Playing guitar for Alice Cooper ain’t a bad gig, if you can get it.
Each night, someone hands you a perfectly tuned guitar, you go out on stage (at big theaters and arenas) and play for an hour or so. At the end of the night, you hand the guitar back.
“Then you go play golf all day,” says Damon Johnson, who was Cooper’s guitarist from 2004 to 2011, both on the road and in the studio. He co-wrote much of the 2005 album “Dirty Diamonds.”
“It was just like a fantasy really,” says Johnson, who’s in Fresno on Friday for a special acoustic solo performance at the Tower Lounge.
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As good as the gig was, Johnson wasn’t growing as a songwriter or artist. That fact didn’t become quite clear to him until he left Cooper’s band and joined another classic, classic rock band, Thin Lizzy and then its spin-off The Black Star Riders.
Johnson made three albums with that band (and toured the country, opening for the likes of Judas Priest). The experience rekindled his songwriting chops and ultimately, pushed him to return to solo work. His latest album, “Memoirs of an Uprising,” will be out soon.
On tour now, Johnson plays songs from that album, as well as tunes from his days with the Black Star Riders and his early career as the front man songwriter for the ‘90s southern rock band Brother Cane. He’ll also play from his catalog of songs that got picked up by other people (like “Every Day,” which was done by Stevie Nicks or “Just Feel Better,” which Santana recorded with Steven Tyler on vocals).
“If we cross paths again in five years and I’m playing guitar for Paul McCartney or something, you can call me out, but I just want to be Damon Johnson from now on,” he says.
Which, for now, means living in a state of perpetual touring, being out on the road and playing his songs. Even if it’s flying to Montana or California for weekend concerts.
“I love to be home in Nashville, to write songs, to work on new music, to drive my kids to school,” Johnson says.
“The weekends, are all about spreading the word.”