Tio Luis El de Juliana
Luis Montoya Garcés, or Tio Luis el de Juliana, as he was artistically known, was a gypsy water carrier who was born in Jerez de la Frontera in 1760, and he is the first recorded singer in the poorly documented history of the flamenco song.
Unfortunately there is very little evidence to verify anything about this singer other than the legends and myths that have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.
These stories say that Tio Luis el de Juliana was an excellent singer of all styles of flamenco song and that he was also the teacher of, or at least influenced, singers like Diego el Fillo and many other singers of this period.
He was said to have excelled with the toñas, which are the unaccompanied flamenco songs that include the martinetes, deblas, and the carceleras.
There are a few gypsy singers who claim to sing these old styles of Tio Luis; although there seems to be no hard evidence to their authenticy as there remains nothing of his cante that could verify this.
We must remember that some of these old styles of flamenco have changed greatly since the 18th century and some of the styles that are performed today have little resemblance to the antiquated old forms sung in their original structure.
There is a theory that the toñas were once known as “Tonadas” and that they were songs relating stories and events, that they were performed by roaming minstrels and town criers and that these songs were adopted by the gypsies and turned into the toñas that we know of today.
We must also remember that Tio Luis grew up and spent his life living in Jerez de la Frontera and would have probably only sang for his family and close circle of friends. He was not an artiste in the sense that know today, so he would have only sung in his own barrio or district, although his reputation was spread by close friends and associates who carried their stories of his genius to Seville and far beyond.
It is known that Tio Luis el de Juliana did have a son, Hijo de la Juliana, and it is said that he was an excellent interpreter of his father’s cante, but other than this, little is known of him either.
It is a fact that Tio Luis did exist and that his styles of song were the most antiquated styles known; they were performed without guitar accompaniment and with only a stick or bare knuckles to beat out a rhythm and this style is known as A golpe.
Tio Luis died in his place of birth around 1830, but to this day he is still remembered with the honor of being the one who started the badly chartered antiquity of flamenco song.