Tango Blues – Orquesta Típica Victor and Chlo-e

Tango-Blues Fusion

Tango-Blues fusion… you may have heard people proclaim that tango-blues fusion dancing is “the future of tango.” These proclamations have been going around the US since at least the late-1990’s, so perhaps it was never meant to be. However, tango and jazz did evolve together from their beginnings. It was common for salons in Buenos Aires to feature both tango and jazz orchestras in the same evening in the 20’s and 30’s, until tango became more serious in the 1940’s.

Enrique Rodriguez’s orchestra was not billed as an orquesta típica, but as a “orquesta characteristica” which meant they played many rhythms, not just tango. Enrique Rodriguez recorded genres such as fox-trot, ranchera, polca (polka), paso doble (double-step), and more. If Enrique Rodriguez was in the house, you would heard a wide variety of genres that night.

A Tango-Blues Recording?

There was one recording with the genre name of “Tango Blues” recorded in Buenos Aires in the 20’s. Orquesta Típica Victor, the studio orchestra for the Victor label in Buenos Aires, recorded a strangely titled song in 1929 (tango.info claims it was recorded in 1928). That song was called “Chlo-e.”  The song was later recorded by the orchestras of Francisco Canaro, and Adolfo Carabelli, as fox-trots (yes, they recorded jazz too, and Carabelli was OTV’s director from its formation in 1925 until 1936).

Here is the OTV version of the song…

Why was the title spelled that way? Where did the song come from? Why was it called “Tango Blues?”

The Origins of Chlo-e

“Chlo-e” was written in the USA in 1927 by Charles N. Daniels under the pseudonym Neil Morét. It had a sub-title of “Song of the Swamp.” The lyrics were written by Gus Kahn. The musical genre of the original piece was Fox-Trot.

The song was first featured in the Broadway production “Africana” in 1927. It opened at Daly’s 63rd Street Theatre on July 11th, 1927. Later, it moved to the National Theatre and ran for a total of 72 performances, closing on September 10th, 1927. The play was about a lonely man searching for a woman named Chloe in “dismal swampland.” The title is often spelled “Chlo-e” to emphasize the southern cadence of the name “Chloe” as it was sung.

It was first recorded by Paul Whiteman on February 27, 1928…

In 1945, the song was featured in the musical comedy film “Bring On the Girls”, with Spike Jones and His City Slickers performing a parody of the song.

“Chlo-e” was popular enough to appear on The Billboard Best Selling Popular Retail Records chart on May 5th, 1945 at #5, and was on the chart for its 6 weeks. Numerous orchestras and performers recorded the song for the next several decades.

Why Tango-Blues?

Why the “Tango Blues”?  The song was re-arranged and performed to sound more tango-like, as you might expect from Orquesta Típica Victor. But most likely the made-up genre name was just some attention grabbing marketing by the Victor label.