“Fumando espero” was born in 1923, in Barcelona, Spain. Its parents were the composer Juan Viladomat and the lyricist Felix Garzo. Originally written for the theatrical play, the tango had rather explicit lyrics that caught attention of Tania – a famous tango cancion singer, who introduced it to Buenos Aires in 1927. Rosita Quiroga was the first to record it in September of 1927, and the triumphal march of “Fumando Espero” began: Orquesta Tipica Victor, Francisco Lomuto, Francisco Canaro, Osvaldo Fresedo, Ignacio Corsini… but soon thereafter this delightful tango was completely forgotten, pretty much as its heroine, who falls asleep in the arms of her lover, while smoking, until several unrelated events happened in the course of the next 25 years…
Smoking is a pleasure, genial, sensual…
Smoking I wait for the man I love,
Behind the glass of pleasant windows.
And while I smoke my life is in suspension
Because puffing the smoke usually makes me drowsy.
… In 1940 a good friend of Juan D’Arienzo, Hector Varela formed his first orquesta. But just about at the same time, D’Arienzo lost all of his orquesta to his former piano player, Juan Polito. And so, D’Arienzo, managed to persuade Varela to play the first bandoneon, in the orquesta that Varela just formed… but under D’Arienzo name and direction. To the negotiation table D’Arienzo brought the finest violin of Cayetano Puglisi (see “The Magic Violin of Cayetano Puglisi“) and absolutely unknown at the time, 17 years old pianist Fulvio Salamanca. Varela agreed, and 10 years of success, including the whole epoch of Hector Maure, “El Huracan”, and the return of Alberto Echague followed. In 1950, Varela decided that it is finally time to create his own orquesta, and left the orquesta of his friend. D’Arienzo immediately appointed Salamanca as his new arranger, and the new epoch of “El Puntazo”, “Yapeyu” and other smashing hits of the 50s began… while Varela was working hard to gain popularity on his own.
…In 1947, a young fellow, dreaming of a military career in the footsteps of his uncle traveled to a drafting center of Tucuman, only to find out that he is color blind, and cannot be accepted into army. His next passion was soccer, and only a distant hobby – singing, but when his friends arranged an audition for him on Radio Aconcagua, in Tucuman, and he saw amount of money on the contract that was drafted on the spot, his fate was sealed. The radio manager did not let him even to have a stage name Raul Ledesma, in honor of his uncle. Instead, hearing that his actual name was Argentino, he exclaimed, “That’s it!… Argentino Ledesma!, with that name you’re going to succeed everywhere!”
However, Argentino Ledesma was still reluctant about his tango career, and started working, in parallel, as a bookkeeper on the same radio. One day he sent an application for a bookkeeping job to some important-at-the-time establishment in Buenos Aires, of which the history does not even mention the name. He was invited indeed, but in Buenos Aires, again upon insistence of his friend, he came for audition on Radio Belgrano, was immediately awarded with a full year contract, and, after this year passed, was introduced by the executives to a modern and fashionable orquesta of Hector Varela.
His debut with Hector Varela was in 1952. The place? The very same Cabaret Chantecler where, in the December of 1935 Juan D’Arienzo offered piano seat to Rodolfo Biagi, after his own piano player was late for the performance (see “Pensalo bien“). The settings? Varela already had a singer. But starting in the 40s, each orquesta worth of its name, would have two, not one singer. And so did Varela. Rodolfo Lesica was his first choice, and Argentino Ledesma – second.
When Varela, looking for a new repertoire, found “Fumando espero”, he first offered it to Lesica. Lesica’s shrugged it out: “Let the kid sing it!” And so, in 1955, “Fumando espero” was “premiered” by Argentino Ledesma for the second time, and recorded as well, however, without much of success.
Lying on my sofa, smoking and loving,
Seeing my loved one happy and in love,
Feeling his lips to kiss with knowing kisses.
And feeling the affair with more desire,
When I feel his eyes hungry with passion.
But the old tango with a new singer caught attention of Carlos Di Sarli. As fashionable as Varela was, he was definitely no match for Di Sarli at the peak of his fame. In 1956, Argentino Ledesma accepted Di Sarli’s offer, moved to his orquesta, and recorded “Fumando espero” again, but now with an instant, huge success. However, due to vacation season, RCA Victor simply could not release enough of the records, to satisfy the public’s demand, and so its rival, Columbia label, used the furor around Di Sarli recording to re-release the older Varela/Ledesma recording. But executives of Columbia did not stop there. With an incredible sum of money they persuaded Ledesma to return to Varela orquesta as well. To say that Di Sarli was furious, is not to say anything at all…
That’s why when my lover is with me
My smoking is a pleasure.
Give me the smoke from your mouth
Do it to fire my passion
Quickly, I want
To go crazy with pleasure,
Feeling that warmth
Of the intoxicating smoke
That has just ignited
The ardent flame of love.
After these two recording by Argentino Ledesma with Hector Varela and Carlos Di Sarli orquestas, “Fumando espero” was finally awaken from twenty five years of sleep, to a long list of new performances and recordings, both by male and female singers – Alfredo de Angelis with Carlos Dante, Donato Racciatti with Olga Delgrossi, Mario Pomar, to name just a few, and stays popular among modern orquestas as well:
Rosita Quiroga, 1927: https://youtu.be/ylDKQylhMjE
Orquesta Tipica Victor, 1927: https://youtu.be/rlhabLyQ0uc
Hector Varela with Argentino Ledesma, 1955: https://youtu.be/qIK7cqDirqM
Carlos Di Sarli with Argentino Ledesma, 1956: https://youtu.be/ASz1QTSzJzs
Libertad Lamarque, 1956: https://youtu.be/T3AFyFrfYdo
Alfredo De Angelis with Carlos Dante, 1956: https://youtu.be/1tXgJ9eLj-E
Ensemble Hyperion with Ruben Peloni, 2012: https://youtu.be/blbujfttvzM?t=7m57s
Full Castellano lyrics with English translation by Paul Bottomer can be found on the liner notes of Orquesta Tipica Victor recording and other recordings from “Today Tango Is…” channel.