Personalities | Davey Johnstone | Versatility & Command | Guitar Heroes

Davey Johnstone (b. 1951) rocketed to fame with the Rocket Man himself, Elton John, as the former Reg Dwight exploded on to the music scene in the early 1970s, rising from thoughtful love balladeer to raucous glam rocker/showman to international pop-music institution and legend.

Except for a short period from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Johnstone always occupied the nucleus of John’s band, along with drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray, who died in 1992.

Johnstone was a busy studio acoustic guitarist when he was asked to join the British folk group Magna Carta. Johnstone was part of the band for three albums, during the recording of which he played a wide variety of instruments, including guitar, mandolin, sitar and dulcimer. Magna Carta producer Gus Dudgeon asked Johnstone to play on a self-titled 1970 solo album by a new artist, Bernie Taupin. Taupin’s collaborator, John, then invited Johnstone to play on his 1971 album Madman Across The Water. Johnstone found a sonic niche for himself on the prolific John’s piano-based arrangements, ranging from Madman’s moody atmospherics to the spacey effects of ‘Rocket Man’, on 1972’s Honky Chateau, to his signature crunch on ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973).

Johnstone did work with other acts occasionally, including future wife Kiki Dee, Joan Armatrading, Leo Sayer, Alice Cooper, The Who, Meat Loaf, Stevie Nicks, Yvonne Elliman, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, George Jones, Belinda Carlisle and Vonda Shepherd. The who’s who list is a testament to Johnstone’s versatility and command of genre. Johnstone also released a solo album, 1973’s Smiling Face, and has created the Warpipes project with other John alumni and a well-received album of acoustic instrumentation, 1998’s Crop Circles, with ex-John and Hellecasters guitarist John Jorgenson. In 1996, Johnstone released a video of instructional guitar called Davey Johnstone: Starlicks Master Sessions, on which he plays a wide variety of Elton John classics, joined by Billy Trudel on vocals and Bob Birch on bass. In 2009, Johnstone played his 2,000th show as a member of the Elton John band.

Essential Recordings

Elton John: Honky Chateau

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Solo: Smiling Face

with John Jorgenson: Crop Circles

Personalities | Adam Jones | Alternative all the Way | Guitar Heroes


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