Don't miss DaJo and Thin Lizzy this Friday.
Don't miss DaJo and Thin Lizzy this Friday.

Getting to know DaJo

There are some perks to being left alone for months on end each year when my "old man" is away working.

Probably the biggest bonus, and really the only one with any glamour, is that I get to see all of his colleagues and our friends in other bands when they come through town.

Recently, my stepdaughter and I had beyond the privilege of spending time with one of the most talented guitar players, singers and incredible human beings I have been fortunate to know through his relationship with my husband.

Damon Johnson played guitar in Alice Cooper with Chuck (Garric) for the last six years. During that time, I not only got to witness some sick skill on his instrument, but have learned a thing or two about making things happen for yourself both personally and professionally through Damon – or DaJo, as we affectionately call him.

From his success fronting very successful '90s band Brother Cane, to his moving solo records, to my personal favorite of his – country group Whiskey Falls – Damon now finds himself playing the songs that influenced him so strongly in his all-time favorite band, Thin Lizzy.

I witnessed the full 90-minute Thin Lizzy set a couple weeks ago on the West Coast and cannot urge any music fan enough to go. Damon's solo in "Still in Love with You" (I could actually "hear" what he was "saying" with his achingly beautiful tone and lyrical phrasing) is a revelation, and the finale, "Black Rose," is full-on monstrous!

Damon generously answered some questions I had regarding his journey into his dream job as a formal, official member of the band he idolized growing up.

Lindsay Garric: Tell me about your journey into Thin Lizzy.

Damon Johnson: Scott Gorham is my lifelong hero as a guitarist. We met in 2006 on a golf course in London while I was touring with Alice Cooper. Fast forward to June of 2011 and we played two concerts, Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy together. Scott told me their other guitarist, Richard Fortus, had to return to Guns N' Roses for a run of tour dates in late 2011 and that Lizzy had a spot open. I jumped at the chance to perform with my all-time favorite band.

LG: What did Thin Lizzy mean to you growing up?

DJ: Thin Lizzy's catalog of music is so diverse, and so inspiring. I actually saw the original band perform in 1979 (I was 15) and it changed my life. My friends and I were familiar with "The Boys Are Back In Town" and "Jailbreak," but when I hit the streets the next day I was looking for as much Thin Lizzy as I could get my hands on. The entire discography speaks to me, but none more so than the classic lineup of Lynott/Gorham/Downey/Robertson on landmark albums like "Jailbreak," "Johnny the Fox," "Bad Reputation" and "Live & Dangerous." When I did interviews as the frontman/guitarist for my '90s band Brother Cane, Lizzy was at the top of my list of influences. Phil Lynott was an incredible songwriter, musician, performer and rock star ... the total package. And Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on twin leads were second to none (with all due respect to Gary Moore, whose playing I love deeply as well.)

LG: Do you feel like you were just in the right place at the right time? Or was it more? Did you will it to happen?

DJ: Indeed, I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Having the entire Lizzy band see me perform with Alice this past June certainly played a part in all the guys feeling at least comfortable that I could step in for Richard. But, I'd be lying if I said it didn't occur to me that there was at least a chance that they would dig my playing enough to offer me the position full time. I still can't believe it!

LG: What's the "moment" onstage where it hits you: You play guitar in Thin Lizzy!?

DJ: (laughing) There are multiple moments! When the lights hit that giant "THIN LIZZY" backdrop at the opening power chords, I get goose bumps every night. Coming out of "Waiting For An Alibi" right into "Jailbreak" is another moment. But I think my favorite moment each night is when Scott takes his solo to "Rosalie" and our singer and my new great friend Ricky Warwick comes over and screams in my face, "YOU'RE IN THIN LIZZY!" Awesome!

LG: What's next for DaJo? Are you thinking that far ahead, or just savoring this moment?

DJ: It's my nature, perhaps a curse, to be thinking and looking ahead. Thin Lizzy is my new full-time band and No. 1 musical priority and we have plans to record new music in 2012, along with touring internationally. I'd also like to write and record a new Brother Cane album and continue to perform solo acoustically. Also, The Black Jacket Symphony is a classic rock musical production and experience that I am a partner in. But, for the rest of this U.S. tour through November ... yeah, I'm just savoring the moment. And feeling very honored and grateful!

Be sure to catch DaJo and Thin Lizzy in Milwaukee at Potawatomi Bingo Casino's Northern Lights Theater on Nov. 11, 2011.

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