Enrique de Melchor, one of the great flamenco guitarists, died on Tuesday at the age of 61, said sources at SGAE, the copyright management organization. Born in Marchena, Seville, where he lived until the age of 12, De Melchor spent his life in Madrid and owned a guitar store there. It was in the Spanish capital that he began working at the tablao (flamenco bar) of Manolo Caracol, and went on to play for all the great voices of flamenco, including Antonio Mairena, Camarón de La Isla, Pansequito, Rocío Jurado, El Lebrijano, El Fary, María Jiménez and José Menese.
He also performed solo at major international venues such as Queen Elizabeth Hall in London or Carnegie Hall in New York, besides the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Liceo in Barcelona, two opera houses where he played for the soprano Montserrat Caballé and the tenor José Carreras.
Friends and colleagues of De Melchor described him as "a real guitarist for cantaores" and underscored his personal commitment to flamenco. The singer Diego el Cigala said he was particularly hurt by the loss. "He was a blessed soul. Enrique de Melchor was good from the moment he rose to the moment he went to bed; it is not possible to be a better person than he was, and as an artist he was frigging amazing." El Cigala, best known to international audiences for Lágrimas negras, his collaborative album with the Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés, added that De Melchor possessed the kind of knowledge that has been lost these days.
"He knew how to play the guitar for singing purposes: he was a singer's guitarist," he said of a man he considered his "godfather" because it was De Melchor who told him he would become a great singer after hearing him perform as a lad. "I was with him 10 days ago at Casa Patas and we thought he'd won the battle against that bad cancer. He seemed ill, but alright. I'm so sad."