John Turner began his musical career as a church pianist at the age of nine in his hometown of Fairfield, Iowa. While in high school he was invited to join a local professional dance band called the Aristocrats. He joined the United States Air Force in 1968 as a bandsman and served over twenty years before retiring in 1989. His last assignment before retirement was as pianist and chief arranger for the USAF Academy Band in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He finished his undergraduate degree in music after retirement and obtained a Master of Music degree in composition from the University of Colorado in 1995.