Eric Johnson page

Eric Johnson at the House of Blues, 2007

Eric Johnson (born August 17, 1954) is a guitarist and recording artist from Austin, Texas. Best known for his success in the instrumental rock format, Johnson regularly incorporates jazz, fusion, New Age, and country and western elements into his recordings.[1]

Guitar Player magazine calls Johnson “One of the most respected guitarists on the planet”.[2] Johnson composes and plays not just instrumental songs, but also sings and plays piano.

Widely recognized for his guitar skills, Johnson’s stylistic diversity and technical proficiency have drawn praise from Carlos Santana, Allan Holdsworth, Larry Carlton, Steve Morse, Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter, Jeff Baxter, Prince, B.B. King, Rusty Burns, Joe Satriani and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. His critically-acclaimed, platinum selling 1990 recording Ah Via Musicom produced the single “Cliffs of Dover“, for which Johnson won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.[3]

After graduating from Holy Cross High School, Johnson briefly attended the University of Texas at Austin and traveled with his family to Africa. He eventually returned to Austin, and in 1974 joined the local fusion group Electromagnets. The group toured and recorded regionally, but failed to attract attention from major record labels and disbanded in 1977. However, the strength of Johnson’s playing attracted a small cult following to the group’s early recordings, and decades later their two albums were given wide release on compact disc.[8][9] In addition to his career as a guitarist, Johnson is also known for his vocals.

Following the demise of the Electromagnets, Johnson formed a touring trio, the Eric Johnson Group, with drummer Bill Maddox and bassist Kyle Brock. They played to respectable audiences on the Austin music scene, and in 1978 recorded a full length album entitled Seven Worlds. Although the album showcased Johnson’s considerable playing ability, a combination of contract disputes, financial wrangling, and mismanagement held up the album’s release – and Johnson’s career – for several years. True to form, Seven Worlds was released two full decades later in 1998 on Ark21 Records after Johnson secured the rights to the master recordings[10][11]

Unable to secure a new management contract, Johnson nonetheless continued to build his professional reputation by working as a session guitarist for nationally known and regional acts, appearing on recordings by Cat Stevens,[12] Carole King,[13] and Christopher Cross[14] among others. All the while, he continued to toil on the local scene, thrilling audiences with his flashy-yet tasteful-electric guitar playing. His career rebounded in 1984 when pop superstar Prince caught one of Johnson’s performances on the public television program Austin City Limits. Despite the story of Johnson being signed to Warner Brothers courtesy of Prince, it was singer Christopher Cross and producer David Tickle who recommended Johnson to be signed to the label. 1986 saw the release of Johnson’s major-label debut, Tones with Tickle as co-producer.[15]

Johnson’s May 1986 Guitar Player magazine cover story “Who Is Eric Johnson and Why Is He On Our Cover” was a successful risky bold move that helped promote the release of Tones which brought Johnson considerable praise, if not widespread commercial success, and raised his profile in the guitar and music community.[16] Despite the track “Zap” being nominated for the 1987 Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy Award, the album did not sell well, and soon after Warner Bros. let Johnson’s contract expire. He signed on with indie label Cinema Records which was distributed by Capitol Records.[17]

By the time Johnson released his Capitol Records debut Ah Via Musicom in 1990, he was a bona fide “guitar hero,”[citation needed] regularly winning awards for his musicianship in the guitar press. During this period, Johnson was also drawing recognition for the rich, violin-like tone he coaxed from his vintage Fender Stratocaster. The album’s second cut, “Cliffs of Dover“, exemplified his unique sound and won Johnson a 1991 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Ah Via Musicom was a crossover hit, and was soon certified platinum. A 5.1 DVD-Audio version of Ah Via Musicom was released in 2002 from Capitol Records without Johnson’s input, but was soon dropped. Johnson apologized to fans on his website for the DVD-Audio release.[18]

Johnson is an admitted perfectionist, and those traits seemed to work against Ah Via Musicom’s follow-up release. Unhappy with his recordings, Johnson mastered—then subsequently scrapped—several completed tracks for the new album and delayed its release for a period of six years. In actuality it took three years to complete the album as Johnson toured for three years supporting Ah Via Musicom, and dealing with setbacks involving musical growth, and personal issues while recording his next album Venus Isle.[19][20]

When Venus Isle was finally released on September 3, 1996, it received mixed reviews and did not match the success of its predecessor. The album at this time has sold 250,000 units and Johnson was dropped from Capitol Records soon after that. It was a unique album with world influences in which it demonstrated Eric Johnson’s growth as a guitarist, songwriter, producer, arranger, and vocalist. The Venus Isle title track showcased the talents of musician AmitChatterjee.

A successful month long tour from October to November 1996 with fellow guitarists Joe Satriani and Steve Vai named the G3 (tour), resulted in a successful platinum selling compact disc and DVD titled G3: Live in Concert.

In 1998, Eric Johnson was among the judges in Musician magazine’s Best Unsigned Bands competition, along with Ani DiFranco, Moby, Art Alexakis of Everclear, Keb’ Mo’, and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.[21]

In 1994, Johnson had formed a side project called Alien Love Child and played shows sporadically while Johnson was recording Venus Isle. The positive fan feedback from the shows made Alien Love Child a permanent gig where a live performance recording, Live And Beyond,was finally released in 2000 on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label, showcasing new songs. The Alien Love Child project helped free Johnson’s perfectionism involving recording music and obsessive tinkering with guitar equipment gear.[22][23][24]

Johnson eventually returned to the recording studio, releasing Souvenir, an Internet release, in January 2002 on his own Vortexan Records. The album received nearly 65,000 plays in the first 7 weeks it was made available on mp3.com.[25]Johnson promoted Souvenir with an electric tour in 2003 and an acoustic tour in 2004.[26][27]

In 2004, Eric Johnson was invited by Eric Clapton to perform at Clapton’s successful Crossroads Guitar Festival. According to Johnson, he was scheduled to perform onstage with Clapton, but the opportunity fell through.[28]

Johnson’s next studio album Bloom was released in June 2005 also on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. The album was divided into three sections based on vibe of songs that showcased Johnson’s musical versatility.[29] His December 1988 Austin City Limits performance was released on both DVD and compact disc on New West Records in November 2005. His instructional guitar DVD, The Art of Guitar, (Hal Leonard Corporation) was also released at the end of 2005.

In January 2006, an individual named Brian Sparks was arrested for posing as Johnson by bilking businesses out of about $18,000 worth of guitars and equipment.[30]. Also in 2006, Johnson’s guitars that were stolen 24 years ago, were recovered.[31]

In September 2006, Eric Johnson took part in a theatrical production titled “Primal Twang: The Legacy of the Guitar” – the first definitive theatrical journey through the guitar’s colorful and surprisingly controversial 3500-year history, filmed by the Adams Entertainment Group. In September 2007, Johnson took part in a second theatrical production by Adams Entertainment titled “Love In: A Musical Celebration” in which he performed a Jimi Hendrix set which paid tribute to the year 1967 “The Summer Of Love”.[32] Also in late 2006 Johnson also took part in a second G3 (tour) in South America with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci.

Johnson’s current projects did include an all-acoustic project[33] and a live video from his 2006 Tour with Joe Satriani.[34] However these have been shelved, as Johnson is cutting a new studio album at this time.[35]

His hit single “Cliffs of Dover” appears in the game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. In addition, Johnson is currently a featured instructor at Web site http://www.guitarinstructor.com.

Adapted from wikipedia

Recommendations: Venus Isle; G3 Live in Concert;

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