Johnny A Driven
pledge news

Johnny A. gets down to essence of music
Michael-Louis Ingram
Poughkeepsie Journal

Johnny A. is a guitarist by trade and a blues rocker by design. Born in Salem, Mass., originally of Greek-American heritage, Johnny's last name was always getting butchered in the pronunciation.

"That goes way back man," says Johnny. "It's always been 'Johnny A.' since age 8."

Although Johnny A. played around with the drums, he took to guitar like sauce to ribsand it wasn't long before his proficiency was noticed by those around him. He began playing for and with several bands, doing what many musicians do -- make other musicians look good.

Johnny A.'s skills as a sideman would make him invaluable on tour and in the studio, but his soul was starving. When gigs weren't happening, Johnny A. was waiting for the phone to ring. Without the stage, that "A" could have stood for "Anonymous". Johnny's passion for rock, blues and pop songs eventually pushed him to learn how to read music. Driven by the genius of desperation, he decided to write his own songs. In his intent, Johnny looked to do what all great writers aspire to do -- translate their life experience in such a manner as to have as many as possible understand him.

What followed was a one man assault on the senses, as Johnny A. gathered from every source he could muster -- Chet Atkins, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Burrell and Jeff Beck all holding court in Johnny A.'s imagination. Calling upon those influences, Johnny A. emerged in virgin territory. Now the "A" stood for alone.

Which brings us to present day and an October afternoon at WKZE (98.1) in Sharon, Conn. Johnny A. performed during one of the station's popular Parlour Sessions, a series of lunchtime, in-studio concerts.

Station program director Andrew DiGiovanni recalled that when Johnny started playing, folks started responding.

"The switchboard was lit up big time," said DiGiovanni. "That session was one of the rockingest ever here. Because his (Johnny's) music crosses genres like it does, it was a perfect fit for our format. We just didn't expect everyone taking to it like they did."

CD reviewed: Johnny A. "sometime tuesday morning"
(Aglaophone Records)

The finished product from this guitar virtuoso has a special magic all it's own.

Johnny A. cranks out 12 instrumentals, with a 2-to-1 ratio of originals/covers. The four cover tunes: Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman," Lennon/McCartney's "Yes It Is," Willie Cobbs' "You Don't Love Me," and J.H.Smith's (The Ventures) "Walk Don't Run" are handled with such a gentle arrogance you forget someone else actually did those tunes.

Every nuance in The A.'s playing screams, "I gotcha," the ring of truth resounding throughout this personal statement -- without uttering a single word.

Everything in this CD envelopes the senses with images of drive-in theaters to night clubs, from driving down long stretches of sunset-laced highway to sleepin' "spoons" late in the Midnight Hour.

All 12 tunes speak through a singular voice -- Johnny A.'s guitar, with some righteous assistance from Craig Macintyre (drums) and Ed Spargo (electric bass). I don't know how long the other two have played with The A., but it's as if they understand how personal this is for Johnny and they let him say what he needs to without affecting the feel.

I first heard this courtesy of a colleague, whose husband was in the audience for an in-studio concert at radio station WKZE. Like day-old spaghetti sauce, the flavor was even better upon hearing it a second time. Convinced this was The Bomb, I contacted Johnny A. sometime last Tuesday morning and we chatted about the project.

"There's no manager, just me," said The A. "I could've went along playing rock, but I had this in me and it had to get out."

What Johnny managed to "get out" was the essence of every artist that plays, writes, dances, sings or paints for a living. All of his musical influences and inspirations come alive as aural realities instead of bombastic chordal clones of the people he's attempting to sound like.

Johnny's favorite on this are the title track, ("Sometime Tuesday Morning") "Oh Yeah," "Two Wheel Horse," "Wichita Lineman" and "Lullabye For Nicole" -- a jazzy number he wrote for his daughter.

If I never meet Johnny A. in person, I can honestly say that I know him from hearing this amazing music. I guess the "A" can now stand for "Adjective." Any word positively describing this work would still be one word short.

Thank you, Johnny, for reminding me to be true to myself in my craft. One of the best original works I have ever heard -- and most worthy of a permanent spot -- in the rotation. --

-Michael-Louis Ingram

Back to Archives


home news shows media biography shop contact press alist facebook twitter AmericanGuitaristTV