Interview with John Jorgenson
Ryan Summerlin August 9, 2012
I have the unusual distinction of an incredibly diverse career as a guitarist, from touring and recording with famous pop artists like Elton John, playing jazz venues and festivals around the world with my gypsy jazz quintet, founding the genre-busting guitar trio the Hellecasters, being named as Country Guitarist of the Year three times in a row, being cited as the main influence and inspiration to country star Brad Paisley and founding the hit-making California country-rock band the Desert Rose Band with Chris Hillman; also growing up studying classical music and playing traditional music styles like bluegrass with Earl Scruggs and Dixieland, not to mention my time as a studio musician with the likes of Johnny Cash to Bonnie Raitt.
The above is so varied that over the years I have been named one of the top 100 influential guitarists in the world by Guitar World magazine, had five No. 1 singles on country radio, a No. 1 jazz CD, top CDs of the year numerous times from The Los Angeles Times, “Guitar Player” magazine, “Acoustic Guitar” magazine, etc.
So I guess I would fit myself into the mix as a genre-spanning guitarist that has gathered audiences from many different musical worlds and has been lucky enough to have success in these different styles. I’m the only artist that consistently performs on both acoustic day and electric day at Guitar Town.
There are so many. Briefly, Roy Orbison, I found to be so very kind and considerate that he gave up his private dressing room so that a young KD Lang would have her own; Elton John informing his band that they had together played on the “biggest-selling single of all time, even bigger than the ‘Macarena,'” showing his wry sense of humor; Little Richard telling the band “we made his big toe rise up in his boot” because it sounded so great …. many more stories that are probably best told over a beer at some point.
I’m working on finishing up a CD of songs I wrote after resurrecting many of my guitars that had been damaged in the big flood of 2010 in Nashville. It has been delayed a couple times with some other issues (a mold infested studio due to an air conditioning problem) and a recent move from Tennessee back to my home state of California, but I’m hoping to finish it before this year is done. I am also writing material for a new CD with my quintet.
Sometimes events, such as the recent tragic suicide of a friend and colleague … and sometimes just the sound of a great guitar.
They call you the “de facto” creative director of Guitar Town. How did you come into that position?
I think that this happened because I have been part of so many different musical situations over my career, thus getting to know countless guitarists. I started to recommend friends to Guitar Town founder Bob Burwell, and he started to rely on my opinion and inside knowledge of the guitar scene to bring interesting talent to the mix. Also, as I knew many of the guitarists already as friends it was normal for me to organize the popular end-of-day jams where most all of the guitarists from the days’ shows will perform together onstage.
For me personally, on electric day I decided to showcase my country roots a bit more than I have in the past, and I decided to bring out pedal steel guitar legend Jay Dee Maness who played with me in the Desert Rose Band and is a guru to steel guitarists everywhere. That will really be a treat for the audience. Plus I have two members of the band Orleans with me, Lance and Lane Hoppen and former Elton John drummer, Charlie Morgan, so it is an all-new electric band for me; I’m very excited about that.
Kick ass guitar playing, phenomenal music (guitarists always play better when watched by other guitarists), great weather, intimate workshops, one of a kind jams … and I find that the returning guests are some of the nicest people I’ve come across.