About Walter Wanderley...

BORN: May 12, 1932 (Recife, Brazil)

DIED: September 4, 1986 (San Francisco, CA)

LIVED IN: the San Francisco area after coming to the U.S.


The inside booklet of "Brazil's Greatest Hits" mentions the following about Walter:

"Walter Wanderley was born in Recife, Brazil, of Dutch extraction. By the age of five, he exhibited a remarkable affinity for music and became an accomplished pianist. His gift for music led him to the Licee of Arts in São Paulo when he was only twelve years old. There he took advanced courses in harmony and composition. He became a famous recording artist in Brazil while still in his early twenties."

The liner notes of "Samba Swing!" mention Walter biographically.

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Hear Walter Wanderley Interviewed on the Radio!

Walter Wanderley, interviewed by Binny Lum in San Francisco (1967)

This interview seems to contradict two pieces of information I was given by Wanderley drummer Claudio Slon:

1) That Walter spoke no English;
2) That Walter apparently remarried within a year after coming to the U.S.  It was believed that Walter never remarried after his divorce to Isuara Garcia.

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Painting courtesy of The Jazz Masters Series by BRUNI -

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The below information also reflects positive thoughts about Walter's life and career. I strongly disagree with other critics who have called his music "campy", "cheesy", and other unflattering terms. It should be noted that my own interest in Walter is not from a fad "lounge" movement of the 1990s, but from his original U.S. debut in 1966.

From the Walter Wanderley page on All Music Guide:

"A Brazilian organist/composer who stumbled upon a gold mine in the 1960s, Walter Wanderley has been resurrected posthumously in the 1990s almost as a camp figure, a purveyor of plastic lounge music for a cynical young generation. Yet his sound on the organ, generated by a crisp, lightweight, staccato attack, can be mistaken for no one else's - and his choice of material showed much good taste, particularly when exploring his countrymen' s songs. Although his most popular records contained only a minimum of melodic jazz improvisation, he could stretch out when he wanted to.

Wanderley started playing the piano at age 5, taking a year of theory at 12, and well before he was out of his teens, he moved to São Paulo and got a recording contract. Juxtaposing American hits and Afro-Cuban dance music, he built a following in Brazil during the 1950s, and by the early-'60s, he was immersed in the emerging bossa nova field, recording with Joao Gilberto in 1961 and on his own. Encouraged by Tony Bennett, among others, Wanderley finally took off for New York in 1966, where Creed Taylor recorded him for Verve. His first album, Rain Forest, yielded a smooth-sailing Top 30 hit single, "Summer Samba," peaking at No. 26 and proving that bossa nova was far from a spent force in 1966. Settling in Los Angeles, Wanderley went on to make four more albums for Verve and two for A&M, and other material was issued on World Pacific, Philips, Tower and Canyon. He continued to work at a lower profile after bossa nova went into eclipse in the '70s - and by the time of his death from cancer in 1986, he was virtually a forgotten man. But when the lounge movement discovered him, the values of his out-of-print albums suddenly skyrocketed." -- Richard S. Ginell, All Music Guide

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I-garcia.JPG  Walter-isaura.JPG
[Above left: singer Isaura Garcia; above right: Isuara and husband Walter Wanderley, 1961]

Information I received in email on 1/20/00 from José Sanches Perez (who lives in Brazil) states that Walter Wanderley was married to singer Isaurinha Garcia (pictured above) and that they had a daughter named Monica. Isaurinha Garcia was born in São Paulo in 2/26/23 and died in 8/30/93. She lived with her daughter until her death.



The following was transcribed and translated by José Sanches Perez from an LP entitled "ISAURA GARCIA - DOCUMENTO INÉDITO" - Estudio Eldorado (pictured above). According to the LP's back cover, "This disk includes speech and music recorded by Isaura Garcia at the show 'FM Inéditos' from Rádio Eldorado, in 1979". Rádio Eldorado is a radio station in São Paulo. The interview tells of her beginnings and experiences in her recording and performing career--and just how she came to meet Walter Wanderley. . .

IG: I was born in Brás district, São Paulo, at Alegria street.

SONG: Só Louco {Only Crazy People}

IG: I started my career when I was 13 years old and I was too young. I began to sing at a radio station's show for beginners. I won the first prize singing "Camisa Listrada" {Shirt adorned with stripes}. Then I was contracted by Record radio station and stayed there for almost 40 years.

