Trumpeter, singer, and bandleader Johnnie Davis, a.k.a. Johnny Davis, grew up in a musical family. His grandfather was the former director of the Royal British Navy Band and the leader of the Brazil (Indiana) Concert Band. His father was a talented composer and could play multiple instruments. His brother, Nelson, was the student leader of the Indiana University marching band.
Davis himself learned to play the trumpet at an early age and joined his grandfather's band when he was only 13. In 1925 he went to work for Jack O'Grady's Varsity Entertainers at the Grand Opera House in Terre Haute, arranging high school classes around the band's schedule. For the next couple of years Davis worked for various local orchestras, including those of Paul Johnson and Leo Baxter. He counted among his friends future bandleader Claude Thornhill.
After graduating from high school in 1928 Davis worked in Jimmy Joy's Louisville-based orchestra then spent time with Sammy Watkins in Cleveland before joining Austin Wylie in New York, where he reunited with Thornhill. In 1933 he went to work for Red Nichols at the Park Central Hotel. He also led his own trio during this period and recorded several numbers.
Davis joined Fred Waring in the mid-1930s. With Waring he became a featured performer and vocalist. Hollywood brought him more opportunities. He made 15 films from 1937 to 1944. His most famous role was in Hollywood Hotel, where he introduced the song ''Hooray for Hollywood.'' His lively rendition helped make the song a big hit and Tinsel Town's anthem.
Davis formed his own orchestra in 1939. Early members included Buddy DeFranco and Davis' own brother, Art, who wrote arrangements. His group accompanied striptease artist Ann Corio during a 1943 tour. In the early 1950s Davis worked with a small ensemble, appearing on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. He eventually moved to Texas, where continued to lead his own outfit until retiring in the late 1960s. Johnnie Davis passed away in 1983 after suffering a heart attack during a hunting trip.