Johnny Rotella was born in Jersey City and grew up in North Bergen, New Jersey where he began his music career in his teens, playing clarinet and saxophone with many bands.
During World War II, he was with the 389th ASF Band stationed at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. While in the service he looked forward to his visits to New York City where he studied with the finest teachers including Simeon Bellison on clarinet, Joe Allard on saxophone and Victor Goldring on flute.
After serving in the Army, Johnny joined Raymond Scott’s band in New York and later, the bands of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. On a trip to California with Benny Goodman, he decided to make Hollywood his new home, and began working as a studio woodwind player.
Johnny played in the reed section with Jerry Gray (arranger for Artie Shaw and chief arranger for The Glenn Miller Orchestra) on “Club 15”, a daily radio show on CBS featuring Bob Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, the Modernaires and Jo Stafford, and on all of Jerry Gray’s albums. Over the years he recorded with a wide range of artists, from Neil Diamond to Frank Zappa, was featured on the twin altos with the Billy Vaughn Orchestra and played on many sessions with Jimmie Haskell, Earle Hagen and Buddy Baker. He was a band regular on the “Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” and played on many other television shows, including Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra. In addition to studio work, Johnny enjoyed playing in the orchestra for Broadway shows and other theatre productions in Los Angeles.
A songwriter since his high school days, Johnny became a member of ASCAP in 1954. Always looking to improve his knowledge of music, he studied The Schillinger System of Musical Composition with Franklyn Marks, a longtime Walt Disney composer. He collaborated with such well-known lyricists as Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn, Ray Gilbert, Sidney Clare, Abbey Lincoln, Franz Steininger and Jerry Gladstone. Many of those collaborations are featured on his “Nothing But The Best” compilation CDs.