Personal Reminiscences
- from Jaleo magazine, quoting from A Way of Life  by Donn Pohren

   Donn is capable of very descriptive and often powerful writing. This is quite evident in the following narration of the first time he heard Diego del Gastor play the guitar solo. Pohren tells how Diego had just returned from two days of partying in Utrera, days and nights with neither food nor sleep. Donn found Diego in the morning at the bar "Casa Pepe" drinking and reciting poetry, having just arrived from Utrera. The entire day was spent drinking, telling stories, and singing light-hearted flamenco songs. Donn continues:
   "No one wanted to break up the gathering at a mere two in the morning, and at Diego's suggestion we loaded up a few bottles of wine and a case of beer and followed him out into the summer night. We did not go far, moving down a street lighted only by the moon and through a large, barely discernable doorway to the right. After stumbling over the cobble­stone flooring of an intensely black hallway for a considerable distance, we emerged into a large, walled-in court that shone blindingly in the moonlight. Dark, low buildings rimmed the court on two sides which, I was told, housed a goodly percentage of Morón's gypsy population. Three of Diego's five sisters lived here with their families, as did Diego's sole remaining brother, Mellizo, and his elderly mother, quite senile at the time and confined to a wheel chair. Diego's sisters claimed they lived there with Diego in order to 'take care of him', but of course in reality it was the other way around. During those hard years Diego was the only one in the clan who regularly brought in money (through paid juergas), and was in large part responsible for supporting the entire family.
   "Diego was in the mood to play, and one of his nephews brought him a chair and his guitar. The rest of us settled down on the ground, distributed the wine and beer, and waited. Diego, his hair silver in the moonlight, his nose gypsy-beaked in silhouette, began playing. It took only a moment to realize that this was like nothing I had ever heard. It was not even like the Diego of the Utrera gathering, the excellent and moving accompanist. This was a mystic Diego, opening his soul for his friends in this moonlit courtyard. No technical frills marred the pure emotion; each note was significant. The music broke forth, ebbed, surged again, like some magic surf. Extremely forceful phrases were followed by passages of utmost delicacy; long silences heightened and dramatized this tapestry of feeling and beauty into which each of us was
being woven. I was spellbound. I had heard much music in my thirty-one years, but none anywhere near so moving as this.
   "Diego played on for perhaps thirty minutes. Not a sound, not even an olé, was heard. When the last notes were carried away on the warm summer air the silence continued for a few moments longer, and then all hell broke loose. Fernandillo, sitting next to me, commenced tearing his shirt off his back, then into shreads, then hurling them to the ground and stomping on them. A roar of DIEGO and OLE engulfed the courtyard, and everyone was embracing Diego, or each other if they couldn't get at Diego. The place was complete bedlam. Diego's entire family had also heard, and were also demonstrating excitedly. This could only lead to one thing: great merrymaking for at least the rest of the night. Everyone sang and danced, Diego's young nephew, Paquito, played, as did Diego's brother, Mellizo. Pepe of Casa Pepe was awakened and more wine and beer purchased. Sometime during the night a pair of municipal policemen dropped by to see what all the ruckus was about, had a wine or two, told us to try hold it down a bit, and departed, shaking their heads and grinning."
   Incredibly, the fiesta went on through the night, continued the next day in the country, and was still going in a small village when Donn had to leave at ten o'clock that night.

- Ted Laroussini, in an email 9/6/2003
I spent one evening with Deigo.
   In 1967, I was living in Torremolinos and playing at a small Irish club called Mike's Bar. I don't remember the exact times or dates, but I met Chris Carnes. He insisted that I come with him to meet his friend Diego.  Understand, I did not play flamenco, but was doing Irish folk music`. We set up a time, and I went with him to Morón de la Frontera one night.  We met with Diego at his residence,  and began to get acquainted. Unfortunately, I spoke very little Spanish, but we managed to make do and drank a bit of wine together. Diego was a friendly and cordial host and total gentleman, and made me feel welcome. He played his guitar for a while, and Chris suggested I get out my banjo. (I had brought my American 5 string open back Vega banjo).  Diego was delighted.  He had never seen such an instrument, and encouraged me to play for him.  I did, to many " Ole's".   Then I handed it to him.  He examined it closely, and then began to experiment with it.  In an amazingly short time, he was performing some excellent falsetas on my Vega.
   It was not for many years afterwards did I realize how priveleged I had been to interact with Diego in such a personal and one-on-one situation.  I still own that Vega.

