Johnson performing with Black Star Riders 2014 in Munich at the Free & Easy Festival
|Birth name||Damon Rogers Johnson|
|Born||July 13, 1964|
Macon, Georgia, United States
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, musician|
Damon Rogers Johnson (born July 13, 1964) is an American guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, currently a solo artist and member of Thin Lizzy. In the 1990s he co-founded Brother Cane, and later joined Alice Cooper's band as lead guitarist. He was also the lead guitarist and co-songwriter for hard rock group Black Star Riders from 2012 to 2018. Johnson has also released several solo albums and his songs have been recorded by many artists including Stevie Nicks and Carlos Santana.
Johnson lived in Monroeville, Alabama during his grade school years. It was there that he became obsessed with guitar and formed his first garage band, called Renegade, with other 8th grade friends, Pat Buskill, Mac Baker, Allen Nettles and Troy Dobbins. He later moved with his family to Geraldine, Alabama where he graduated high school, all the while playing in various bands in the northeast Alabama area. He played with Pat Upton's band Headline to large crowds in Upton's bar, P.J.'s Alley in Guntersville, for three years.
An offer to join Split the Dark, an established band fronted by former members of the power-pop band Hotel, prompted Johnson's move to Birmingham, Alabama in 1987. Split the Dark was a very popular act on the Southeast US college club circuit, and had won the MTV "Basement Tapes" competition in 1986 but failed to secure a record deal. He would later get his first taste of "bands with record deals" as the guitarist for the Atlanta, Georgia band Witness in 1988, and with the Memphis, Tennessee band, Delta Rebels, in 1989. During this time he also performed with the bands Chinatown (with Eric Dover) and Chyld. It was with Chyld that Johnson garnered the attention of the A&R at Virgin Records. After securing a developmental deal in November 1990, the label eventually persuaded Johnson to take over the lead vocal position, and change the band's name to Brother Cane.
It was Brother Cane that would bring Johnson genuine national notoriety. The band released three albums on Virgin Records (the self-titled debut which sold 250,000 copies, Seeds, and Wishpool) that would yield three #1 singles on rock radio ("Got No Shame", "And Fools Shine On", and "I Lie in the Bed I Make"). "And Fools Shine On" was also featured in the horror film Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Brother Cane toured extensively as a headliner and also as a supporting act on tours by Van Halen, Aerosmith, Robert Plant, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Candlebox. After what Virgin Records considered an unsatisfactory yield for record sales, the band was released from their contract, and amicably disbanded in 1998.
In 2005, Brother Cane reunited to perform two shows, and performed again in 2012.
Post Brother Cane
Shortly before Brother Cane split, Johnson contributed songwriting and guitar duties to Sammy Hagar's Marching to Mars album in 1997. He later recorded an all-acoustic solo album, mostly consisting of his own compositions, (Dust - released in 2000). He also released albums with two different side projects (Slave to the System in 2001 and Red Halo in 2003) and played electric and acoustic guitars on Faith Hill's smash hit single, "Cry" in 2002.
Johnson briefly joined the band Damn Yankees with Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw, and Ted Nugent, and recorded an album that was never released. He also performed as lead guitarist for legendary rock vocalist John Waite during 2001–2003. In 2006, Johnson joined the country rock band Whiskey Falls. In 2009, Johnson was confirmed as a collaborator/performer for Queensrÿche's 10th studio album American Soldier.
Johnson co-wrote the song "Every Day" for Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks, which was released as the first single from her solo album, Trouble in Shangri-La in 2001. He also co-wrote the Carlos Santana song "Just Feel Better" with Jamie Houston and Buck Johnson, which featured vocalist Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. In 2010, Johnson recorded his own versions of both songs, which were included on his second acoustic solo album, Release, which also features a duet with his daughter Sarah Marlo Johnson as well as a guest appearance by Alice Cooper on vocal and harmonica.
