Say what you will about Eric Johnson, but the bottom line s that he’s on every legitimate list of great modern guitar players.
And well he should be.
The Austin-born guitar wiz made himself known as an accomplished studio session player before landing his own major-label record deal in the mid-1980s.
He hasn’t looked back since.
(photo courtesy of ericjohnson.com)
Picking up the guitar at age 11, Johnson quickly proved he was a natural at the instrument. Within five years, he was playing in local bands — and making a name for himself in the local club circuit.
Growing up immersed in Austin’s rich and famed musical culture, Johnson developed his own style by drawing on the blues, jazz, new age and rock influences around him.
“There’s always been great rock, and of course the blues and blues rock, but there’s also jazz, classical and all sorts of stuff going on in Austin all the time,” he told International Guitar Magazine earlier this year.
“It was the same when I was a kid, which is one of the things that got me into playing guitar in the first place,” Johnson said. “I’d go out and hear this great music going on everywhere. There were a lot of good bands that I’d see like the Georgetown Medical Band, Lavender Hill Express, and Shepherd’s Bush. There were a lot of really good bands.”
He was destined to become an Austin legend himself, alongside the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin. And before long Johnson was recording his own music.
Titled Seven Worlds, his first solo effort was recorded in 1978 — although it wasn’t released on a major label until 1998. By then Johnson was off on a successful recording career, and was two years removed from his internationally acclaimed G3 tour with guitar masters Stevie Vai and Joe Satriani.
Ultimately, Johnson didn’t gain the mainstream acclaim that he might have warranted. But he remains a guitar player’s guitar player — the man you want in the studio and on stage when you need the best.
(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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