I liked Carmen Miranda and Araci de Almeida too much. They were the favorite artists at the time I was a little girl, and I heard these female singers' records and they (the singers) were loved a lot by me. They are loved until today.

I was influenced by Carmen Miranda and Araci de Almeida. So, I sang on those shows I did at Record, when I was contracted, I sang the music of Carmen Miranda, Araci de Almeida and other singers like Linda Batista, Dircinha Batista {Linda and Dircinha were sisters}, but I was an unconditional Araci de Almeida fan. I was influenced a lot by Araci. So that my voice sounded like hers.

I didn't know Carmen Miranda personally. By the way, I saw Carmen, but I didn't talk to her. I saw Carmen at Record radio station, in República Square. I saw Carmen and she was very pretty, very nice, very artistic, very sensual, wonderful star and I saw Carmen through a glass. Record had a glass window.

Until today I love Carmen Miranda. I defend Carmen Miranda to the bone. I don't allow anyone to speak bad things about her, saying that she was old-fashioned. Carmen Miranda made fashion. Carmen Miranda is wonderful until today. Carmen influenced everybody. I still love Carmen Miranda.

SONG: E o Mundo Não Se Acabou {And the world isn't over}

IG: Well, I lived at 21de Abril street, where my father had a warehouse. I helped my father to weigh the goods, to sell food. I bottled wine, I bottled white rum. I helped my father a lot.

I also studied in a school in Brás district. Romão Cuiguaria was the school name. It was located in front of São José Church, in Brás; but I didn't like to study. Soon I left the school because I wanted to work. I liked to work very much. Then, I bottled and also drank a little bit of wine. I bottled and served the customers. I love to work. I don't know how to stay quiet. So, I sang. I bottled wine, I washed clothes for my mother at the sink. I sang the José Mojica songs. I loved José Mojica. So, I sang a lot. Everybody said that I sang well. So, why doesn't she go to sing on the beginners show?

I went with my mother to sing on the beginners show "Na Hora da Peneira" {The hour of the bolter} at Cultura radio station. It was in Sumaré district. I was too young, I was only 13 years old. I didn't know anything about intonation, I knew nothing. So, I was reproved. Me and my mother were reproved. At that time everybody was reproved. Then, we went home and all the neighborhood was waiting at the door in order to laugh at us. We were very embarrassed. I said that I wouldn't sing anymore. Then, I came accross a litte friend, (by the way, a colored girl) and she said "Isaurinha let's go to sing on Otávio da Buzim {? I didn't understand clearly what she said} and Lauro D'Avila "Qua Qua 40" show? Let's go sing?" I said "I will sing Carmen Miranda's 'Camisa Listrada'". I went, I inscribed at Record, in República Square, we paid a little money for inscription and I sang "Camisa Listrada" and won the first place; but I was so young that I remember that I came in, I sang--and don't remember what happened after. Everybody clapped their hands in applause, I won the first prize and until now I don't know what happened. I think I was helped by God. I think He wanted me to sing.

SONG: Por Causa de Você {Because of You}

IG: And my life went on. Then Record designated me to the best beginners shows and I signed a contract; my mother went there and said to them "if my daughter didn't sign the contract, she wouldn't come back anymore, because she is spending a lot of money to pay the bond street (ticket) and my husband doesn't like it and doesn't give her the money". And, sometimes, I went on foot from Brás to Record, at Repúbica Square, to sing. Sometimes I didn't eat all day long to sing at night in the show. And I signed a little contract with Record where I stayed for 40 years in there.

SONG: Preciso Aprender a Ser Só {I Need To Learn How To Be Alone}

IG: Roberto Carlos, I love Roberto Carlos. I think Roberto Carlos is the best singer of Brazil. The best composer too. One of the best, because Chico Buarque de Holanda is wonderful, too. I would like to record Roberto Carlos' "Não Se Esqueça de Mim" in Samba-Song rhythm, you know?

SONG: Não Se Esqueça de Mim {Don't Forget Me}

IG: I saw another (Roberto Carlos) song that I would like to record: "Falando Sério" (She sings Falando sério...)

SONG: Falando Sério (Speaking Seriously)

IG: Well, I traveled to Recife. I was with Elza Laranjeira & Neide Fraga who were great female singers in São Paulo; Roberto Amaral, Cauby Peixoto, a caravan Record formed to honor Recife's TV Jornal do Comércio {Commerce Journal TV}.

