John Byner,was born John Thomas Biener, June 28,1937, “the same year as Superman and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge”,in Queens, New York, to Christina and Michael. The Fifth of six children, John found “attention” at the early age of 7. His mother had taken him with her to an afternoon movie. The movie was “Here Come The Waves”(1944), starring Bing Crosby. When returning home, Michael asked Christina what she had seen, and she, busy at the stove, said…”let Johnny tell you”. John began to sing “Accentuate the Positive ” just like Bing, gestures and all.
Everyone in the family had to hear and see him do the “Bing Crosby thing”, to the point of being awakened a few times by his mother, to go downstairs and do that thing for aunt Annie, or Uncle Joe or whomever.
This led to his impersonating teachers, friends and yes, relatives. Over the next few years, because the family moved more than a few times, John found doing voices and saying funny things, helped break the ice when entering a new school mid-term.
At age 17, John joined the Navy where he attended radio/teletype school and there again his voices and comedy were a big hit.
At 21, he was out of the service and realized that the Navy job he had wasn’t paying big in civilian life, so he landed a job building and servicing swimming pools for the Welding Swimming Pool Company in Hempstead, Long Island .
Married, with one child and another on the way, John needed to supplement his income and thought he’d try entertaining in a small club called “The Oaks”, in Syossit, Long Island. Many times he’d drive by the club on his way to a pool job. The sign read “Live Entertainment Every Saturday Night”. John worked there every weekend for a year. It led to a contest in Manhattan, a JFK contest, someone he had been doing in his act at the time. He won the contest and from there was introduced to Irving Mansfield, who was producing “The Merv Griffin Talent Scouts Show”. John auditioned for him, got the show and three weeks later opened for jazz musician Ahmad Jahmal, at “The Shadows” a night club in Washington D.C., for three weeks. From there he went back to the pool company days and was working nights in Grenwich Village at Max Gordon’s Vanguard, opening for some of our greatest jazz musicians, John Coltrane and Miles Davis to name a few.