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COWELL, Johnny January 11, 1926 - January 22, 2018 Johnny Cowell has been referred to by the World's International Trumpet Guild as one of Canada's most outstanding Trumpet soloists. Johnny died surrounded by his loving family on January 22, 2018 in his 93rd year. He has been the featured soloist with many Canadian symphony orchestras and concert bands. For a number of years during his association with the Toronto Symphony, he appeared as a soloist on the pop programs with conductors Richard Hayman and Newt Wayland and America's King of Pop Erich Kunzel. Erich Kunzel referred to Johnny as a combination of Wynton Marsalis, Maurice Andre with a good amount of Harry James thrown in for good measure. Johnny began his solo playing career at age 15 when he became the featured Trumpet soloist with the Toronto Symphony Concert Band which played a series of concerts over the CBC radio network. In 1942, at age 16, he played his first engagement with the Toronto Symphony. During the war years, he was the soloist with the Royal Canadian Navy Band. After his discharge from the Navy, he was awarded a scholarship in composition from the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. In addition to having a brilliant career as a Trumpet soloist, Johnny was one of Canada's best known commercial composers. John has had more than 100 of his songs recorded. Two of these have become international standards on the hit parade charts around the world: Walk Hand in Hand (1956) and Our Winter Love (1963). His song Stroll Along with the Blues was in a scene in the British comedy film " Two Way Stretch" featuring Peter Sellers. Walk Hand and Hand was featured in the movie "Withnail and I", in the TV series "Heartbeat" as well as "Call the Midwife". Just recently, another of Johnny's songs called These are the Young Years was featured in the TV series "Breaking Bad". Johnny retired from the Toronto Symphony after being associated with the orchestra for 40 years. After retiring, he was invited to become Principal Trumpet of the Toronto Philharmonic conducted by Kerry Stratton, a post he held for 10 years. Also for 8 years, he became one of the featured soloists with the Hannaford Street Silver Band. Johnny's hometown made him Tillsonburg's favourite son. He was awarded a star in the Scarborough Walk of Fame (2007). In 2005, he received the lifetime achievement award from the American and Canadian Federation of Musicians. Johnny's final appearance as a soloist was on February 13, 2016 at 90 years old with the Hannaford Youth Band of Canada conducted by Anita McAlister. One of the highlights of Johnny's solo playing career was when he was called to substitute for Doc Severinsen who had to cancel a solo engagement with the Hamilton Philharmonic. In 1984, Johnny was commissioned to compose a special fanfare for Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of the Metro Convention Centre. Johnny was the devoted and loving husband to his wife Joan, who sang with a number of dance bands in the Toronto area. Joan and Johnny met when they worked together in the same dance band. They have been married for 65 years. Dear and loving Father of Marcy (Michael), Grandfather and "Papa" to his much loved grandchildren Shawn, Patrick and Megan. Johnny will be missed by his loving niece Dianne of Norfolk, Virginia. Johnny composed and performed his own Trumpet Concerto with the Toronto Symphony in 1978. Since then, his concerto has been performed by Canadian and American Trumpet soloists in Canada and the United States. A Celebration of Life will be held for Johnny at a date tbd. Details will be posted at: Arrangements have been entrusted to the O'Neill Funeral Home, 905-642-2855. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Heart & Stroke Foundation would be appreciated by the family. If so desired, online condolences may be made at

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Published in Toronto Star on Jan. 27, 2018.
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Memories & Condolences
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14 entries
April 28, 2018
There's no other way to tell you this ... I loved Johnny Cowell! I am a non-descript trumpet player, now 90 years old, but I can remember the first time I ever heard him play ... we were both young then, and it was in Varsity stadium at a concert with the Toronto Symphony, probably about 1950 sometime, in Varsity Stadium in Toronto .... I just couldn't believe what a beautiful sound this guy had!

But that not's what I want to tell you about .... Fast forward another fifty years or so. I'm retired by then and a member of St. Paul's United Church in Milton, Ontario. For about twenty years I played trumpet along with the hymns every Sunday .... that was about as good as I got as a player, but it moved a lot of people, and made me a lot of friends.
At that time Terry Stratton had his Toronto orchestra booked into St. Paul's as part of a regular series, and Johnny was the principal trumpet player! I was in heaven! Quite frankly, I don't remember whether he was featured in any of the programmes, but what I do remember, and cherish, are the intermissions. I always spoke to him then and what I remember is that he was always so wonderfully happy to be remembered, and so gracious! What a shame that such a beautiful guy has gone! Tonight I was at a concert here in Milton where a very talented young guy performed one of Johnny's compositions .... lovely to hear, but what a shame that Johnny wasn't here to hear it also!.... Jim Hawkins, Milton, Ont.
March 8, 2018
I enjoyed chatting during lunch with Johnny and Joan while we enjoyed the views over Fairy Lake at the Deerhurst Resort, a couple of summers in the Nineties, when we were playing in the Huntsville Festival Orchestra. I can picture him now driving his white Lincoln Continental, and wowing the audience while playing the Theme and Variations from "The Carnival of Venice."
David Lasker
February 10, 2018
Dear family,
On December 18, 1956, we Walked Hand in Hand down the aisle.
We were able to thank Johnny when he performed at the Hamilton Philharmonic.
Larry & Marnie Paikin
Larry Paikin
February 7, 2018
My deepest sympathies.
Doreen Ruso
February 5, 2018
My brother, Angelo, and I delivered the Star newspaper to the Cowell residence for many years. Mr. Cowell was always so gentle, kind and dignified. I can picture him perfectly dressed behind the wheel of Cadillac. Most sincere condolences to Mrs. Cowell and Marcy.
Erwin Miranda
February 1, 2018
Joan and Family,

Johnny will be deeply missed. He was a very kind and gentle man and a great neighbour.

In Sympathy, Debbie, Glen & Ryan Arnott
Debbie & Glen Arnott
January 31, 2018
Our deepest and most sincere condolences to you all from the Carruthers family. A brilliant musician and real human being.
sandy carruthers
January 30, 2018
So very sad to hear the news of Johnny's passing.
I recall meeting and developing a friendship with Johnny during the seventies when he would come to the Post Office where I worked to mail his manuscripts etc.
It was then I discovered that he was the composer of "Walk Hand in Hand," a song I would hear my Mom sing along to when it would come on the radio "in the day."
As well as being a gifted artist, Johnny was a true Gentleman in every a respect and a very humble person.
It was always my desire to see him being awarded more for the great achievements he accomplished in the world of music.
Johnny Cowell was a very special and unique friend for me to have.
I will always think of him and forever miss his his presence.
Ron Jones
January 28, 2018
I am so sorry for your loss Joan..My thoughts are with you.Love Patty
Patty Van Evera
January 28, 2018
Our deepest sympathies to Joan and all the family
Pauline and Herman Glasgow
January 28, 2018
Deeply sorry. I just hope that Jack was well enough to see the birthday card and the pictures of the Tillsonburg shoe company picnic in which he and his father were shown. Jack was a member of the Tillsonburg band before the age of ten.My brother Max and my father and Jack's father Tom also played in Capp Watt's community band. Our friendship goes a long way back and even when we infrequently met, the bonds of friendship never faltered. I will be 93 in May and it is very sad to miss such a wonderful friend as Jack.
Jack Neale
January 28, 2018
Our deepest sympathy to Joan and her family
Joan and Bill Alkerton
Joan Alkerton
January 27, 2018
January 27, 2018
Deepest sympathies to the family and fondest memories of a truly wonderful and kind neighbour.
John Crookshank
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