Johnny Baier started playing banjo professionally at 15, just two weeks after first picking up the instrument. From “learning as he earned,” leading sing-alongs at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Baier went on to win the Canadian National Banjo Competition in 1983. Subsequently, he spent three years touring across the U.S. as musical ambassador for the Sara Lee Corporation prior to settling down in Orlando, Florida.
Well known as a crowd pleasing entertainer and virtuoso banjo player, in 1988 Baier started what would be a 15,000 solo show run at Rosie O’Grady’s at Church Street Station in downtown Orlando. Johnny’s years in Florida also saw him become a favorite at the Walt Disney World Resort performing at Disney hotels such as the Port Orleans and Dixie Landings as well as Disney attractions such as the Empress Lilly in Lake Buena Vista, the Hoop Dee Doo Review at Fort Wilderness, and the Main Street Rhythm Rascals in the Magic Kingdom. Later Johnny became the entertainment director at Rock Crusher Canyon in Crystal River, Florida where he produced concerts starring Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, Roy Clark and others while opening for legendary acts such as The Kingston Trio and Mickey Rooney. Subsequently Baier took to the sea as a headline guest entertainer aboard the luxury cruise ships of the Crystal, Silversea, Radisson, Princess and Holland America lines and was also a featured soloist aboard the American Queen riverboat.
From the stage to the recording studio, Johnny has recorded multiple solo projects as well as appearing as a featured guest on numerous jazz and swing recordings. His partnership with fellow banjo master, Buddy Wachter, resulted in the 2003 CD entitled Side By Side which was celebrated by banjo enthusiasts and hailed by mainstream critics as “quite possibly the best banjo recording ever!” In 2012, his solo project entitled Pick Yourself Up presented his unique tenor banjo and vocal styles while reintroducing listeners to the American songbook – banjo Style.
Baier’s historical banjo knowledge and serious journalism skills have earned him international distinction as both the editor of ALL FRETS magazine in addition to his role as Executive Director of American Banjo Museum. Carrying on the music and heritage of the banjo both on stage, in the printed word and via outstanding museum exhibits, Baier continues to inspire all who love and wish to know more about the instrument. This love for “all things banjo” continues to lead him to amazing encounters and milestones. Whether he is interviewing actor, comedian and banjoist, Steve Martin or performing at Universal Studios in Hollywood as part of the Celebration of Life for comic banjo icon, Jerry Van Dyke, Johnny Baier continues a lifelong quest to elevate the banjo in both musicality and perception.