You could argue that Johnny A. was a viral music pioneer and you wouldn't be wrong.
After years as a sideman with Santana percussionist Mingo Lewis, Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug Clifford and Derek & the Dominos keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, Johnny A. spent seven years as guitarist and musical director for Peter Wolf.
Then, finally, at the age of 46, he launched his solo career with the independent release of his debut CD Sometime Tuesday Morning in 1999. Two years later, Steve Vai picked it up and re-released it on his Favored Nations Entertainment label and Johnny A. went from local guy (he's from Malden) to national presence. He moved from sideman to frontman, and from anonymity into the musical mainstream, propelled by the single "Oh Yeah" and countless radio appearances.
These days, Johnny A. is not only still going strong with a new CD, Driven, he's also coming to town. He'll be at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, N.H., on Friday, July 11, at 8 p.m. There are a few tickets remaining on sale for $35 and $30 at tickets.tupelohall.com.
I've had the good fortune to see him in concert and can tell you he's the ultimate musician's musician. It's like watching a master class on how to be a professional guitarist as he seemingly gets lost in the music.
I talked to him earlier this week and when I shared that with him, he laughed it off.
"The interesting thing about it is I don't really take myself too seriously," Johnny A. said.
I asked him about why, in this climate that makes selling albums difficult if not impossible, he decided to put out his third solo album -- his first since 2004's Get Inside -- which he wrote all the songs, produced, played all the instruments, and engineered himself.
"I'm an artist first. I love creating. And it was time. This album should have come out years ago, but I had some issues with the record company that prevented me from doing a studio album. It came down to a financial thing. It's expensive to record. The time was right to put it out now. Everything lined up. I built a world-class studio which enabled me to get this product out. As an artist and a songwriter, that's the most important thing for me is to create music, record, write and produce. That's what it's all about.
"From the beginning, it was all about music. It was never about sex, drugs or rock and roll. It was about songwriting and arranging, and getting better at what I do."
He's as excited about playing at Tupelo, a venue favored by serious musicians for its phenomenal acoustics and intimate setting. He said that anyone who has seen him in the past should know that "it's a whole new show. The whole setlist has been revamped. We have a completely different band. It's a nice dynamic on stage. We've added a guitar player to give it a different sound. If they've been to see me a few times and are considering not coming, this is a totally different show. We're playing most of the new album live and the other songs that we're performing are holdovers that are favorites with people as well as a bunch of songs from the other two studio albums that have either never been performed live or not been performed in years. It's a great show. I'm really looking forward to it."