Strauss' parents were innkeepers, and he started out as an apprentice to a bookbinder, but he took lessons in the violin and viola, and eventually managed to secure a place in a local string quartet and then in an orchestra. He eventually became deputy conductor of the orchestra in which he played, and in 1825 formed his own band and began to write music for it to play. He became one of the most well known and well loved dance composers in Vienna, and he toured with his band to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland. On a trip to France he heard the quadrille and began to compose them himself, becoming largely responsible for introducing that dance to Austria.
Strauss died in Vienna in 1849 after catching scarlet fever from one of his children. He is buried there in the Zentralfriedhof.