by Héctor Lucci
he “Atlanta” records, today truly testimonial documents, meant at their time, the shelter of sounds most plentiful of interpreters and authors of our tango as well as of a national folk repertory. The above-mentioned enterprise was the idea of an Italian named Alfredo Améndola who settled in Argentina when he was very young. He was a musician, interpreter of our national cultural values and of the most varied musical genres.
This idea would lead him to attempt to found in Buenos Aires an entirely Argentine recording company in which, if it were possible, any artist willing to cut discs with megaphones had the chance to make his dreams come true.
With this determination he traveled to Germany in the mid- 1912. There he came to an agreement with a record company, buying a recording machine and getting the license to sell the records with the trademark "Atlanta", whose name Améndola registered in Buenos Aires. He also hired a German technician who later would be the person in charge of making all the wax takes from the early 1913 to the late 1915. These waxes (master discs) made by a “direct cut” recording, -through an acoustical simple procedure-, were neatly packed in plushy boxes and were sent by ship to the port of Hamburg and from there to the factory that made the matrices and the pressing. Those were double-side 10-inch discs and were labeled with an individual cover with a Spanish text. They were sold for 2,50 pesos in Buenos Aires.
The Améndola y Cía. House and “Atlanta” records are known by the public on a Monday (March 31, 1913) when the salesroom on 274 Esmeralda Street was opened in front of the then Teatro San Martín. There at the back of the local there was a small shed where the first recordings of the label were cut. These were its early groups: the Rondalla Vázquez, the Rondalla Atlanta (led by Arturo De Bassi), the Tano Genaro Quintet, the Rondalla Firpo, the Quinteto Garrote (led by Vicente Greco), the Quinteto Augusto (fronted by Berto), the Prudencio Aragón’s Rondalla, the Bevilacqua’s Rondalla, the Banda Atlanta, the concert guitarist Agustín Barrios, the Quinteto El Alemán (headed by Arturo Bernstein) and the Quinteto Carelli.
One year later they moved to a larger local located on 350 Callao Avenue. The above-mentioned kept on recording and new ones were added: the Banda Municipal, the Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (conducted by José Strigelli), the violinist Ferruccio Cattelani and Augusto Maurage, the actor Eugenio Gerardo López, Blanca Podestá with Alberto Ballerini; also actors like the great jester of the period, Florencio Parravicini; the singer Saúl Salinas with Augusto De Giuli and Villoldo; Ángel Greco, José Betinotti, Juan Sarcione, Arturo Calderilla, Alfredo Gobbi Sr.; José M. Silva, an itinerant singer; Astor Bolognini and others not so renowned.
The beginning of World War I made Améndola interrupt his trade with Germany. He then traveled to Porto Alegre to meet with the Italian Saverio Leonetti, owner of a record factory. They signed an agreement and found that the fastest way to send recorded waxes was by railway to the border and from there by car. Some musicians such as Astor Bolognini and Francisco Canaro traveled themselves to record in that city of Brazil.
The Améndola’s enterprise achieved an important financial position due to the quality of the material that sold to its customers. But the long duration of the war soon had effects on the world economy and the crisis reached the South American countries. Améndola’s company began to decline and the final blow was given by a torpedo that caused the wreckage of the German ship that carried a large shipment of “Atlanta” records.
In order to pay his obligations, Améndola had to sell at an auction all his buildings, goods and even the recording machine. But he left for us the “eternal singing” of voices and instruments transferred to wax and which, still today, we can enjoy to know the style of interpretation of those men that were born with the advent of our tango.