Davey Johnstone

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Davey Johnstone
Johnstone in concert with Elton John, 2010
Johnstone in concert with Elton John, 2010
Background information
Birth nameDavid William Logan Johnstone[1]
Born (1951-05-06) 6 May 1951 (age 72)
Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Guitar
  • vocals
Years active1968–present

David William Logan Johnstone (born 6 May 1951) is a Scottish rock guitarist and vocalist, best known for his long-time collaboration with Elton John as a member of the Elton John Band.[2]


Johnstone was born in Edinburgh. At the age of seven, at primary school, he volunteered to learn the violin. But by the time he was 10 he was playing it "sideways like a guitar". One of his sisters then bought him a guitar for Christmas and by the age of 12 he was organising bands at his secondary school, Forrester High School. He had already decided he wanted to be a musician when he grew up.[3][4]

Johnstone's first work was with Noel Murphy in 1968, where he received his first album credit on the album Another Round. By 1969, Johnstone had secured regular work as a session musician, where he began to branch out and explore differing genres of music, and experiment with a variety of instruments. In 1970, when Lyell Tranter (one of the two guitarists in the acoustic British folk group Magna Carta) left the band, Johnstone took his place as a member. He recorded several albums with them beginning in 1970 on Seasons (1970), and continued to contribute to Songs from Wasties Orchard (1971) (named after the street where he lived in Long Hanborough, Oxfordshire), and a live album entitled In Concert.

During his stint with Magna Carta, Johnstone played a wide variety of instruments including guitar, mandolin, sitar, and dulcimer. He also caught producer Gus Dudgeon's attention during this time – Dudgeon asking Johnstone to play on Bernie Taupin's eponymous 1971 solo album, which resulted in a meeting with Elton John, and ultimately, Johnstone's playing on John's 1971 album Madman Across the Water, after which he was invited to join Elton John's band as a full member.[5] Previously, the Elton John Band consisted of John himself, bassist Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson.

Johnstone's debut album as a full-time member with John's band, was the 1972 Honky Chateau, on which he played electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and also sang backing vocals alongside Murray and Olsson. In 1972 he worked with Joan Armatrading and Pam Nestor on their Gus Dudgeon-produced debut album Whatever's for Us, playing acoustic and electric guitar on several tracks, and sitar on the song "Visionary Mountains".

Johnstone released a solo album, Smiling Face, in 1973 through The Rocket Record Company and created a short-lived band called China that released an eponymous album in 1977.

Even while playing alongside other artists such as Stevie Nicks, Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Johnstone was never very far from Elton's projects, and following his reunion with original bandmates Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray full-time for 1982's "Jump Up" tour, has rarely been absent from an Elton John album track or tour.[6]

In 1990, Johnstone collaborated for the first time with lyricist Steve Trudell. With music and lyric in place, the two formed Warpipes, which included past and present Elton John band members Nigel Olsson on drums, Bob Birch on bass, Guy Babylon on keyboards, along with Billy Trudel as vocalist. In 1991, Warpipes released their only album, Holes in the Heavens, on the label Artful Balance Records. When Artful Balance Records folded, Bridge Recordings released an eponymous album (with cover-art showing a space in the name: "War Pipes") which included all bar "Satellite City" from the "Holes..." album. The track order was also changed and three new tracks included: "Little Persuader", "Dust On My Boots" and "One Love True". Additionally, some of the tracks from the "Holes..." album were edited with consequent duration changes.

In 1991, Johnstone produced Addison Steel's Stormy Blue in which he played guitar, mandolin, sitar, and banjo, and performed vocals. Co-producer Guy Babylon joined with keyboard arrangements, alongside drummer Nigel Olsson and Billy Trudell adding percussion and vocals respectively.

In 1996, Johnstone released an instructional guitar video titled Davey Johnstone: Star Licks Master Sessions for Star Licks Productions, in which he plays a wide variety of John classics, joined by Billy Trudel on vocals and Bob Birch on bass. In 1997, while on tour with John, Johnstone and then Elton John bandmate and former Hellecasters guitarist John Jorgenson spent much of their off time creating Crop Circles, an album of acoustic instrumentation released in 1998.

On 10 June 2009, Johnstone played a landmark 2000th show as a member of the Elton John Band at the SECC in Glasgow, Scotland. He is currently serving as John's musical director, in addition to his guitar work, playing along with Nigel Olsson and John Mahon; he also performed with Bob Birch before Birch's death in August 2012.

In 2014, he played on "Belle Fleur" and "If You Were My Love" from Stevie Nicks' album 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault. He knew Nicks from when he played guitar on several songs from her 1981 album Bella Donna.[7]

On 1 October 2019, Johnstone performed his 3,000th show with Elton John at the first of two Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour stops at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.[8]

On 25 June 2023, he played with John at the Glastonbury Festival. The set was one of the headline acts and was billed as John's last live UK performance.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Johnstone lives in Los Angeles with his wife. The couple have seven children.[3][10]

Solo discography[edit]

  • Smiling Face (1973)
  • "Love Is a Crazy Feeling" (single – B-side "Burnin'") (1980)
  • Deeper Than My Roots (2022)


Johnstone performing in 2008

With Elton John

With Alice Cooper

With Joan Armatrading

With Eric Carmen

With Belinda Carlisle

With B.B. King

With Shaun Cassidy

With Ryan Malcolm

With Jimmy Webb

With Rick Astley

With Kiki Dee

  • Loving & Free (Rocket, 1973)
  • Kiki Dee (Rocket, 1977)
  • Stay With Me (Rocket, 1978)

With Brian Cadd

With Olivia Newton-John

With Bernie Taupin

With Rod Stewart

With Yvonne Elliman

  • Night Flight (RSO Records, 1978)
  • Yvonne (RSO Records, 1979)

With Vonda Shepard

  • Vonda Shepard (Reprise Records, 1989)

With Leo Sayer

With Stevie Nicks

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About". Davey Johnstone's official website. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  2. ^ Prato, Greg. "Biography: Davey Johnstone". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Sir Elton John's Scots musical director on his 2000 gigs with the star". Daily Record. 6 June 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  4. ^ "Elton and me, by the pop legend's Scottish guitarist Davey Johnstone". 12 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Davey Johnstone". Eltonjohn.com.
  6. ^ "Davey Johnstone – Biography". Billboard.com.
  7. ^ "Dave Stewart Entertainment". Davestewart.com.
  8. ^ "Review: Sir Elton John sparkles — in every sense — on farewell tour". The StarPhoenix. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  9. ^ Bates, Isabelle (25 June 2023). "Elton John's Glastonbury band members – from Hollywood movie star to playing with a Beatle". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 26 June 2023.
  10. ^ "Magic Johnstone in Las Vegas". YouTube. 18 October 2013. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.

External links[edit]