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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 recalled, "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 said, "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 testified, "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. A collaboration with jazz guitarist Mike Stern, Eclectic, appeared in 2014. ~ Bill Meredith, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Austin (Radio Single)

Comments

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The tone master is flawless
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Absolutely pleasing to the ear.
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... Okay... Good for you...
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I'm happy the drummer of twisted sister died.
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Remember walking into a music store on the drag across from UT in the 80's and hearing Tones. I asked the clerk who that was and have loved this album and Eric ever sense. Also saw him at AquaFest in 80's. Great memories!
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Went to school with him
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rccmsd
All that is gold does not glitter
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Ahhh the tone master strikes again
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This freaked me out. This isn't fake. Apparently, if you copy and paste this in ten comments in 10 minutes you'll have the best day of your life tomorrow. You will either be kissed or asked out. If you break this chain, you will see a little girl in your room tonight. In the next 4 minutes, someone will say I love you or I'm sorry.
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Eric Johnson is right up there with Hendrix, Page, and Clapton. A real guitar hero.
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rlburdge7
Got to meet Eric at a show not too long ago. Super nice guy with no ego whatsoever even though his guitar skills are some of the best on the planet.
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I saw him live and I was astonished! He's just as good live if not better!
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I'm psyched about the new album!
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not even CLOSE... what are you smoking Hedenberg?.. . if anything ,Satriani... still all in all very talented ...
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I used to know a local band in Arizona with a lefty guitarist that played this song to a tee. Really was something to see.
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Don't mess with Texas! This man is the truth! His style is totally unique and his tone is heaven sent.
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Check out Keith L Cooper guitarist.
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such an amazing guitar player!!!!
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i mainly like his cliffs of dover instrumental its awesome.
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a jimi hendrix wanna be
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Nice writeup, but also disagree with the comments on Venus Isle, which to me, represents a creative high point for EJ. It's a sonic tour de force!
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Some people leave mindless comments have no music values guess he has a little one
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Everyone who likes this guy also loves giant penis.
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Just a great guitar soloist and picker
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get it all name break is coming and so I'am Tor Nerheim! good to hear you again.
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venus isle is awesome. sounds forced???? critics are so ............ . . wrong. always. I really hate them. smug b**tards.
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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.
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tcookjw
Venus Isle is one of the most relaxing albums to enjoy.
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roco.6078
just listening is hard...
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seriously, u know how hard it is to play cliffs of dover? much less make it up?
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Eric Johnson is probrably the greatest guitar player ever, ok yall
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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...
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Saw him twice at crossroads in Nacogdoches , bunch a shitkickers in the place had no idea what they were witnessing.
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Real mature ........how old are you? get a real hobby or go to bed, think its past your bedtime.
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Eric Johnson likes Johnson's up his butt.
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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.
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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!
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SAW HIM IN EL PASO TX YEARS AGO FOR TEN BUCKS....GRE A T SHOW...WOULD B NICE TO C HIM W RYAN MCGARVEY....
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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...
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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
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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.
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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.
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skirtsoplain
greatness
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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.
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Can't Find the song SRV by Eric Johnson on Pandora...
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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.
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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
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Oh, another noodler...
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I can rock this sh!t out on Guitar Hero. I'm AWESOME!
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Ahhhhh, via musicon
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