Johnny Pecon was born on February 3, 1915 in Cleveland. At age five he began playing on a small accordion. In his teens he already sat in with some of the Slovenian polka bands. At age 19 he formed his own polka band.
Johnny joined the Navy in 1942, trained as a Seabee and shipped to New Guinea in the South Pacific. Here he put on shows for the troops. After the war he joined Frankie Yankovic with whom he recorded and traveled from 1947-49. Leading the list of recorded hits were “Just Because” and “Blue Skirt Waltz”.
Many one night stands and other factors caused Johnny to leave Yankovic and return to Cleveland. Here he formed a band with Lou Trebar and entered the tavern business. In 1949 he signed with Capitol Records and produced 24 singles. Live appearances on radio and TV followed. His own show on WEWS-TV was aired weekly.
In 1951, a polka DJ in Cleveland conducted a popularity contest. Polka fans voted for about 25 bands with Pecon emerging as the winner capturing nearly one-third of the 40,000 ballots cast. The Pecon band auditioned on Arthur Godfrey’s “Talent Scouts” TV Show. Their appearance vaulted them into the winner’s circle. This was followed by Johnny’s own TV show “TV Auction Party” on KYW-TV, Cleveland. From 1957 to 1966 seven albums were released by the Pecon Orchestra on Dana Records. In 1971 Delta International signed Johnny and three new albums appeared. The Pecon band led successful tours to Hawaii and Slovenia, Yugoslavia.
The final public appearance of the Pecon band was on October 5, 1974 at the Slovenian National Home in Cleveland. A victim of cancer, he held on four months more, passing on February 23, 1975. He is survived by his widow Mary, and two sons, John Jr. and Jeff.
Johnny Pecon was a musician’s musician, musical stylist, composer, arranger, bandleader, innovator, and performer par excellence.