The Spanish-born American guitarist, Vicente Gómez, was born in Madrid in 1911. His father owned a tavern in the city's red light district, frequented by sailors and gypsies. It was there, in the kitchen, where the young Vicente, at age 6, began practicing the guitar, picking up flamenco rhythms from the patrons. At 12 he began classical training with Quintin Esquembre, a former pupil of Tarrega, at Madrid's Real Conservatorio. He performed his first concert one year later, in 1924, at the famous Teatro Español in Madrid.
Pianist Arthur Rubinstein heard Vicente Gómez play and encouraged him to embark on a professional career. This started him on a series of concerts which took him literally to the ends of the earth. He began with a tour in North Africa and Italy, then through Russia (1932-1933), and throughout Europe (Spain, France, Poland, Austria, etc.). He composed for and appeared in some Spanish films, meanwhile, continuing to play in his father's tavern, all before reaching the age of 25. In 1936 he was invited to perform in Russia. On the day of his debut, in Leningrad, the Spanish civil war erupted. As a loyalist opposed to Franco, his return to Spain would have put him in danger of imprisonment. Instead, he took refuge in France, then accepted bookings in Cuba and Mexico (1936).
A radio broadcast from Mexico City caught the ear of an American booking agent who persuaded Vicente Gómez to come in 1937 to New York. He was immediately engaged for radio broadcasts, and in April 1938 made his triumphant debut at Town Hall, then appeared at the famous Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. At the conclusion of his work here, he embarked upon a two months' concert tour through South America, which proved so successful that appearances there kept him in that continent for many months. Again in the USA, he was engaged for regular broadcast and completed a successful run as the outstanding star of the Broadway revue Mexicana, produced under the auspices of the Mexican government. The following year he was presented as a guest artist on NBC Radio's The Magic Key Hour which led to his signing for his own 15 minute broadcast coast to coast every Sunday afternoon following Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Critics everywhere hailed Gómez as one of the outstanding guitarists of all time; they were doubly enthusiastic because at that time he was the only such instrumentalist who played both the Classical and Flamenco music.
Decca released Vicente Gómez' first album in 1939 (#8 in their catalogue), an association that prospered through more than a dozen albums over 25 years. Appearances at popular nightclubs such as The Blue Angel and The Versailles, and Broadway shows, (most notably Sailors Beware with Mary Martin) followed. In 1941, composer Alfred Newman invited Gómez to contribute some "background" music for the 20th Century-Fox film, Blood and Sand starring Tyrone Power (1938). He played in that motion picture flamenco & classical guitar. He wrote and performed half a dozen songs, including Verde Luna, which effectively captured the essence of the, then, newcomer Rita Hayworth. In 1943 he became an USA citizen.
After discharge from the U.S. Army in 1946, Vicente Gómez opened in 1948 his own nightclub La Zambra on New York's famous 52nd Street. His nightly performances there drew the elite from Broadway and Hollywood. The club was selected as the site for the New York portion of the 1950 Academy Award presentations. It also became the meeting place for the Classical Guitar Society of New York, which Gómez served as vice president. Over the next decade, he made frequent contributions, both as composer and performer, to a cluster of Hollywood films, some good, some best forgotten. Among them: Captain from Castile, The Snows of Kilamanjaro, The Sun Also Rises, The Kissing Bandit, The Furies, and The Fighter. Joining ASCAP in 1945, his popular instrumental compositions include Granada Arabe, Cancion de la Primavera, Lamento Gitano, Melody of Spain, El Albaicin, Carnival in Spain, La Farruca, and Alegrias.
In 1953 (or 1954) Vicente Gómez moved to Los Angeles, where he opened the Academy of Spanish Arts, a school devoted to teaching classical and flamenco guitar, flamenco dance, ballet, the Spanish language, even bull fighting. During his Los Angeles years, in addition to film work, he composed incidental music for Garcia-Lorca's play Blood Wedding, background music for a documentary on Spanish painter Francisco Goya, and Rio Flamenco, a concerto for guitar and orchestra.
Following a farewell tour of Europe in 1958 Vicente Gómez retired to teaching and composing. He died in December 2001 at the age of 90.