Elton John. The Hellecasters. The Desert Rose Band. The Byrds. All of these artists and countless others have relied on John Jorgenson to deliver the guitar-playing goods, both live and in the studio. John is supremely capable in that regard and has earned a reputation for doing so. He is also known as a connoisseur of great tone and a bit of a musical chameleon. That’s why John relies on his VOX Valvetronix AD60VTX and ToneLab at every gig and session.
John began his musical career very early in life. He kicked things off at age five with the piano. By the time he had reached the age of eight, he picked up the clarinet. Shortly thereafter, the Beatles made their debut and John was inspired to give the guitar a try. Throughout his high school and college years, John played both clarinet and bassoon with local orchestras, and played guitar at local dances with a rock & roll band. Upon graduating college, John toured throughout Europe playing bassoon with a chamber orchestra, but he also played guitar with a new wave band.
John became disillusioned playing in the L.A. club scene and took a job at Disneyland as a member of a multi-faceted band that played swing, bluegrass and Dixieland jazz. There he played several sets a day on mandolin, clarinet and guitar. This job really allowed John to blossom as a player and gave him a deeper insight into the world of “gypsy jazz.” John’s next gig was with The Desert Rose Band with Chris Hillman of The Byrds. During John’s tenure with the band, they earned two Grammy nominations and had three #1 singles. After a few years with The Desert Rose Band, John was ready to undertake a new challenge.
His next project involved fellow guitar players Will Ray and Jerry Donahue. The trio called themselves The Hellecasters. These guys stunned music fans and guitar players alike with their musical prowess. The Hellecasters released three albums, a live video and toured a fair amount as well.
One day, John got a call that many musicians dream about getting. It was from none other than Elton John, who asked John to join his band for a world tour. The pairing was to last longer than just a world tour, as John toured and recorded with Elton John for six years. It was at this point that John had that familiar feeling of needing a new challenge.
Following his muse, John left Elton’s band to focus on his own material. He went into the studio and came out with Emotional Savant. John incorporated all of his favorite musical styles into this album and played almost all of the instruments himself. A true testament to John’s musical ability.
In 2003, John took an opportunity to star as his favorite guitar player, Django Reinhardt, in a film called Head in the Clouds. “I had to cut my hair, grow a moustache and dye them both black,” he laughed. “They even put makeup on my hand to make it look burnt and scarred like Django’s. The energy of the film propelled me to finish an album of that style of music, which I had been working on for quite a while. The album is called Franco-American Swing.” The film had its premiere in September 2004.
All throughout John’s career, he has been a VOX lover. He owns several VOX amps ranging from vintage AC30s on up to the Valvetronix AD60VTX and the new ToneLab. John had this to say about his AD60VTX, “I am thrilled with it! It is such a versatile amp. The sound and playability of the AD60VTX are just great. Also, it’s lightweight and doesn’t kill your back. I have always been a single twelve-combo kind of guy. I like the AD120VTX when I’m using stereo effects, though. I’ve never been a fan of closed back combos, but this one sounds great! My soundman will be thrilled when I use it on my next rock gig. He always has to block the back of my open backed amps so that they won’t bleed into the drum mics. The AD60VTX is definitely the first modeling amp that I have ever liked.”
Like any other player, John has some favorite settings on his AD60VTX. “Well, what I like to do is set it up like an AC15. Then I set up the effects like my pedal board. So, I end up using the Spring Reverb, the Delay and the Chorus. Then I go back and forth between the Tube OD and the Fuzz pedal settings. I really like the Treble Boost pedal setting as well. When I use the AD60VTX in the studio, it all depends what the other people are doing. Then I try to find a space sonically, where I am not clashing with anyone else.”
Recently, John acquired a ToneLab. For him, the ToneLab was a logical progression. “Recently, I was in Montreal to do some guitar tracks for a new 3D virtual animated IMAX film. All I took with me was one guitar and my ToneLab. It was so easy for me to get great sounds and easily edit them. Doing music for films like this doesn’t allow you to have any preconceived notions. You have to completely go with the flow and come up with different sounds that work with what’s going on in the film. The ToneLab worked great for me on this project. I was really pleased with the overall sound. Normally, I don’t dig playing direct, but with that tube in there I can’t help but say, “Ahhhh. Now that’s what it’s supposed to sound like.”
As you can imagine, John is perpetually busy. All throughout his career, he has been a session player in high demand. From Luciano Pavarotti and Barbara Streisand to Travis Tritt and Lee Roy Parnell. Talk about diversity! John told us, “Most recently, I used the AD60VTX on Kenny Chesney’s upcoming album.” Be sure to check it out to hear John and the AD60VTX in action. To keep up with new developments in the world of John Jorgenson, please visit John’s website at www.johnjorgenson.com and look for his new CD available online at www.amazon.com and www.flatpick.com.
By Hugh Gilmartin