John C. "Johnny" John Christian Knorr, of Oregon, Ohio, passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 90 surrounded by his family on Sunday, August 28, 2011. Born in Crissey, Ohio, on May 24, 1921, to Reinhold and Mary (Reith) Knorr. At the age of nine, Johnny Knorr was on the stage playing violin solos made popular by David Rubinoff. During his junior high school days, he performed as a violin soloist on programs with Helen O'Connell. At Libbey High School, he was featured as a violin soloist with the orchestra and saxophone soloist with the band and he was awarded a scholarship to Ohio Northern University.
Johnny played with several traveling bands (Artie Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey, Les Brown) and also stage shows, ice shows, circuses and many different styles of bands. In 1960, he formed his own band and since then has gained national recognition while sharing the stage with Tex Beneke, Johnny Desmond, The Four Aces, Helen O'Connell, Bobby Vinton, Bob Crosby, Myron Floren, Henry Questa, The Lawrence Welk Stars, and a 32-piece orchestra with Bob Hope.
Johnny managed Centennial Terrace during its troubled years prior to its acquisition by Sylvania and is credited with keeping Centennial Terrace and Dancing Under the Stars alive. During that time, Johnny helped return big band music to the forefront and performed at Centennial Terrace to record crowds. Repeat performances at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, Cedar Point, and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island are just a few of the highlight performances of Johnny's orchestra. In 1984, Johnny's Orchestra was recognized as one of the big bands of today in the souvenir edition of Foto-Play, published by the Big Bands Magazine in Hollywood, California.
In 1996, the United States Postal Service honored Johnny by presenting him an award to commemorate the Orchestra's contribution to big band music in conjunction with their American Music Stamp Series. On September 16, 1996, Johnny received a Proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Toledo, Ohio for 35 years of performing big band music for the enjoyment and entertainment of thousands who live in the tri-state area. In 1997, Johnny received the People's Choice Award for the Performing Arts as the best instrumental group.
In 1999, Johnny was inducted into the Lake Erie West Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was recognized by the Toledo Jazz Society for lifetime service to America's Cultural Art Form and for giving "The Music We Like...The Way We Like to Hear It." In addition to his life long career in music, Johnny also worked first with his father followed by his brother, George, in the painting and decorating business in the 50's. The 60's saw him become active in the in the real estate profession. He was associated with the Hugh Bartley Real Estate Co., Melle Realty and in his later years, the Danberry Company.
He was a member of Christ Presbyterian Church, Paragon Lodge F. & A.M., Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Valley of Toledo, Zenobia Shrine A.A.O.N.M.S., American Federation of Musicians (Life Member), National Ballroom & Entertainment Association, Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association, Royal Order of Jesters, and Libbey High School Hall of Fame. Surviving are his wife of almost 70 years, Jane; son, Gerald (Emilie) Knorr; daughter, Janice (Orville) Wilcox; eight grandchildren; and ten great-grandchildren. John was preceded in death by his brother, George and sister, Grace Hammer.