Little Silver Hands No More
I stumbled across the news that Manitas de Plata ("Little Silver Hands" in Spanish) has died and was surprised to learn that he had sold 100 million records during his career. I recognized the name right away and knew that one of those records was in one of my boxes of LP's in my garage. I'm not at home right now and didn't have the heart to ask my brother or father to find it in the boxes. It has been decades since I listened to it.
But it was quite a revelation when I first discovered it, while a student at Oberlin College, although I have no specific recollection of how I came to know about it. A very weak image in my mind suggests that it was an LP that was being played before meals at the wonderful, life-changing Tank Co-op, where I ate during my senior year. Surely it was the first album I ever owned of a guitar virtuoso, long before I had ever heard of my friend, John Fahey. I had it positioned in my mind alongside my LP's of the trumpet virtuoso, Rafael Mendez, who had been my musical hero at one time, and had performed in my hometown and signed the program for me after the concert.
At the time I thought MDP was the greatest flamenco guitarist ever, but in my reading now, I learn that he was self taught and he broke some rules of that style. I don't care. It was an inspiration to listen to someone play guitar in a way like nothing I had ever heard, someone who had clearly honed his amazing skills to perfection. But it was a narrow style and I never sought out more from the man. Very soon after, I discovered Bob Dylan, who was worthy of further study for a lifetime to come.
A Google image search turned up the Manitas de Plata album I bought, Vanguard VSD 79224, produced in 1966, my senior year at Oberlin. While looking through You Tube, I found Malagueñas Flamencas, which seemed familiar, but I discovered it is not on the tracklist of the Ole! album.
And while there, I discovered two other gems, both worthy of your time. If you don't click on any other link in this posting, at least click on these two. The first I found, captured a surreal 1967 private concert at the UN in New York, of Manitas de Plata, with his singing cousin Jose Reyes, both enthusiastically creating music, while an attentive (and performing) Salvador Dali jumped up and down from a chair, drawing a rider on a large horse, presumably inspired by the music. The camera also captures a small leopard on a leash, under the seat of one of the patrons in the audience. "Unique" might be the best adjective to describe this video!
The other is a 1968 video of Manitas de Plata and his brother performing for a radiant Brigitte Bardot at the height of her popularity. If you're too young to have witnessed her chrismatic sexual appeal, start with this video, showing a gorgeous, transparent and guileless admirer. Could she have been seated any closer to the guitar? The obituary at the start of this piece, says that "He spent all his money on women and fancy cars," and the fervor in this performance seems to reflect a sexual seduction, and a hope on his part that he might be spending his money on this captivating woman. The Sixties really were a special time!