There Elza Laranjeira said "I'm going to introduce you a boy that is a great pianist; by the way, I already talked to Oasis night club and Oasis is going to contract this boy to work in São Paulo. He is a spectacular pianist". But I had a boy friend in Recife and I didn't want to meet any pianist. I wanted to date the boy who was in Recife waiting for me.

I went to a night club called "Delfim Verde" {Green Dolphin}. When I came in, I was a very pretty girl at that time. I was a "brotaço" {very beautiful girl}. That long blond hair, those very blue eyes. I was really beautiful. Still a little girl. And I went there (to Recife) to work for a period and I met this pianist who was Walter Wanderley.

Elza introduced me to him. When I came in to the night club, he started to play a song of mine. I had already drank with Cauby, with that group - it was a mess in the bar. They were paying a tribute to us. So, I saw that he was coming near me. Elza introduced "This is the pianist I contracted to go to São Paulo". We shook hands and I said "How are you? You play very well. I'm greatful that you played my song". And I forgot the whole thing. After half an hour, I went to another night club and he was there playing, you know?

I don't know what happened to me. I was looking at the sea feeling romantic and listening to that piano far away from me, very well played, because Walter plays wonderfully well.

And I went to his direction, got near him, sat on the floor, stood up and kissed singer Osvaldo Rodrigues. At the same time I kissed Walter Wanderley and said to him "Look, I'm going to kiss you because you will marry me. You'll be my husband".

SONG: Fênix {Phoenix}

IG: I have something to say: I would like to produce my own record. I would like to choose my music and to produce my records. This is very difficult because, usually, record companies don't allow us to produce and choose the songs. Do you want to see something? Once Dorival Caymmi gave me one song titled "Só Louco". I didn't record it because they thought the music was too short, had short lyrics and it was better to put something more exciting (and they always persuaded us to do what they wanted).

Then, I presented Ataulfo Alves' "Fênix". I presented Herivelto Martins' "Céu é Sempre Céu" {Heaven is always heaven}, a beautiful song, a wonderful thing that I have until today and didn't record. I didn't record songs that Ataulfo, Herivelto and Caymmi composed and gave me to record. And I couldn't record these songs because record companies didn't want them or thought that other songs would be better. So, I didn't record, but other singers recorded and were very successful. And I lost that success because the factory doesn't allow me to record those songs I wanted to record.

For example, I would like to record "Matriz ou Filial" recorded by Jamelão. This song would be wonderful with my voice, because it's a song that sounds like me and I would make a good interpretation, that interpretation I know how to do when I want to sing nicely.

SONG: Matriz ou Filial {Main or Branch}

IG: I lived with a Record radio station director and this Record director humiliated me a lot. He said that he wasn't going to marry me because I was born in Brás district and he wasn't going to marry someone who was born in Brás and that I was born beyond the "porteira" {barrier at a railroad crossing} and he wasn't going to marry me ever, because he hadn't black shoes, all that foolishness of him. But at that time everyone laughs, everything he said was funny. Well, it was not funny for me. It was very painful when he said those things.

SONG: Contrasenso {Contrary to sense}

IG: Another one: "Tenho Que Ir", João Só's song.

SONG: Tenho Que Ir {I have to go}

SONG: Se Você Visse (If you saw)

IG: And another: Helena de Grammont's "Sufoco"

SONG: Sufoco {Distressing situation}

IG: I'm like this since when I was born. I was born with this so enormous love. And until now I don't know, but I think God wanted me to sing, you know?



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Excerpt follows from the book "Chega de Saudade" (which itself is the song title that launched the Bossa Nova movement in Brazil, though the book itself is a history of the movement) by Ruy Castro, published 1990 (translation from Brazilian to English courtesy of José Sanches Perez):

"It took only five months for Walter Wanderley to become extremely popular in America with a Marcos Valle song (Marcos and his brother Paulo Sérgio are great Brazilian composers). Wanderley - whose name had the advantage of being able to be pronounced won'-der-lee [in America] - arrived at New York in 1966, contracted by Creed Taylor. He recorded "Samba de Verão" (Summer Samba) in May and went directly to the top. In Brazil, he had a great reputation among the musicians and his records were popular, but not that much - his repertory was a festival of "boleros" and cha cha, when everybody knew that the incredible "balance" (swing) of his organ deseved much better material.

