Born in Romania the 1st of December 1931 in Braila, Johnny Raducanu is descended from a long line of Gypsy musicians. At the age of 8, he starts playing the piano with one of his brothers. A year later, he knows the first Czerny notebook by heart, and gets a grant for the academy of music of his native town.
During his young years, he discovers on his older brothers’ gramophone « Caravan » and « Prelude to a kiss » by Duke Ellington. Jazz is a revelation, even if at that time Johnny believes that « Jazz » is the name of an artist, and not that of a musical trend. A premonition perhaps, given that 20 years later, the so-called Duke Ellington nicknamed him “Mister Jazz of Romania”, during a performance in Bucharest.
The war begins, his father and brothers leave for the front. At 10, he lights up officers’ dance with an accordion to help his family. At the same time, he carries on his piano studies and gets his first two working contracts: the first one in a Jazz Club (where he plays music from Rogers, Gershwin, Col Porter or Charles Trenet), the second, as test pianist in a music shop. The repertoire of the young wonder is wide: sonatina from Mozart and Beethoven to trendy ragtime. Step by step, Johnny builds his reputation among the city’s music-loving and is invited in private parties of the local bourgeoisie. The pleasure to play live often is a better reward than that of a fee.