Orchestra leader Johnny Messner studied violin as a child but later switched to clarinet. While in high school he performed locally in a family band with brothers Dick Messner, on piano, Charlie, on guitar, Bill, on drums, and Fred, on violins. After graduation Johnny attended the Julliard School of Music, where he received a scholarship. In the early 1930s he and his brothers formed a dance band under Dick's name. The orchestra held residencies at New York's Park Central Hotel and the Hotel Lincoln and also toured the East Coast. They recorded on the Melotone label in 1935.
In 1937 Johnny's brothers decided to quit the music business. Johnny reformed the orchestra under his own name and began that same year what would become a six-year residency in the Marine Grill at the Hotel McAlpin. His ten-piece band recorded on Bluebird before switching to Varsity in 1939. Vocalist were Jeanne D'Arcy and Messner himself. The orchestra also featured a novelty toy piano played by Paul Kuhlthau, who was known as ''Professor Coleslaw.''
In 1943 Messner was drafted into the Army, where he led several dance bands until being discharged in 1946. He then reformed his civilian orchestra and went back to the McAlpin only to have the hotel pull the plug on live band performances a few months later. Messner continued fronting his own group for the next few years but eventually took a job with Vincent Lopez as vocalist, saxophonist, and assistant leader at the Taft Hotel, where he remained until the 1960s.
Messner wrote advertising jingles in the later years of his life. Johnny Messner passed away in 1986. Other vocalists who worked with Messner include Jack Ryan, Bobby King, and a vocal group called the Three Jacks.