People who knew him from the São Paulo nights were sure about it since 1958, when Walter, at 26 years old, arrived from Pernambuco (A Brazilian northwest state) to play at "Boate Oásis" and "Captain's Bar" of Comodoro Hotel. At this time he was married to Isaurinha Garcia, for whom he was companion and arranger. Around 1963, he started to accompany and made arrangements for Claudette Soares (another famous Brazilian female singer), using this opportunity to change his own repertory. That satisfied everybody, except, maybe, Isaurinha, who then lost her husband. Tony Bennett, who heard Wanderley in one of his trips to Brazil and thought there was nothing to equal Walter's organ playing, recommended him to Creed Taylor and everybody knows what happened next.

Or maybe not. His enourmous success in the USA would have passed as nothing in Brazil if his American records weren't sometimes released in Brazil, where they were received with the usual apathy. No Brazilian businessmen ever had interest in bringing him to play in their own country. The Americans compared his humour to Fats Waller, the best jazz organist, and his technique to Jimmy Smith, the best of that time. At a certain moment, Walter Wanderley had in his hands all of the jazz clubs of Los Angeles and traveled a lot to Mexico, Europe and Japan.

Unfortunately, he seemed to suffer that curse which follows certain musicians and makes them to create fences between them and the success, like it was a tiger that had to be kept away. In his case, these fences had bottle forms. After a lot of mess that made his most enthusiastic businessmen be afraid of designating him to the shows, Walter had in his fingers, in 1969, the opportunity of his life: to spend the following years supported by Holiday Inn, performing in hundreds of hotels in USA, Mexico and Japan. His avant-premiere would be in the opening (inauguration) of Holiday Inn of San Francisco. For that, he even invited Cyva and Cybele, from the "Quarteto em Cy" (four girls formed this Brazilian vocal group) to perform female vocals.

In the first set of the opening night, everything was ok. On the second set, his style was already being influenced by "Johnny Walker". Between the second and the last set Wanderley may have drunk a Molotov cocktail (Molotov cocktail consists of a bottle full of gasoline with a wick on the top) backstage, because he could only sign to the girls that he would start - one-two, one-two-three - and then he fell down on his organ like a dead bundle. When they finally got him awake, hours later, goodbye to the Holiday Inn opportunity."


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Walter, year unknown.

And from Pages 295 and 296 of "Chega de Saudade":

"Be Patient, Waltinho", João Gilberto was imploring to Walter Wanderley, who would like to be at any other place, than at that studio.

This dialogue was happening in March, 10th, 1961, when they both were recording the third (and last) João Gilberto's LP for ODEON - which was simply titled "João Gilberto". João asked Walter Wanderley to make, using the organ, a special kind of ship roaring to serve as an overture to "O Barquinho". Wanderley wasn't able to find the correct tone; so, João showed him - with his voice - the exact kind of sound he wanted. Wanderley musicians (Papudinho, trumpet; Azeitona, bass; Toninho Pinheiro, drums) were astonished: João Gilberto was able to produce any sound with his voice.

The day before (March, 9th, 1961), João had recorded "Bolinha de Papel", a tune composed by Geraldo Pereira that had been successful in the year of 1945 with the "Anjos do Inferno" group. João Gilberto - the most modern musician of Brazil - was being influencied by the old-fashioned music and only on that day he had recorded three old songs: Dorival Caymmi's "Saudade da Bahia" and "O Samba da Minha Terra" and Lauro Maia's "Trenzinho". He still pretended to include "A Primeira Vez", Orlando Silva's great success of 1940.

Where were the new bossas? The relationship between João Gilberto and Tom Jobim was very bad at that time. Tom "wasn't patient" and Aloysio de Oliveira had left ODEON that September. This fact had complicated everything. João didn't like Aloysio very much (he called him "That American"); but, everytime work conflicts with Jobim began, Aloysio came to help them.

Because Aloysio wasn't around anymore, Jobim didn't want to participate in those recording sessions. That's why Walter Wanderley was working with João Gilberto.

The two first albums "Chega de Saudade" and "O Amor, O Sorriso e a Flor" were so successful, that the third one couldn't fail. But it was failing. João, himself, made the arrangements - actually, it would be better to say that he tried to tell Walter Wanderley what he wanted - but his dissatisfaction with the recorded material was enormous. The next day, March, 11th, 1961, he recorded "Presente de Natal" and stopped the recordings. Only five months after, in August, he returned to the studio. This time with Tom on command.

From August, 2th to September, 28th, Jobim and João recorded the other songs with a repertory that was nicely Bossa Nova. Tom got that ship roaring using the trombones for "O Barquinho" and simplified the work to the other songs: "O Amor em Paz", "Insensatez", "Este seu Olhar", "Você e Eu" and "Coisa Mais Linda".




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