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24 Jul 2008

Unforgettable People (XXX): Davey Johnstone

Davey Johnstone was born May 6th, 1951 in Edinburgh, Scotland. By the age of seven he played the violin. His first guitar was a gift from his sister when he was eleven. He received his first album credit in 1968 while working with Noel Murphy, before joining the "Magna Carta" folk band, where he had two albums: "Songs from Wasties Orchard" in 1971 and "In Concert" in 1972 with Gus Dudgeon as the producer.

At Gus Dudgeon's request, Davey played on an album of poetry set to acoustic music by Bernie Taupin. It was through Bernie that Davey was then asked to play on Elton John's "Madman Across the Water". In 1972 he became a full-time band member.

In 1973, Davey released on Rocket Records his first solo album titled "Smiling Face".

Always the right-hand of Elton, apart from playing for Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper, in the late 70s and early 80s, Davey have had projects with other Elton band members: "China" with bandmates James Newton Howard and Roger Pope on drums, they released one album titled 'China' in 1977; "Warpipes" in 1991, along with Nigel Olsson on drums, Bob Birch on bass, Guy Babylon on keyboards and Billy Trudel on vocals, they released their only album titled "Holes in the Heavens" on self-owned label Artful Balance Records; Davey and John Jorgenson spent much of their off time creating a true masterpiece of acoustic instrumentation on an album titled "Crop Circles", released in 1998 on Solid Air Records. When time permits Davey continues to work on solo projects. Davey and his lyrics writing partner Steve Trudell have composed over 60 songs.

In 1996, Davey released a video of instructional guitar called Davey Johnstone Starlicks Master Session.

"In Guitarist" magazine, August 1997, Alice Cooper said: "Davey Johnstone was one of those great players who could play anything. I think if I were going to pick two guitar players that I was going to keep for the rest of my life, it would be Richie Sambora and Davey Johnstone. Davey's one of the great road guys of all time. He will probably still be on the road thirty years from now."

Working for Elton has the nice memories to Davey: "It's funny, the nice thing was being the only guitar player in that situation, Elton would sometimes say to me "I really hear this as being a guitar song... Can you come up with something?". For "The Bitch Is Back" he said play something like "diga diga diga diga diga diga diga diga bam bam bam bam" ... which is what I did!". Incredible!!!

And about the recurrent question about Elton writing songs very quickly, Davey added "He (Elton) comes in with the lyrics, and if he doesn't have it in twenty minutes he throws it out and tries another one. I have seen him literally sit down and run through a lyric one time and write the song! He did that with a song we wrote together called "Cage The Songbird" from the Blue Moves album. I played him this little fingerpicking acoustic piece and he went "that's beautiful... Wait a minute" and he pulled out a sheet of lyrics and said "play it again" which I did, he sang the lyrics, and literary that was it! That is very much the way he writes... very quickly".

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