Personalities | Eric Johnson | Instrumental Ideal | Guitar Heroes
Defying categorization with his blend of rock, blues, country and melodic pop styles, Eric Johnson is highly revered by guitarists of all genres for his skill and perfectionism on stage and in the studio, and for his uniquely rich, overdriven tone.
Born in 1954, Johnson grew up in Austin, Texas. Encouraged by his parents, he started playing piano aged five and guitar at the age of 11. After hearing Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced (1967), he began experimenting with new sounds on the guitar. He formed a fusion band, The Electromagnetics, building a reputation around Texas in the mid-1970s, but his prospects were badly damaged when he signed a six-year contract with a production company that failed to release his album, Seven Worlds, recorded in 1977.
Playing local gigs and recording sessions with Cat Stevens, Carole King and Christopher Cross, Johnson resumed his career in 1984, signing to Warner Brothers (reportedly recommended by Prince) and releasing his first album, Tones (1986). Despite critical praise for his range of playing, the album did not sell commercially.
Johnson’s next album, Ah Via Musicom (1990), saw sales that matched the reviews. He won a Grammy for Best Instrumental with ‘White Cliffs Of Dover’. Venus Isle (1996) featured rock instrumentals, blues and jazz. In 1996, he was part of the first G3 guitarists tour of North America with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Johnson has since taken part in G3 tours of Asia (2000) and South America (2006). In 2006, Johnson took part in a theatrical production entitled ‘Primal Twang: The Legacy of the Guitar’, an examination of the guitar’s history. This was followed in 2007 by ‘Love-In: A Musical Celebration’, in which Johnson performed a set of Jimi Hendrix songs. Further homage to his hero came in 2014’s Experience Hendrix tour, when he appeared alongside Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde and Johnny Lang, among others.
Johnson’s quest for perfection has enhanced his cult status. Live & Beyond (2000), recorded with power trio Alien Love Child, was blues-oriented. Bloom (2005) was a reflection of his nomadic musical styles. Johnson mostly plays a Stratocaster, although he also plays vintage Gibson guitars and a Flying V. ‘I like them all,’ he told a journalist. ‘They’re all just different.’
Solo: Ah Via Musicom
Solo: Venus Isle
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