One of the most important historical sambistas of Brazil, Riachão is -- along with Batatinha, Walmir Lima, Ederaldo Gentil, Nélson Rufino, and Edil Pacheco -- the cream of the Bahian samba. A successful artist of the radio in the 1940s and 1950s, Riachão also worked in the films A Grande Feira (Roberto Pires, 1961) and Pastores da Noite (Marcel Camus, 1972). He paid tribute to Batatinha on the album Diplomacia, interpreting, together with Batatinha, Ederaldo Gentil, Nélson Rufino, Walmir Lima, and Edil Pacheco, "De Revólver, Não!" (Batatinha/Walmir Lima). In turn, Riachão was paid tribute in the documentary Samba Riachão (by Jorge Alfredo), presented in 2001 at the Film Festival of Brasília, where admirers of his work like Caetano Veloso (who recorded with success his "Cada Macaco no seu Galho"), Gilberto Gil, Dorival Caymmi, and Tom Zé, among others, gave moving testimonies.
His picturesque way of writing songs transformed him into the musical chronicler of the old Salvador (Bahia's capital). Every relevant happening in the city, including the arson in the Mercado Modelo ("Incêndio do Mercado Modelo"), was portrayed by him in the rhythm of the Bahian samba and a straight-ahead and popular language. His approach has other excellent examples in sambas like "Retrato da Bahia," "Bochechuda," and "Papuda," compositions that brought to him the Gonzaga trophy. Born and raised in the Garcia borough, since age nine Riachão was already frequenting serenatas and batucadas around the neighborhood, writing his first composition, a samba, at 12. In 1944, he was hired by the Rádio Sociedade, where he performed in a vocal trio at the Show Pindorama auditorium program. Launched by Antônio Maria with the song "Vida da Semana," Riachão became a solo singer. Influenced by Dorival Caymmi, he decided to devote himself to samba. After Caymmi, Riachão was the first Bahian composer to have songs recorded in Rio de Janeiro in the '50s: "Meu Patrão," "Saia," and "Judas Traidor," all by Jackson do Pandeiro. Eraldo Oliveira later recorded "A Nega Que Não Quer Nada," and the singer Maria Inês recorded "Terra Santa." Riachão also had "Vamos Pular, Gente" and "Vá Mamar em Outro Lugar" recorded by other artists.