Johnny Knorr band celebrates 45 years
The Johnny Knorr Orchestra debuted in the El Rancho Ballroom on Woodville Road on Dec. 10, 1960.
And the music has never stopped.
On Saturday, the 14-piece band will celebrate its 45th year with an anniversary concert at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Terrace in Sylvania. It will play songs of the stage and screen - favorites from such productions as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Cats, and Hello, Dolly! - and will display photos of the band over the years.
Knorr, 84, attributes the orchestra's longevity to the emotional impact of big-band music, particularly the songs of the World War II years.
"We are one of the few remaining live bands that are playing this type of music," he said. "People appreciate it. Some of them come up with tears in their eyes."
Members of the orchestra share the fans' love of the music, Knorr pointed out. "These are people who really specialize in this type of music and enjoy this type of music."
Knorr said that he and his son Jerry, 62, are the only original members left in the band. The others, who come from throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, have an average tenure of at least 20 years, he estimated.
"One thing I'm proud of is that some of the alumni of the band over 45 years have gone on to higher things," Knorr said, naming the Boston Pops, the Tonight Show, and the Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich, and Guy Lombardo bands.
Knorr's band performs steadily from May to October, he said, playing about 50 dates a year that takes it from the east coast to as far west as Chicago and from Kentucky on the south up to Mackinac Island (where it appears at the Grand Hotel).
"We do a lot of repeat business," he said. "The minute we finish one date, they'll be saying 'We'll call you next year.'●"
The band has played for Bobby Vinton, Bob Hope, Helen O'Connell, and Johnny Desmond, among others. It has done ice shows, circuses, and stage shows. Most of its current gigs are dances and concerts. "There's always something coming up that's a highlight, to kind of keep your adrenaline up," he said.
Knorr said he wouldn't be able to continue his work without the help of his son.
But continue he will, he said, as long as his health permits.
"I feel I have purpose on this Earth. God gave me the talent to do this and it's always been a part of my life. And I want to share it with as many people as I can."
The Johnny Knorr Orchestra performs from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Terrace, 5773 Centennial Rd., Sylvania. Admission is $8 per person. Information: 419-690-0500 or www.johnnyknorr.com.
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