Carioca by default, Ataúlfo Alves de Sousa was bom in the small town of Mirai in Minas Gerais, 500 kilometres from the state capital, Belo Horizonte, on 2 May 1909, one of seven children bom to Dona Matilde Alves de Sousa and her husband Severino, who passed on many of his musical skills to his son Ataúlfo. Ataúlfo’s father was a well-known musician all over the region, who played the viola (a type of guitar) and performed as a repentista (improviser). At eight years of age Ataúlfo improvised lyrics with his father, but he was only ten when his father died. He was then obliged to help his mother support the family, which he did by working as a milkboy and a porter at the railway station, amongst other jobs. As a result of financial difficulties he was only to complete some most basic schooling. When he was 18 he set off for Rio, accompanied by a doctor friend of his father, Afrânio Moreira de Rezende, for whom he was to work in his establishment at number 34 Rúa da Assembléia. Eventually, when he could no longer tolerate having to do the doctor’s housework and being constantly watched over by him, he applied for another job. He had taught himself to decipher prescriptions and make them up and thus managed to be taken on as a pharmacist’s assistant in the Farmácia do Povo, Rua Sao José, and despite the fact that he never obtained a licence he was recommended by many Rio doctors.