By Andrew Catania
Eric Johnson began playing guitar at the age of 11. He played with his first touring
Eric Johnson recorded Seven Worlds his first solo album after the band’s break up.
It was in 1990 that Eric Johnson broke out of cult hero status among simply guitar cognoscenti and nabbed those two universally recognized standards of success in popular music: Eric sold over 1,000,000 copies of his Ah Via Musicom album and won a Grammy Award for 1991. Cliffs of Dover currently has over 9 million views on YouTube.
For the first twenty-five years of his solo career, Eric Johnson was famous (or notorious) for disappearing into the recording studio for years at a time, but since his albums Bloom in 2005 and Up Close five years later, he’s been recording on a more continual basis.
In 1996, Johnson joined Joe Satrani and Steve Vai for the G3 Tour. And even back
Johnson is best known for playing his stock Fender Stratocasters Signature Series and Gibson ES-335 electric guitars through a triple amp setup that consists of Fender, Dumble and Marshall amplifiers. Johnson has also played other guitar brands such as Robin, Rickenbacker, Jackson and a Charvel, which appears on the cover of the Ah Via Musicom album. In 2001, Johnson added a Gibson Custom Shop ’59 Les Paul Reissue to his guitars of choice.
Lots of guitar players are instrumental geniuses, but — hero worshippers are going to
Johnson will pull up a chair, hunker down and get to pickin’. It’s then you understand that he’s more than one of those guitar hero dudes. He is that, and most assuredly, as the notes often come in a dense blizzard. But he rarely crosses the line into silliness, even when he performs extended versions of his signature, Grammy-winning “Cliffs of Dover.” And he offers one of the most important signs that he’s a musician, not just a guitar hero, in that he performs the music of other players (he’s fond of Jimi Hendrix) as interpretations rather than covers. It’s cool to watch, and hardly ever boring, which is something that music lovers would have a difficult time saying about most guitar hero shows.
Have a look at our Current Issue “American Guitars”
Featured Interviews with Joe Bonamassa, and Greg Howe as well as Luthiers Gabriel Currie from EchoPark Guitars, John Monteleone, and a look at Benedetto Guitars after 48 years by CEO Howard Paul. The Photographers Vault by Derek Brad of his shoot of Joe Bonamassa at the State Theatre.