Augustín Castellón Campos or Sabicas as he was artistically known, was the first and probably the most well-known flamenco guitarist outside of Spain. He was born in Pamplona in 1913, although like many gypsy artists there is much speculation over his date of birth and some put it at 1907. By the time he was ten he was making waves in the guitar world, performing in La Villa Rosa in Madrid and going on to tour all over Spain. After one concert in the Maestranza bullring in Seville in 1934, he was carried on the shoulders of some of his adoring fans, something that no other guitarist had achieved and an act that was only normally reserved for the bravest of bullfighters.
This young gypsy left Spain in 1937, after the outbreak of civil war, a time when he was romantically linked to the great dancer Carmen Amaya, he was also her flamenco company's first guitarist. He spent twenty years living in Mexico and in 1957 he went to America, never to return to live in his native Spain, although he did return to perform a few times when the fascist regime started to crumble. The first time he returned to Spain was in 1967 when he attended an homage in his name that was held in Málaga.
Sabicas was described as the greatest flamenco guitarist in the world, and he once said that he had never played the same piece twice, his playing was in true jondo style, spontaneously creating every time he picked up the guitar. There are certain techniques that Sabicas created and these techniques are still used today and are considered essential to achieve the "flamenco" sound, like the Alzapuas, hitting the strings in a percussive manner using just the thumb.
He recorded many discs as a solo artist, and toured as one also, but he was no stranger to accompanying the dance and the flamenco song. He recorded with Cameron de la Isla, El Sordera, and Enrique Morente with whom he recorded the excellent CD, "Morente Sabicas" in 1989. For some one who had spent the best part of his professional career outside of Spain, Sabicas had that sound of Andalucia in his style, a deep-rooted gypsy touch that was instantly recognizable as the king of the flamenco guitar. Sabicas died in New York in 1990 and he has been remembered as one of the legends of the guitar, a phenomenon, and a gypsy who attributed his attraction to flamenco solely on his race. Sabicas was a genius; a master of technique and his contribution to the art of flamenco has been a milestone in the evolution of the flamenco guitar.