Prudencio Aragón

Real name: Aragón, Prudencio
Nicknames: El Johnny
Pianist and composer
(28 April 1887 - 4 November 1963)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Horacio Ferrer

e was born in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Belgrano, and he died in Montevideo, Uruguay, in the neighborhood called Puerto Rico.

He was one of the figures of greatest importance in the early stage of tango. He was regarded as a player with great precision and an enormous rhythmical strength.

One of his achievements was amazing in his time and later for the tango researchers until the present: he said that his first tango: “El Talar”, a fairly successful tune by that time, was composed when he was nine years old, in 1895. Never was demonstrated anything to the contrary and the doubts and conjectures never ceased. In case that was true, he would be the youngest composer in the history of tango.

Music was breathed in his family, his brother Pedro, two years his senior, was violinist at an early age and taught Prudencio to play the instrument. The elementary music lessons were taught by a half-brother, also older than he, named Alejandro Cesáreo Pérez, who as well taught him to play piano. A cousin of his, Justo Tomás Morales, guitarist in dancehalls, introduced him to tango. Then he changed for good violin for piano. He played only “by ear” like many other popular musicians.

Why his nickname? From his head a bunch of red hair protruded and furthermore his mother was housekeeper in the residence of a well-to-do family of English origin. For the kids in the neighborhood this was enough.

For tango and for some of its players, the beginnings in the early twentieth century were tough, and the four kids began to play in the studs of the Bajo Belgrano. His fame with “El Talar” had spread and soon he presented another piece that he declared as his own: “Las siete palabras”, also successful. They began to call him El pibe de oro (the golden kid).

When he was sixteen he is based with his family in the city of Rosario and started a long tour throughout the provinces with the guitarist José Guardo. He also collaborated with the company of the Cuban playwright and composer Francisco Aranaz, who became a leading comic actor in the Teatro Apolo.

On his comeback to our city he appeared in all the today legendary venues where tango was played: Lo de Hansen, El Tambito, El Estribo and many more. He joined the groups of Vicente Greco, Francisco Canaro, Vicente Loduca. He was one of the first in recording for the Atlanta label —as soloist and also with different outfits: one, with his brother Pedro on viola and Vicente Pecci on flute.

Before the Centennial (1910) he brought tango to Chile and later he swapped to Montevideo where he had plenty of work in the milieu of the “boarding houses”. He joined the aggregation led by Eduardo Arolas when the latter appeared in that city. There he spent, save for some trips due to gigs, the rest of his life. He appeared on radio stations and in night venues. He was one of the founders of the Asociación de Pianistas.

He was 76 when he was featured in the Primer Festival Universitario del Tango and in the year he died he appeared in a series of television programs: Imágenes para una historia del Tango (Images for a history of tango).

Other tangos he composed were “El Piñerista”, “Mate amargo”, “Don Victorio”, “José Pedro”, “El Pardo Cejas”, “El Tape” and other unimportant ones.

Excerpted from Libro del Tango, by Horacio Ferrer, editorial Antonio Tersol, 1980, Spain.