CARLO BUTI Bella ragazza
Original 1934-1949 Recordings
A stalwart of pioneering Italian radio and a master ofmicrophone technique, between the World Wars Carlo Buti became a virtualsynonym for the canzone di genere leggero. All the latest love-songs, however cliched, were 'Buti-fied'and within the confines of a highly individual if rather limited voice thisstylist who won the admiration of Beniamino Gigli, Galliano Masini and TitoSchipa became a role-model to a younger generation headed by Luciano Virgiliand Claudio Villa. His phonicallyingratiating half-tones made Buti a gift to the popular record industry ofwhich, by 1935, he was a leading light. Prolific, he turned down little or nothing that was offered him, howevertrite, and in him tenor and crooner commingled as, via the air-waves and scoresof internationally distributed recordings, he made the new Italian brand ofcabaret initiated by Meme Bianchi, Daniele Serra, Gennaro Pasquariello andothers accessible to a wider audience. Polished and distinctive, in his sphere Buti had few peers (the SicilianLuciano Tajoli among the few, and a later arrival) and in his own way he wasunique, the sort of artistic phenomenon which could only have come to light inthe early days of radio and commercial recording and, with the artistic climateof 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. Whilenone of his immediate family were professional musicians (his father worked asa delivery man for the local telegraph office), in his youth both he and hisbrother Ezio, having mastered the Tuscan folk-song (stornello), followed thelocal custom of serenading to order the girlfriends of their less vocallytalented peers. On leaving schoola teenager with few qualifications, Carlo earned his living variously as amilkboy and baker's assistant and was also a keen amateur boxer. Later still he was a renaiolo, asand-miner on the banks of the Arno (an occupation which on occasions alsoinvolved him working as a ferryman) and a part-time silversmith in his uncle'sjewellery business.
While Buti's early vocal training was traditional (insofaras the young tenor received vocal tuition from Raoul Frazzi, later the teacherof the internationally-renowned Florentine opera baritone Gino Bechi), inbackground Buti was artisan and working-class and - like Gigli - more populistthan highbrow in orientation. After an auspicious debut at the Florence Apollo in 1928, he wascontracted by the impresario and entrepreneur Pittaluga as a variety artist onhis cinema-theatre circuit where, ambitiously billed 'L'artista del bel canto'he would regale audiences with his repertoire of Italian, Neapolitan andSpanish numbers, delivered allo stornello (unaccompanied, troubadour-style) asan accompaniment to the latest silent movies.
A quick learner, from about 1929 Buti assimilated all thenew songs that were sent to him. Many of these he featured on radio and recorded, for Edison Bell, from1930 onwards and his discography soon reflected the popular Neapolitan songrepertoire promoted by the recently revived festival at Piedigrotta. By 1934, however, he had transferred toColumbia, a company with much larger international distribution and, ever indemand as a 'one-taker' in the studio, he began the series of several hundredmore titles which would extend until his retirement in 1956.
By the time Buti disembarked in New York to begin his firstAmerican tour in October 1937, his fame had preceded him. Hailed as a star at several venues inthe 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 selectnightspots and gave several radio broadcasts which fulfilled the promise of hisimported recordings. In 1938, inItaly, he appeared in the quasi-autobiographical film Per uomini soli (For MenOnly) before returning to the States for further West Coast tours in February1939. After the war, in 1946, hemade his first transatlantic crossing to South America where he sang,principally in Brazil and Argentina, again to audiences of thousands, and madefurther concert tours and radio broadcasts, including South America (1947), theUSA (1948 - this schedule included a Carnegie Hall and Manhattan Center recitaland appearances in Canada, 1949) and South America again (1953).
Although Buti was a regular during the early 1950s at SanRemo and other noted Italian festivals and endeavoured constantly to update hisrepertoire of canzonette, by mid-decade rock'n'roll had started to eclipse hismore intimate style and after some final recordings and broadcasts in 1956, hegradually 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