The showman of orquesta leaders, Juan studied violin and made his first appearance in public in a teen terceto with D'Agostino, piano and Bianchi, bandoneón.
He spent 15 years in small groups playing in cafes and cinemas, which gave him his first studio experience with Orquesta Típica Paramount. Gravitating to the business side of things, he put down the violin and took up the baton when he reached his 30s.
After making a few unremarkable recordings, everything came together for him in 1936 with the addition of arranger/pianist Rodolfo Biagi.
From their first records, he was on his way to the heights.
With his initial audience of tango dancers, his popularity faded quickly after 3 years - just as his profile in general increased. His politically correct and non-sensual tango, which he called Tango por Export, put him on the outs with milonguero culture. His records with Biagi? Always and in large doses, please. Tango for Export? Never, thank you. The strict-tempo style he borrowed from European tango was, indeed, for outsiders and non-dancers.
His celebrity and friends in the right (wing) places allowed him to sail right through all the difficult times without missing a beat, always able to employ more musicans than any other orquesta and maintain his publicity image as the king with the general public through constant media exposure. Not for Juan to be censored or kept on a tight leash as were the more musical orquestas. Certainly not thrown in jail with Pugliese. Juan was the happy face of safe tango (the kind without all the sexiness and emotional nuance).
Identifed by his energy and big sound, Juan marketed himself with enormous success, so was a big star for 40 years. With a more than life-size personality and image, he was made for the television era and as a result is now quite the hit on You Tube. He's smiling about THAT one wherever he is, for sure.
Undisputed holder of my "most over-rated tango leader ever" record. I haven't played the non-Biagi D'Arienzo material in a milonga for 12 years. Nobody has noticed.