Johnny Burt

Johnny (John Edward) Burt. Arranger, composer, pianist, b London 31 Mar 1914, d Toronto 21 Sep 1980. Taken to Toronto as an infant, he studied piano as a child and composition, briefly, later with John Weinzweig.

Burt, Johnny

Johnny (John Edward) Burt. Arranger, composer, pianist, b London 31 Mar 1914, d Toronto 21 Sep 1980. Taken to Toronto as an infant, he studied piano as a child and composition, briefly, later with John Weinzweig. He was a pianist in the 1930s with the dance bands of Luigi Romanelli, Jack Slatter, George Wade, and others, and was heard on CFRB radio, Toronto, with his own jazz trio (Murray McEachern, clarinet and saxophone; Danny Perri, guitar). As a member of the Trump Davidson orchestra led by Ray Noble, he travelled to Great Britain in 1938 and there was briefly also a pianist-arranger for Billy Bissett's orchestra.

Burt played with Joe DeCourcy's dance band on his return to Toronto in 1939 and then, after working 1941-2 in the USA as an arranger for Paul Whiteman's orchestra, spent three years as an RCN bandsman at HMCS York, Toronto. Subsequently he became a CBC arranger, writing for the orchestras of Geoffrey Waddington, John Adaskin ('Opportunity Knocks'), Jean Deslauriers, Samuel Hersenhoren, Paul Scherman, and others. His own trio (Stan Wilson, guitar; Sam Levine, bass) was heard on CBC radio 1946-8; his orchestra performed on 'Johnny Burt and Company' (1952) and on other CBC shows starring Elwood Glover, Wally Koster, and Gisèle (MacKenzie).

As music director 1962-72 for the CTL, Burt chose the label's artists and supervised their recordings. He himself made eight LPs of pop songs in orchestral, big band, and choral settings for CTL (including the label's first album), and others for RCA. Among his LPs are two (RCA CTLS-1100, RCA CAS-2406) by big bands, Dance to the Trombones (RCA CAS-997), and Around the World (RCA PCS-1199). His compositions included three commissions from 'Opportunity Knocks,' several NFB scores, Theme for Susan (his orchestra's theme song), and pieces recorded for the CTL by Henry Cuesta, John Perrone, Nat Raider, and others. Over 20 of Burt's songs were recorded for the Chappell Library of Background Music.


Further Reading

  • 'Opportunity keeps knocking at Johnny Burt's door,' CanComp, 5, Jan 1966

    'Johnny Burt: a Canadian point of view,' CanComp, 32, Sep 1968

    Hickman, Jim. 'Johnny Burt's up-dated middle-of-the-road music,' CanComp, 74, Nov 1972