Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper)
Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper)
Singer? Songwriter? Guitarist? Damon Johnson is certainly all of the above. But as the pages continue to turn in the unfolding biography of this journeyman musician's life, we find that he is really and truly one thing: an entertainer.
"It's a rush to simply make people smile," Johnson says, as the tour bus rolls into yet another town during the massive Whiskey Falls radio tour to setup the band's first single, "Last Train Running." "When I was a kid we would watch the Midnight Special or the Grand Ole Opry and I always noticed people in the crowd smiling, dancing, singing...and I wondered what it must be like to have that effect on an audience. It's been a great feeling in recent years to actually accomplish that."
2007 is a major year in Johnson's life. His latest endeavor shows promise unlike anything he's ever been a part of. And you must understand that that's saying something substantial...when you consider an integrity-filled list of accomplishments that most musicians would literally "sell their souls" to attain. Damon reveals, with a calm and steady tone in his voice, his true feelings about the coming storm that is Whiskey Falls; a sensation that is poised to impact the nation with a sound, a feel, and a presentation unlike anything the music world has seen for quite some time.
"All the work, sweat, sacrifice and love of music has brought me to this place," Johnson says. "You see, the only thing I ever truly wanted was to be in a kick ass band. Period. I didn't want to be the frontman, the boss, the leader; I wanted to be a part of a team that is unified in what it wants to achieve, where it's going, and how it's going to get there. Whiskey Falls is that band. And I'm very grateful to be part of it."
With songs that a very good band would take four or five albums to develop the skills to write (if ever), and a harmony vocal blend that screams the influence of only the all-time greats in country and rock music, Whiskey Falls is a vehicle for Johnson and his three partners that can take them anywhere they want to go.
"We played Buck Owen's Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA a couple of weeks ago, and it was an out of body experience," Damon shares. "Not simply the place and the vibe, but more the performance of the band and the interaction with the crowd. You had every make and manner of country music fan in the audience, young and old. And you could see the look on their faces that they were seeing and hearing something new and special. We will never forget it."
To hear excitement like that in Johnson's voice is the sound of a man reborn; and in his case, perhaps for the third or fourth time. The rise and fall of Damon's first big band, Brother Cane, was a bumpy ride that would have sent most folks running for the security of a 9 to 5 existence, or "back to college". But our hero toughed it out and continued to hone his songwriting chops, landing cuts on albums by Stevie Nicks, Carlos Santana, Skid Row and Sammy Hagar. He played on recordings by Faith Hill, John Waite, Hagar and Ted Nugent. And yet the call of the stage was a constant howl in Johnson's ear as he fronted no less than three serious projects between '00 and '05 (Dragonfly, Red Halo, Slave to the System). But they were each loaded with obstacles that were quite frankly impossible to overcome without some stroke of divine intervention.
The closest thing to "divinity calling" came in the form of a tenure as lead guitarist for rock legend Alice Cooper. Damon did three tours with Alice and contributed songwriting and guitar skills to the Dirty Diamonds album ('05). "Best gig I ever had for sure," Johnson says. "Coop has his shit completely together: faith, family, music, and his golf game. I love Alice Cooper and all the guys in that band. I'll never forget it."
And then a phone call from his old friend Buck Johnson...
"In March of '06, I was on the road with Slave to the System between Alice tours; with no money, no bass player, and counting the days until Coop's next run of dates started," Damon recalls. "Buck called and said, 'Whiskey Falls is our future... the band we've always dreamed of.' He sent me some music, I spoke to Seven on the phone for about 10 minutes, and they flew me out for a photo shoot. I met Wally and the gang, we wrote some songs, and that was it. Done. Simple, perfect chemistry."
And country music? Try American music. Johnson has been writing American music since the first song he penned in Memphis with R.T. Scott many years ago. "I haven't had to change one single thing," Damon says. "Whiskey Falls is like my mother's kitchen. It is pure. It is home. It is so very good to my soul."