Artist Biography by Bill Meredith
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).
more at allmusic.com