Johnny Ventura - Biography
By J Poet
Johnny Ventura, the “Elvis of Merengue,” was one of the most popular artists to rise up in the post-Trujillo era of the Dominican Republic. He brought a new professionalism to the style with the Johnny Ventura y su Combo Show, which incorporated rock guitar and flashy costumes and dancing female back up singers. His 1967 album Ah no, yo no sé no (1995 Bongo Latino) was one of the first merengue albums to go gold and he eventually landed his own TV show in Dominican Republic. He’s made over 100 albums and was elected Mayor of Santo Domingo in 1998.
Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano was born in Santo Domingo in 1940. He had a modest middle class upbringing and was planning on becoming an architect. In high school he participated in a talent contest on La Voz de la Alegria and came in first. He caught the showbiz bug and competed on the TV show La TV busca una estrella (Star Search) and won. The prize was a scholarship to study music and voice. After graduation he changed his name to Johnny Ventura got a job as lead singer in the band of Rondón Votau. In 1961 he joined Donald Wild’s group and moved on to Luis Pérez’s Combo Cribe in 1962.
Ventura next signed on to Papa Molina’s La Super Orquesta San José. They didn’t make any albums, but his tenure in the group made him a star in Santo Domingo. The promoter Angel Guinea helped Ventura create the Johnny Ventura y su Combo Show, which brought a bit of American show biz glitz to the merengue scene. His first albums La coquetona (1965 Phonogram), La resbalosa (1965 Phonogram) and El turun tun tun (1966 Phonogram) were successful, but he wanted mopre than a local following. In 1967, he started playing New York City and became an overnight sensation. Ah no, yo no sé no (1995 Bongo Latino) went gold and he was off. Johnny Ventura Y Su Combo (1987 Kubaney) collects 16 of his early hits.
During the 60s and early 70s, Ventura was everywhere and recorded duets with Celia Cruz, Willie Chirino, Millie Quezada, Daniela Romo, El Grupo Niche, Wilfrido Vargas and Víctor Víctor to mention just a few. He catalogue is daunting, but some great titles include El Punguino (1973 Mate), El Hombre y su musica (1985 Combo), Ayer Y Hoy (1989 Discos CBS), Quisqueya Y Borinque (1990 Discos CBS), 20th Anniversary (Sony), a collection of his 60s hits, El Caballo Negro (1992, 2007 Combo), Retonando (1994 Sony International), Como El Café (1996 Sony International),
Ventura has recorded less frequently in the last decade, but he did win a Best Producer for a Latin Album Grammy for his record Sin Desperdicio (2003 Musical Productions, 2007 Sony Latino). Soy Johnny Ventura (2005 Aries Multimedia) was recorded live, his musical autobiography with many of his seminal his hits. Never one to stand still, Venture incorporated elements of reggaton into his one hundred and third album 103 Boulevard (2007 Musical Productions/ Sony BMG).