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Eric Johnson

Very few musical artists achieve a true signature style -- one that makes comparisons to other musicians impossible. But Texas guitarist Eric Johnson arguably comes as close to this echelon as any musician from the past quarter-century. Like fellow Lone Star State guitarists Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnson blends the rock style of Jimi Hendrix and the blues power of Albert King. Yet Johnson's wide array of additional influences (from the Beatles and Jeff Beck to jazz and Chet Atkins) makes for a guitar sound as unique as his fingerprints.

"When I first heard Eric," Winter recalls, "he was only 16, and I remember wishing that I could have played like that at that age." Former Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter says, "If Jimi Hendrix had gone on to study with Howard Roberts for about eight years, you'd have what this kid strikes me as." The Austin prodigy appeared on the cover of Guitar Player magazine while working with Texas jazz/fusion band the Electromagnets and as a session player (Cat Stevens, Carole King, Christopher Cross), and a 1984 performance on the TV show Austin City Limits set his recording career in motion.

Johnson's 1986 debut album, Tones, certainly proved that the hype was warranted. Playing with the ace rhythm section of bassist Roscoe Beck and drummer Tommy Taylor, Johnson mixed blazing instrumentals ("Zap," "Victory") with Beatles-influenced vocal tunes like "Emerald Eyes" and "Bristol Shore." Johnson used the same half-and-half format on the 1990 follow-up, Ah Via Musicom, but a trio of the album's tunes surprisingly made him the first artist to have three instrumentals from the same album to chart in the Top Ten in any format (with "Cliffs of Dover" earning Johnson a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental).

But, if Johnson had a perceived weakness, it was the perfectionism that caused four years to pass between recordings. Even in concert, he would painstakingly tune his guitar between songs, by ear, for minutes on end. With the success of Ah Via Musicom, the guitarist admitted to feeling pressure to raise the bar again. But Johnson's studio nitpicking delayed Venus Isle until 1996, and the disappointing CD contained fewer instrumentals and sounded forced.

A stint on the 1997 G3 tour with fellow headlining guitarists Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and its resulting live release, breathed new life into Johnson and sparked the idea of a live album. Overhauling his band for the 2000 CD Live and Beyond, Johnson brought in bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Bill Maddox, and concentrated on more of a blues feel. The guitarist still blended instrumentals with his vocal tunes ("Shape I'm In," "Last House on the Block"), but perhaps realized that his thin voice was too one-dimensional for guttural blues or R&B. Guest vocalist Malford Milligan ignites "Don't Cha Know" and "Once a Part of Me," helping Johnson's blazing debut on Vai's Favored Nations label and reestablishing the versatile virtuoso's status for the 21st century. As Vai himself testifies, "Eric has more colorful tone in his fingers than Van Gogh had on his palette."

Souvenir, an album available only through Johnson's website, appeared in 2002, followed by CD and DVD versions of New West's Live from Austin, TX and Bloom, the second album for Vai's Favored Nations imprint, in 2005. Johnson returned in 2010 with Up Close, a studio album that slightly emphasized the guitarist's Texas roots. ~ Bill Meredith, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Austin (Radio Single)