Johnson was recruited for Alice Cooper's band in 2004. He co-wrote and recorded with Alice Cooper on his album Dirty Diamonds and toured with the band from 2004 to 2007, leaving to commit to his new band, Whiskey Falls. Johnson returned to the Alice Cooper Band in the summer of 2009, and was featured in Cooper's 2010 live concert DVD & CD, Theatre of Death – Live at Hammersmith. Johnson worked his fifth tour with Alice Cooper in 2011, and departed the band in September of that year to become a full member of Thin Lizzy. Cooper is also credited with assisting greatly in Johnson's beloved golf game, as the two played hundreds of rounds in their years of touring the world together.
In 2011, while playing with Alice Cooper, Johnson received a call from Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham, inviting him to replace temporary guitarist Richard Fortus in the band. Johnson had been a fan of the band since seeing them perform in 1979, and had recorded a version of the Thin Lizzy song "Borderline" on his first solo album, Dust, in 2000. With Cooper's blessing, Johnson accepted the offer and toured around the world with Thin Lizzy until early 2013. The line-up also included original drummer Brian Downey and keyboardist Darren Wharton. Johnson had always been influenced by the band: "Thin Lizzy has colored my career musically and in every aspect – as a performer, as a guitarist, as a songwriter." Gorham was very pleased with Johnson's appointment: "Everybody loves him to death. It's like a big happy family traveling all over the world again."
By 2012, Thin Lizzy were working towards recording new material, but the band members had doubts about recording new songs under the Thin Lizzy name without the band's original frontman Phil Lynott. Johnson later said that, if he were not in the band, he would not have been happy to see new recordings being released without Lynott. So the group decided to record under a different name and put Thin Lizzy on hiatus.
Black Star Riders
In December 2012, Johnson co-founded the Thin Lizzy spin-off band, Black Star Riders, whose first album All Hell Breaks Loose was released in May 2013. Johnson developed a songwriting partnership with frontman Ricky Warwick and the pair co-wrote all the songs on the album: "I joined Thin Lizzy because I wanted to play those great songs with Scott Gorham and Brian Downey. But let me be clear about this – I'm in the Black Star Riders because of Ricky Warwick."
After touring across Europe, the US and Japan throughout 2013 and the first half of 2014, Black Star Riders recorded their second album, The Killer Instinct, released in February 2015, reaching № 13 in the UK. Johnson stated: "The days of me hopscotching back to Alice Cooper or a Slave to the System album are past. This is the best band I've ever been in. We’re firing on all cylinders."
Black Star Riders' third album, Heavy Fire, was released on February 3, 2017, and was followed by tours of the UK and Europe, with further touring in the US during March and April 2018, alongside Judas Priest and Saxon. Heavy Fire reached № 6 in the UK album charts.
After the US tour, it was announced that Johnson would be leaving the band at the end of 2018 to concentrate on his solo career and session work. His replacement will be Christian Martucci of Stone Sour. The band undertook a tour of South America in November with Luke Morley of Thunder deputising for Johnson, before Johnson returns for further performances in the UK at the end of the year. Martucci will join the band in the studio in early 2019 to record their fourth album. Johnson stated, "Three excellent albums in six years with this great band is one of the proudest achievements of my career, and it has been glorious." He will continue to work with Thin Lizzy, and with Warwick as part of the Warwick Johnson acoustic duo.
After many years of performing solo acoustic shows in the US alongside his other commitments, Johnson played his first solo show in the UK, at The Iron Road in Evesham on October 14, 2014. In November 2014, he debuted his own hard rock trio featuring bass guitarist Tony Nagy and ex-Whiskey Falls drummer Jarred Pope, and performed several shows in the US during April 2015. Later that month he appeared as a guest on That Metal Show alongside Kirk Hammett and Michael Schenker.
During May and June 2015, Johnson performed an acoustic tour of the UK with Ricky Warwick. In August he performed a few shows in the US with The Dead Daisies supporting Whitesnake, temporarily filling in for guitarist David Lowy alongside his Thin Lizzy predecessor Richard Fortus and former Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders bassist Marco Mendoza. Johnson performed more acoustic UK shows with Ricky Warwick during September, and toured throughout November and December with Black Star Riders, including UK shows supporting Whitesnake and Def Leppard.
