Burt played with Joe DeCourcy's dance band on his return to Toronto in 1939 and then, after working 1941-2 in the USA as an arranger for Paul Whiteman's orchestra, spent three years as an RCN bandsman at HMCS York, Toronto. Subsequently he became a CBC arranger, writing for the orchestras of Geoffrey Waddington, John Adaskin ('Opportunity Knocks'), Jean Deslauriers, Samuel Hersenhoren, Paul Scherman, and others. His own trio (Stan Wilson, guitar; Sam Levine, bass) was heard on CBC radio 1946-8; his orchestra performed on 'Johnny Burt and Company' (1952) and on other CBC shows starring Elwood Glover, Wally Koster, and Gisèle (MacKenzie).
As music director 1962-72 for the CTL, Burt chose the label's artists and supervised their recordings. He himself made eight LPs of pop songs in orchestral, big band, and choral settings for CTL (including the label's first album), and others for RCA. Among his LPs are two (RCA CTLS-1100, RCA CAS-2406) by big bands, Dance to the Trombones (RCA CAS-997), and Around the World (RCA PCS-1199). His compositions included three commissions from 'Opportunity Knocks,' several NFB scores, Theme for Susan (his orchestra's theme song), and pieces recorded for the CTL by Henry Cuesta, John Perrone, Nat Raider, and others. Over 20 of Burt's songs were recorded for the Chappell Library of Background Music.
Author Helen McNamara
'Opportunity keeps knocking at Johnny Burt's door,' CanComp, 5, Jan 1966
'Johnny Burt: a Canadian point of view,' CanComp, 32, Sep 1968
Hickman, Jim. 'Johnny Burt's up-dated middle-of-the-road music,' CanComp, 74, Nov 1972