Comments

Some people leave mindless comments have no music values guess he has a little one
Everyone who likes this guy also loves giant penis.
Just a great guitar soloist and picker
get it all name break is coming and so I'am Tor Nerheim! good to hear you again.
venus isle is awesome. sounds forced???? critics are so ............ . . wrong. always. I really hate them. smug b**tards.
Cliffs of Dover is extremely hard to play. That alone makes Eric Johnson my favorite Guitarist ever. Doesnt help i liked it before i tried to play it.
Venus Isle is one of the most relaxing albums to enjoy.
roco.6078
just listening is hard...
seriously, u know how hard it is to play cliffs of dover? much less make it up?
Eric Johnson is probrably the greatest guitar player ever, ok yall
Ive see some guys in LA just playing small venues to just get out there and the same thing! Absolutely no respect.I watched Frank Gambali get booed off stage... sad that it happens even in LA...
Saw him twice at crossroads in Nacogdoches , bunch a shitkickers in the place had no idea what they were witnessing.
Real mature ........how old are you? get a real hobby or go to bed, think its past your bedtime.
Eric Johnson likes Johnson's up his butt.
rbwhisk
I meet a woman and I ask what kinda music you like? Srv? Van halen? Satch? And she goes , huh. Wazzzzz up with that? I guess there is wine drinkers and fine scotch drinkers.
mewilcox5
I lived in Austin in the 80s and saw him in concert many times. My favorite show was sometime in the 80s - Eric Johnson opened for Stevie Ray at the Bronco Bowl in Oak Cliff (Dallas) - awesome!
SAW HIM IN EL PASO TX YEARS AGO FOR TEN BUCKS....GRE A T SHOW...WOULD B NICE TO C HIM W RYAN MCGARVEY....
mythrowaway3
Have seen him several times live, and he's always impressed, but when he opened for Santana at Fair Park (Dallas, '86, I think), Carlos simply blew him off the stage. Still a Texas favorite, tho...
My brother has talked about Eric Johnson for several years, my brother is a fantastic guitar player and has a lot of unique and rare equipment from the 1960's. He has over time got to know Eric and has bought amps and other equipment from Eric and sold the same to Eric. Whenever my brother and I are together (which is not near often enough!) we talk about guitars and guitar players. Last week I was with my brother and he said he was able to go backstage and visit with Eric a few weeks ago, so I
Eric is an amazing guitarist. I would never compare him to Gibbons or Winters. In my opinion they pale in comparison to Eric Johnson. But, his confidence as a guitarist is similar to SRV.
acerj08
I see one other person recommended adding songs from Venus Isle
2 years ago. So what's happening with that ? I think it is by far his best work and the music is majestic. I've never heard anyone replicate his sound.
skirtsoplain
greatness
This album is one of his greatest, in my opinion. I wore out the cassette tape on my walkman listening to it so much when it was first released in the 90's.
Can't Find the song SRV by Eric Johnson on Pandora...
Cliffs of Dover will become one of the songs that will stand the test of time and people, 25 years from now, will still bob their head and tap their foot. Plays so clean and clear. Best song in his reportoire.
so as a guitarist you can play 72/ notes and arpeggio sweeps combined with bluesy 7ths and finger pick double 4 time as well as sing, let me know where to find you on Pandora mate. just asking
Oh, another noodler...
I can rock this sh!t out on Guitar Hero. I'm AWESOME!
Ahhhhh, via musicon
kvons1
@ i.danielsjr1 - - - - t h a n k s , I'll check it out.
Hay kvons1 try streaming NOLA's WWOZ....Will also hear Eric Johnson there occasionally . . .
kvons1
Eric Johnson---gr e a t artist and guitarist. I remember times when you could hear great stuff like this all the time for free on the better FM rock stations before sheer $$$ greed $$$ decimated the entire concept of free music to the public via a decent broadcast media (FM / Stereo) Now FM is all Talk Radio just like AM except (wow!!) in STEREO---wha t a total waste and sham!!
Eric Johnson, take me away.
I would love to see him play with Billy Sheehan, I grew up with TALAS in Buffalo and watched Billy with my mouth wide open, and now dang him and guys kike Eric would blow me away, I would drool for hours on end.
I admire his technical prowess but when compared to artists like Frisell, Scofield, Metheny. Albert King, Calvin Keys, John Lee Hooker, Clapton, to mention a few, to my ears he is a journeyman.
I have seen many legendary guitarists. Eric was maybe the best.
Stunning, beautiful, powerful and memorable. Thank you Pandora for bringing Eric's work to my ears. Now I'm following him.
I was in a really foul mood...horri b l e . . r e a l l y ! and well, after cliffs of dover Im feeling much cooler....wh e w ! Thanks EJ
loveallartis t s
If you cannot appreciate the gift that is Eric's music then you have no clue as to what music is
bachgogi1
someone quoted.....E r i c isno Joe Bonamassa, but close
are you kidding me.......
Saw him play at Berkeley in Boston. Room full of musicians and music nuts. He came out, said he couldn't sing because he was sick. He promised to refund anyone who wasn't happy with the show. Then, he proceeded to blow us all away. AMAZING musician. Cliffs of Dover is one of the great songs of our time. And, it may not even be the best song on Ah Via Musicom!
kvons1
Outstanding artist and guitarist, no Joe Bonamassa, but close!
Wish Eric Johnson would do a show in San Francisco... . S a w him thirty (!) years ago at GI.T. in Hollywood. I was arms length from the A/V monitor! an OMG is apt.....What that kid did to his guitar ...potential i z e d it...it was so cool....Id love to see him jam with Mike Stern.....be t it would be interesting!
Don't know who eric johnson is but I'm on tha lookout from now on this is nice and tight !
dbrown0840
still phenomenal and still at the top of the best!! Can't get enough...
Dont get me wrong...love this guys playing...(i n c r e d i b l e ) butI just cant get over how much we miss because of the sound quality....I keep glancing at my computer..., i t must suck LOL
This guy EFF---ING RIPS YOUR SOUL TO PIECES AND SH*TS ALL OVER YOU. In a good way.
I agree the quality is a little muddy. Eric's incredible precise playing shines through though.
Saw Eric at GIT whilst a student...it was wonderful!.. . . b u t this recording... A u s t i n Live...sound s like something in the mixer was wrong....sou n d s uncharacteri s t i c a l l y disjointed and muddy,....st i l l music to my poor ears though.
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