Eric Johnson to play at Railroad Blues

by dentonramsey

Eric Johnson to play at Railroad Blues

By Denton Ramsey / Staff Writer

Eric Johnson, the Grammy-award winning guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer, will bring his three-decade journey to Alpine’s Railroad Blues on Wednesday, March 29.

Johnson will be playing with his full band at the Blues and tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased at either Railroad Blues or TransPecos Guitars.

Johnson is on a short list of all-time guitar heroes, but his creative paths have taken some very interesting twists and turns along the way. He has earned critical and commercial success from both his peers and unabashed devotion from his fans.

Johnson’s 2005 Favored Nations studio album “Bloom” features 16 new songs ranging the stylistic gamut, which has always been Johnson’s approach on his solo albums.

Johnson is a native of Austin, which has been and continues to be steeped in both blues and country music. But Johnson’s music reflects a broader range of influences in addition to blues and country, particularly pop, rock and jazz/fusion.

By the time Johnson had reached his teens, he was making musical waves on the Austin scene. At 16, he was a member of a band called “Mariani,” and by 21, he was part of “Electromagnets,” a jazz-rock band with an intense cult following.

His first album, “Seven Worlds,” was recorded between 1976 and 1978, but it was not released to the public until 1998. Ark 21 issued the album with Johnson’s blessing as a previous manager owned the rights to “Seven Worlds.”

Johnson’s incredible musical reputation in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s led to session work with the likes of Cat Stevens, Carole King and Christopher Cross. And in 1980, he played on Cross’ Grammy-sweeping, self-titled debut album.

One of the most important breaks of Johnson’s career was a 1984 appearance on the PBS television show “Austin City Limits.” Reportedly, Prince saw Johnson’s performance and recommended him to his label, Warner Bros. Records. The Warner subsidiary, Reprise Records, signed Johnson, and “Tones” was released in 1986. Prince band members Wendy and Lisa even sang un-credited background vocals. The song “Zap” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental. Johnson had already earned considerable coverage from the guitar magazines up to this point, and their chronicling of his career increased rapidly.

Johnson’s breakthrough into the mainstream occurred with 1990’s Capitol release “Ah Via Musicom” as the instrumental song “Cliffs of Dover” enjoyed mountains of radio airplay across multiple formats. The platinum-selling album was nominated for a Grammy and “Cliffs of Dover” earned Johnson a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental, topping fellow nominees The Allman Brothers Band, Danny Gatton, Rush and Yes. The smooth, supple instrumental “Trademark” is another highlight as “Ah Via Musicom” gave Johnson the distinction of being the first artist to have three instrumentals from one album reach the Top 10 in any format. He spent the next three years on the road promoting “Ah Via Musicom” and then toured with B.B. King and contributed to albums by Chet Atkins and Dweezil Zappa.

In 1996, Johnson returned with “Venus Isle” on Capitol. Notable songs from that album include “S.R.V.” (a tribute to his friend, fellow Austin native and guitar legend, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan) and “Manhattan.” This album illustrated Johnson’s growth as a songwriter, producer, vocalist and, perhaps most surprisingly, keyboardist. He promoted the album with the massively successful, first-ever G3 tour, which also featured his friends and fellow guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. The live album and VHS home video “G3 Live in Concert” followed in 1997; the DVD home video reissue came along three years later. The video has been certified platinum.

One of Johnson’s favorite side projects, apart from his own albums and being a guest on other artists’ albums, is the blues trio Alien Love Child. The group’s 2000 album “Live and Beyond” was Johnson’s first project for Favored Nations, Vai’s label. The song “Rain” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental.

2002 saw the release of “Souvenir.” This popular collection of 12 previously-unreleased demos, outtakes and live recordings spanning his entire career is available only through or at his shows.

Johnson went on to surprise his fans, yet again, with a solo acoustic tour in 2004 showcasing his acoustic guitar and piano skills. Martin Guitars also honored him with his own signature acoustic model. That summer, he was invited by Eric Clapton to take part in the Crossroads Guitar Festival.

A perennial favorite at the Austin Music Awards, Johnson and his band members won a variety of awards in March 2005 for the 2004-05 time period. Johnson won Austin Musician of the Year, Best Electric Guitarist and Best Acoustic Guitarist, as well as placing high in male vocalist, keyboardist and songwriting categories. Chris Maresh was named Best Bassist and Tommy Taylor earned Best Drummer honors.

In January, Johnson joined Fender at the NAMM trade show in Anaheim, Calif., to introduce his own new Fender Signature Series Stratocaster guitar.

For more information, including Johnson’s complete discography, visit and make sure to come see this historical guitarist-legend live at the Blues on Wednesday, March 29.