Carlos García Montoya (13 December 1903 – 3 March 1993) was from Madrid, Spain….who was a prominent flamenco guitarist and a founder of the modern-day popular flamenco style of music. Montoya was the nephew of renowned flamenco guitarist Ramón Montoya….as he first learned from his mother, “la Tula”, and then from a neighboring barber, Pepe el Barbero, i.e. Pepe the Barber….who taught young Carlos all that he was able to teach him….so, Carlos left to gain what he could from other flamenco guitarists of the time. At fourteen he was playing in the “cafes cantantes,” in the heyday of flamenco singing and dancing….playing with such artists as Antonio de Bilbao, Juan el Estampío, La Macarrona and La Camisona in Madrid, Spain.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s he performed extensively in Europe, North America, and Asia with the likes of La Teresina….when the outbreak of World War II brought him to the United States….where he began his most successful days as a musician,…frequently touring with the dancer La Argentina….while bringing his fiery style to concert halls and universities. He also accompanied orchestras. During this period he made a few recordings for several major and independent labels including RCA Victor, Everest and Folkways….by performing traditional flamenco music such as Farruca., Malaga and Hokie.
When World War II broke out in Europe in 1939….Montoya was on tour in the United States….deciding to settle in New York City and eventually becoming a U.S. citizen….and by the end of the war in 1945….his repertoire had broadened to include blues, jazz and folk music. He again toured internationally, and was the first flamenco guitarist to tour the world with symphonies and orchestras….as he dominated the field of flamenco in the U.S. During his career he also performed on television and recorded over forty albums….including Suite Flamenco….a concerto he performed with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1966. His performances helped popularize flamenco guitar music worldwide….as Montoya is credited with having transformed flamenco guitar music into a separate music style, beyond being a traditional dance accompaniment. He adapted flamenco to other genres of music to create his own recognizable style, becoming an international star….however, his style was not particularly appreciated by some serious flamenco students….who considered it less traditional than many others. That he was unpopular among aficionados was possibly because he abandoned the compás that had evolved within flamenco over hundreds of years. Many of his works do not even keep perfect tempo by increasing and decreasing in speed almost whimsically. He was admired for the speed of his picados and found popularity on the international stage as a result of this technically impressive pace….but regardless of his style….Carlos Montoya was truly a guitar master…..and he deserves his place among musical greats of all time.