- Bruna Mallai, in an email 11/1/99
   "We arrived in Morón on the 5th or 6th of July, 1971, and we rented a flat from an owner of a coffee shop in the main road, just in front of the bus stop.

   "The first week nothing much happened. We didn't see any gypsy artists, we didn't even know where Bar Casa Pepe was. We didn't know Diego's face. We had come to Morón from London where Pino had heard of Morón and Diego from his flamenco guitar teacher. One day we saw a very tall young man walking in the street. We ran after him because we thought that for sure he knew where to meet Diego and other artists.

    "This is how we met Ernie. Then we met Ethan and some Australian boys. Ethan was staying in the flat in front of Diego's and at the end of July he returned in the States and so we took the flat.

   "Pino took guitar lessons from Juan (who now is working as a cook in a restaurant in Seville). We became friends with the lady named Maria (mother of Carmen and Fernanda and widow of Fernandillo) and then with Diego. We use to sit with him in the coffee shop for an aperitif before lunch and in the evening, and we were very happy to listen to his stories about his life.

   "Besides Ernie and the Australians there was another group staying in Morón (I don't remember their names), They were friends with Agustín and Andorrano. They organized a juerga at Diego's house where you had been staying. We were not invited and I remember that Diego got a little upset about that and organized only for us another juerga (he refused to be paid). There was Joselero, Andorrano with his American girl friend, Dieguito, Juan, and others that I don't remember.

   "It was a fantastic night. We were completely taken by the magic, the charm of Diego's music. Never again have we experienced such enchantment - Diego's guitar, Joselero singing.....All night Diego had been playing for us, but at dawn, the sun rising, he sat in a corner and started to play softly like he didn't want to disturb us - tired and sleepy - I have no words to describe him - he was sitting his eyes closed playing a seguirilla - he was sitting there, but his soul was in another world. After that he sent his friend - the taxi driver - to the fish market to buy sardines and we all had a lovely breakfast. I remember we came back to Morón around 11 o'clock in the morning with Diego marching ahead of us
carrying his guitar, like a soldier, not at all tired.

   "We left Morón very early one morning. I remember the bus for Seville was leaving at 6 o'clock. All Diego's family was up to say good-by and Diego had wanted at all cost to carry Pino's guitar to the bus station.

   "Living in front of him had been fantastic. He did not sleep very much, so around 3 o'clock in the morning he used to practice, he made scales for hours and at the end he played one or two pieces.

   "Unfortunately we did not realize the importance of fixing this unique experience not only in our memory but also with photographs, recordings, for the next generations. We were young and stupid.

   "Sorry for the long and messy message: I apologize for my bad English. I will try to contact Ernie. Ethan was from Massachussets. You must have met him in 1971 since he was living in front of Diego."

- Niño Ricardo, from  A Way of Life  by Donn Pohren
   "I decided to see what all the hubbub was about, this Diego del Gastor fellow, so I got some señorito friends of mine to hire him for a juerga. When he showed up they explained to him that they had hired another guitarist as well, so that he wouldn't have to tire himself out.

   "Diego recognized me right away - I was well-known, and my photo was splattered about here and there - and it was obvious the poor guy was dying to get out of there. But he was stuck and he knew it; he couldn't have just left without losing face. I watched him while I played. He seemed to shrink, and refused to touch the guitar throughout the night. All he did was drink, and I was feeling quite contemptuous after some hours. I was warmed up and playing well - really well - and it was painfully obvious that Diego had been had.

   "Then around five or six in the morning, when Diego's hair began springing away from the back of his head, he began looking more animated, started talking it up and encouraging me with 'oles', and I must admit I felt a tinge of worry deep in my stomach. But he continued refusing to touch the guitar until about eight in the morning.

   "He then actually asked for the guitar. I handed it to him, and he started playing a slow-motion soleá like I didn't know existed. He played about a tenth of the notes I had, and each note rang clear and true, emotional like no playing I had ever heard. When he made tears spring to my eyes I knew the one who had been had was I. The very essence of this man emerged through his playing. He arrived directly at the soul of flamenco without frills or bullshit. You might say that Diego is flamenco. The rest of us are something else, professionals only too often lost in the technicalities of the instrument." 

Diego del Gastor

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