels, why didn't I ask them to change the system and put a bandoneon in the orchestra? Look at the fat Pichuco, Maffia, Laurenz. I'm getting too excited and I'd rather wait a bit to be the one to organize that orchestra. I'm going to work, that is, as they say today, “I have a recital!”.
I'm going to think of the kid Piazzolla when you told him: "Now put on music from Arrabal amargo and hit it all." It was the spring of 35 and the Gardel-Piazzolla duo was born. I'm a lucky guy. Someday we will meet on the top floor. Wait for me, but ... don't ever die.
Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla
The photo that Gardel dedicated to Vicente Piazzolla, in 1934, and that in December 1980 Astor would dedicate it to the disappeared Gardeliana Association. (Courtesy Carlos Gardel International Foundation)