Johnson's next solo release, a five-track solo EP titled "Echo", was released on March 18, 2016. Recorded and mixed by The Killer Instinct producer Nick Raskulinecz, "Echo" represents Johnson's first fully electric solo release after the acoustic based albums Dust and Release. Also during 2016, Johnson performed several festival shows with Thin Lizzy, and worked on Black Star Riders' third album, Heavy Fire.
A live album, Birmingham Tonight, featuring Johnson, Nagy and Pope alongside second guitarist Tony Higbee, was recorded in Birmingham, Alabama on March 15, 2016. The album was released on September 22, 2017, and features songs from many of Johnson's projects so far. He said, "One of my friends described it as a musical anthology for the different paths my career has taken; that is a fairly accurate assessment."
During September and October 2018, Johnson performed another series of acoustic shows in the UK and Europe alongside Ricky Warwick, supported by Gill Montgomery of The Amorettes. Black Star Riders will also play a small number of shows in November and December, including a headline slot at the Planet Rockstock Festival on December 1. These shows will be Johnson's last with the band.
Johnson's latest solo album, Memoirs of an Uprising, was recorded during breaks in Black Star Riders' tour schedule over 2017 and early 2018, and ultimately became the launchpad for his fully focused career as a solo artist. The self-produced album was issued on Johnson's own Double Dragon Records imprint and was co-written with longtime friend Jim "Johnny Blade" Troglen.
Black Star Riders
Other songwriting contributions
- Stevie Nicks – Trouble in Shangri-La ("Every Day" – Johnson/Shanks)
- Ted Nugent – Craveman ("I Won’t Go Away" – Johnson/Nugent)
- Skid Row – Thickskin ("Ghost", "See You Around", "Down from Underground" – Johnson/Bolan/Sabo)
- Santana – All That I Am ("Just Feel Better" – Houston/Johnson/Johnson)
- Queensrÿche – American Soldier ("Middle of Hell", "Home Again" – Gray/Johnson/Rockenfield/Tate)
- "Interview: Thin Lizzy Guitarist Damon Johnson on Musical Diversity and the Art of Listening". Guitarworld. 25 January 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Interview with Damon Johnson". Sick Things UK. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "QUEENSRŸCHE: More 'American Soldier' Details Revealed". 12 February 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2014.[permanent dead link]
- "Damon Johnson: Hard Work Pays Off - A JAM Magazine Exclusive Interview". JAM magazine. February 2011. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "The Road". damonjohnson.com. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "On the Line with Damon Johnson of Black Star Riders". Journey of a Frontman. May 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
- "Interview: Black Star Riders Guitarist Damon Johnson Talks 'All Hell Breaks Loose' and Living Up to Thin Lizzy's Legacy". Guitarworld. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Damon Johnson on playing in Thin Lizzy spin-off Black Star Riders: 'We're crushing it every night.'". al.com. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Scott Gorham on Thin Lizzy playing Wolverhampton Civic Hall". Wolverhampton Express & Star. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Thin Lizzy to End, Black Star Riders to Begin". noise11.com. 20 December 2012.
- "Black Star Riders announce debut album title". Black Star Riders official website. 8 March 2013.
- "Lynott's legacy lives on – introducing the Black Star Riders". Malcolm Wyatt. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Black Star Riders to record new album this fall". Metal Underground. 27 January 2014.
- "Official Album Charts Top 100 – 10–16 February 2017". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- "BLACK STAR RIDERS Parts Ways With DAMON JOHNSON, Welcomes STONE SOUR's CHRISTIAN MARTUCCI". Blabbermouth. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
- "American guitarist to rock Evesham". Evesham Journal. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Whitesnake + The Dead Daisies color Connecticut purple". Loudwire. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
- "New DJ solo EP "Echo" available very soon". damonjohnson.com. 9 February 2016.
- "Damon Johnson - New Live Album, Birmingham Tonight". Bravewords. 10 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.