360 Thursday Artist: Eric Johnson
Starting this week, every thursday 360 blog will feature an artist. Some you might know, others you might not. We are always open to suggestions for upcoming posts so if you have any artists you would like to see featured please let us know either by contact or by comment at the bottom of the page.
History and Discography
This week we are going to dig into music to find our featured artist. This man has never played in a band really worth noting other than his own that is known by his name, so if you don’t know him your surely not alone. Born August 17 1954 Eric Johnson was born into a musical family. From his many siblings studying piano to his father being a singing enthusiast. Johnson was a natural at guitar and had considerable skill at an early age even playing with a local band called Mariani at just 15 years old! After high school and shortly attending the University of Texas in Austin, Eric joined a group called the “electrogagnets” with which he toured and recorded. Unfortunately the band disbanded 3 years later (1977) and was never signed to a record label.
EJ kept playing though, and after forming the Eric Johnson group he started getting noticed in the Austin music scene. With this group he recorded “seven worlds”, a record that came with many disputes over contracts and finances, making it delay release until the late 90’s. While this was going on Johnson started doing some guitar sessions with a few local artists, like Cat Stevens for one. By doing this Eric name kept getting bigger and he was soon noticed by Prince, Christopher Cross and Dave Tickle who all had a hand at getting him signed with Warner Brothers. 1986 saw Johnson’s release of his debut (major-label) album, “Tones”. In May of 1986 EJ was on the cover of Guitar Player Magazine, immediately making him a rising star as far as guitarists went. His song titled “Zap” was nominated for the 1987 grammy award for best rock instrumental performance, but even that couldn’t get him enough sales so Warner decided to let the contract expire. This proved to be a mistake as Eric kept playing and impressing everywhere he went getting more and more acclaim for his incredible guitar skills. After signing with Cinema Records (Capitol Records) he released “Ah Via Musicom” which went platinum. His hit song “Cliffs of dover” even won him the 1991 best rock instrumental award. After the release of the less successful “Venus Isle” Johnson was dropped yet again by his record company before finding a new success in a tour with fellow guitar legends Joe Satriani and Steve Vai called G3. The DVD that came of it went platinum. Eric’s next move was a live performance recording in 2000 (Alien Love Child) called “live and beyond”, and since Eric was not signed to any record company he decided to use Vai’s company, “Favored Nations.” Then it was back in the studio for “Souvenir”, an album that had 25 years worth of recordings all packed into the 2002 release. Johnson’s last album, Bloom” came in 2005 and was again released on the favored nations label. Since then Eric has been playing in music festivals, like Clapton’s “crossroads guitar festival” and has been involved in numerous gigs, such as a second G3 tour with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci, along with having his biggest hit “cliffs of dover” appear in the Guitar Hero III video game.
“Eric Johnson is best known for playing stock Fender Stratocaster and Gibson ES-335 electric guitars through a triple amp setup that consists of Fender Amplifiers, Dumble Amplifiers, and Marshall amplification. The Dumble amp has not made an appearance on his live performances for sometime since and including his best known live DVD at the Austin City Limits. Eric uses effects pedals such as a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Butler Tube Driver, TC Electronic Stereo Chorus, Dunlop Cry Baby wah-wah, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man Delay, an MXR Digital Delay, a Line 6 Echo Pro Studio Modeler, and a Maestro Echoplex tape delay of which all are connected to multiple A/B boxes to create sounds and tones that are both clean and distorted; Although the majority of Eric’s setup is predominantly vintage, he has recently started using more modern effects including a stereo chorus made by AnalogMan and a JTM45 vintage handwired re-issue from Marshall.”1
You can even buy signature model Stratocasters based on Eric’s specifications. Although it wont make you play like him at least you can look and feel like Eric. His violin-tone, amazing alternate picking and all around technique make him a living guitar god. There is even rumor that Eric can hear the juice left in batteries in his pedals and even the brand!
So I’ll leave you with a nice little video to show you what the man can do…