By: Dana McGraw
No one can deny the meteoric rise of Jonny Lang after he burst onto the music scene at the age of 12, but few people know that if it were not for a chance music concert we may not have been introduced to this musical prodigy. Lang has said in interviews that while he grew up around music, Lang had no intention of playing an instrument until he and his father attended a concert by the Bad Blues Medicine Band. At that concert he was introduced to the blues and the guitar. Before long, Lang was taking guitar lessons from Ted Larson, the bands guitarist, and learning how to play the blues. He talks about this experience in the video, The Influence of the Blues: Scott Goldman- Grammy Museum Interview.
Lang would go on to join the band, at age 12, which was renamed Kid Jonny Lang & The Big Bang. The band independently released Smokin’ when Lang was 14. Lang signed with A&M Records in 1996 and released the critically acclaimed multi-platinum Lie to Me in 1997. His next album, Wander this World, was released in 1998 and earned Lang a Grammy® nomination. This was followed by the release of Long Time Coming in 2003. Lang would go on to win his first Grammy® Award in 2006 with the release of his fourth album Turn Around. He has continued to learn about musicians, fine-tune his writing process, and collaborate with musical greats. With each album Lang has grown as an artist and a musician incorporating gospel, blues, rock, and R&B into his musical repertoire.
While many artists struggle to maintain their own voice and sound while establishing their careers in the in the presence of pressure and musical greats, Lang learned very early to be true to his notably mature and husky voice and signature solo style which features wide vibratos. In the blues, gospel, and rock genre one can’t stress the importance and impact great collaborations can have on a career. Having toured and recorded with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, Willie Nelson, and Sting, Lang is no stranger to collaborative efforts. When asked about his success Lang has said, “Having incredible musicians with you, people who know how to be professionals in every sense of the word, that’s a big part of what makes this band work.” Check out Buddy Guy, Ron Wood, and Jonny Lang performing “Miss You” at the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Lang also appears regularly as a part of the Experience Hendrix Tour along with many other well-known guitarists such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robbie Krieger of The Doors, Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, and Bootsy Collins, to pay tribute to the guitar legend. Lang spoken about the genius of Jimi Hendrix and explains that it was important to him and his tour mates that they play Hendrix’s songs authentically, not by imitating the legend. Check out the Experience Hendrix Tour as Johnny Lang performs Jimi Hendrix’s classic version of Bob Dylan’s, “All Along the Watchtower” on The George Lopez Show. The all-star band includes Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Scott Nelson (Kenny Wayne Shepherd), Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble), Mato Nanji (Indigenous), and Chuck Campbell (The Campbell Brothers).
In his 31 years, Jonny Lang has become an artist who has accomplished so much and covered countless miles since his career began. Lang continues to explore new frontiers in blues, R&B, gospel, rock, funk, and electric jazz with confidence, curiosity, and great showmanship. As Time Magazine best put it, Lang is “one of the most important artists to watch in the next millennium.” Not only is he an artist with a matured voice, ethic, and style, he is an artist that is continually evolving and leaving us wanting more.