Born Alberto Salvador De Lucca, Alberto Castillo was a renowned Argentine tango singer and actor. Before he became ‘El cantor de los cien barrios portenos’ (‘the singer of the 100 barrios’), Castillo was raised in the neighbourhood of Floresta in Buenos Aires. He was the fifth child of Italian immigrants Salvador De Lucca and Lucia Di Paola. At a young age, Castillo was already interested in music, taking violin lessons and singing whenever and wherever he could.
At 15, fate struck when he was singing for his friends and the guitarist Armando Neira heard him. Neira added the young Alberto to his band, marking the young man’s professional debut under the name of Alberto Dual (and occasionally, Carlos Duval). Castillo went on to sing with the orchestras of Julio De Caro in 1934, Augusto Berto in 1935 and Mariano Rodas in 1937.
In 1938, Castillo temporarily left the music scene to devote his time to studying medicine, but by 1939 he was back again singing for Typical Orchestra Los Indios led by the dentist-pianist Ricardo Tanturi. Castillo began recording in 1941, his first hit being ‘Recuerdo’ by Alfredo Pelala. A year later, Castillo graduated with a gynecologist degree and worked as a professional physician from his parents’ house.
Eventually, Castillo gave up his medical profession to be a full-time singer. His style of entertainment at the time was considered unprecedented–the way he moved on the stage with his handkerchief hanging from his coat pocket, shirt unbuttoned, tie loose, and bouncing the microphone to and fro. He would even improvise boxing matches when singing ‘Asi se baila el tango.’ One of his most successful recordings was ‘Cien barrios porteños (the one hundred barrios of Buenos Aires),’ which gave birth to his nickname.
Castillo’s popularity was so great that, in 1944, when he sang at Teatro Alvear, the police had to stall traffic on the streets. Castillo eventually split from Tanturri and became a soloist. He also was a lyricist, writing songs such as ‘Candonga,’ ‘Yo soy de la vieja ola,’ ‘Muchachos, Esuchen,’ ‘Cucusita,’ ‘Asi canta Buenos Aires,’ ‘Un regalo del cielo,’ ‘A Chirolita,’ ‘Donde me quieren llevar,’ ‘Castañuelas,’ ‘Cadia dia canta mas,’ ‘La perinola,’ and ‘Año neuvo.’
Castillo started his acting career in 1946, first appearing in ‘Adiós pampa mía.’ He appeared in several more films like ‘El tango vuelve a París’ in 1948 with Aníbal Troilo, ‘Un tropezón cualquiera da en la vida’ in 1949 with Virginia Luque, ‘Alma de bohemio’ (1949), ‘La barra de la esquina’ (1950), ‘Buenos Aires, mi tierra querida’ (1951), ‘Por cuatro días locos’ (1953), ‘Ritmo, amor y picardía’, ‘Música’, ‘alegría y amor,’ ‘Luces de candilejas’ (1955, 1956 and 1958 respectively. The last three films also starred rhumba dancer Amelita Vargas.
But even as a man of music, Castillo still spent some time as sports physician. In December 1951, he tended to members of the Velez Sarsfield football team, which he supported.
Castillo recorded music well into the end of the 20th century, recording ‘Siga el baile’ in 1993. He passed away on July 23, 2002 and is buried in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.