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ClassicsOnline Home » BUTI, Carlo: Bella Ragazza (1934-1949)
Original 1934-1949 Recordings
A stalwart of pioneering Italian radio and a master of
microphone technique, between the World Wars Carlo Buti became a virtual
synonym for the canzone di genere leggero. All the latest love-songs, however clichéd, were ‘Buti-fied’
and within the confines of a highly individual if rather limited voice this
stylist who won the admiration of Beniamino Gigli, Galliano Masini and Tito
Schipa became a role-model to a younger generation headed by Luciano Virgili
and Claudio Villa. His phonically
ingratiating half-tones made Buti a gift to the popular record industry of
which, by 1935, he was a leading light.
Prolific, he turned down little or nothing that was offered him, however
trite, and in him tenor and crooner commingled as, via the air-waves and scores
of internationally distributed recordings, he made the new Italian brand of
cabaret initiated by Meme Bianchi, Daniele Serra, Gennaro Pasquariello and
others accessible to a wider audience.
Polished and distinctive, in his sphere Buti had few peers (the Sicilian
Luciano Tajoli among the few, and a later arrival) and in his own way he was
unique, the sort of artistic phenomenon which could only have come to light in
the early days of radio and commercial recording and, with the artistic climate
of the Fascist ventennio in mind, perhaps nowhere else but in Italy.
Carlo Giuseppe Eugenio Buti was born in San Frediano
(Oltrarno), near Florence, on 14November 1902, one of three siblings. While
none of his immediate family were professional musicians (his father worked as
a delivery man for the local telegraph office), in his youth both he and his
brother Ezio, having mastered the Tuscan folk-song (stornello), followed the
local custom of serenading to order the girlfriends of their less vocally
talented peers. On leaving school
a teenager with few qualifications, Carlo earned his living variously as a
milkboy and baker’s assistant and was also a keen amateur boxer. Later still he was a renaiolo, a
sand-miner on the banks of the Arno (an occupation which on occasions also
involved him working as a ferryman) and a part-time silversmith in his uncle’s
While Buti’s early vocal training was traditional (insofar
as the young tenor received vocal tuition from Raoul Frazzi, later the teacher
of the internationally-renowned Florentine opera baritone Gino Bechi), in
background Buti was artisan and working-class and – like Gigli – more populist
than highbrow in orientation.
After an auspicious début at the Florence Apollo in 1928, he was
contracted by the impresario and entrepreneur Pittaluga as a variety artist on
his cinema-theatre circuit where, ambitiously billed ‘L’artista del bel canto’
he would regale audiences with his repertoire of Italian, Neapolitan and
Spanish numbers, delivered allo stornello (unaccompanied, troubadour-style) as
an accompaniment to the latest silent movies.
A quick learner, from about 1929 Buti assimilated all the
new songs that were sent to him.
Many of these he featured on radio and recorded, for Edison Bell, from
1930 onwards and his discography soon reflected the popular Neapolitan song
repertoire promoted by the recently revived festival at Piedigrotta. By 1934, however, he had transferred to
Columbia, a company with much larger international distribution and, ever in
demand as a ‘one-taker’ in the studio, he began the series of several hundred
more titles which would extend until his retirement in 1956.
By the time Buti disembarked in New York to begin his first
American tour in October 1937, his fame had preceded him. Hailed as a star at several venues in
the United States and dubbed ‘La Voce d’Oro’ (The Golden Voice Of Italy),
during a six-month stay he made clamorous appearances in theatres and select
nightspots and gave several radio broadcasts which fulfilled the promise of his
imported recordings. In 1938, in
Italy, he appeared in the quasi-autobiographical film Per uomini soli (For Men
Only) before returning to the States for further West Coast tours in February
1939. After the war, in 1946, he
made his first transatlantic crossing to South America where he sang,
principally in Brazil and Argentina, again to audiences of thousands, and made
further concert tours and radio broadcasts, including South America (1947), the
USA (1948 – this schedule included a Carnegie Hall and Manhattan Center recital
and appearances in Canada, 1949) and South America again (1953).
Although Buti was a regular during the early 1950s at San
Remo and other noted Italian festivals and endeavoured constantly to update his
repertoire of canzonette, by mid-decade rock’n’roll had started to eclipse his
more intimate style and after some final recordings and broadcasts in 1956, he
gradually retreated into retirement.
He died, following a short illness, at his home in Montelupo Fiorentino,
in Tuscany, on 16November 1963, aged 61 years.
Peter Dempsey, 2004
Last Albums Viewed
BUTI, Carlo: Bella Ragazza (1934-1949)