Jay Johnson interview
with Philippe Archambeau

RTJ : Hi Jay,

We are happy, with the new album issue, to ask you some questions to make know better and enjoy SRA to the french fans that come on our site ? Road to Jacksonville ?. At first, as you can see with our website name, we do love the great Southern Rock family, we are involved in a such a movement for a long time (early seventies) and we hope we are able to do it longer and longer to support this fantastic kind of music.
First, before talking about the new cd, I'd like you to tell us about your musical career (Radio Tokyo and Rossington Band) and the main facts in Southern Music history, because, as you are in Southern music for a long time, I think you are able to have a real and true opinion about that !

Jay Johnson : I was born lucky, I guess. My father produced demos and lps on several of the bands that would later become famous southern rock acts, like Blackfoot and Lynyrd Skynyrd. My dad let me hang out at the studio with him, so I literally was around the music industry since birth. There was no way I could escape being involved in some way. I knew all the Skynyrd and Blackfoot guys personally when I was a child, and it's amazing to me that I have performed professionally with every single one of the guys in those bands over the years. They are all dear lifelong friends to me. The Radio Tokyo band was a great bunch of guys that I worked with from 1985 to 1997. It was not southern rock at all. More like a combination of Loverboy and Rush, actually, with a little Thin Lizzy mixed in. That kind of stuff. I was hired to do some guitar work on demos for Gary and Dale Rossington back in 1986, and out of those sessions came the Rossington Band, which lasted from 1986 to 1989.

RTJ : How is born SRA ? Are you the man who create this group ?

J J : The current SRA band was formed from the ashes of the Dixie Allstars, a band that Dave Hlubek, Charlie Hargrett and Jakson Spires had began back in 1991. I replaced Charlie in 1995, and we renamed and restructured the project in 1997 under the name Southern Rock Allstars.

RTJ : With a name such as Southern Rock All Stars, musicians like Jakson Spires, Jay Johnson, Mike Estes; Dave Hlubek; Duane Rolland, Greg Walker, etc... it was obvious for the fans to get a music like Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet. Or I read that you wanted a real musical identity for SRA ; so, what do you think about that now ?

Jay Johnson : Well, the band is composed of the great southern rockers of the past, so, no other name can suffice, in my opinion. As to the musical identity, it is something that continually evolves. Everyone in the band contributes part of themselves to the music, so that's a plus. As to the southern rock identity, we love it and cannot escape it, but we also cannot sit around trying to copy it, so our music just happens. It is what it is, as it was back in the old days. I love being in this band! It's a blast!

RTJ : Do you think that it's possible today to get a real Southern Rock, like did Molly, Blackfoot...?

Jay Johnson : I'm not sure what you mean by that. What is southern rock? The definition is different for each band. I do not think that bands like Wet Willie or Drive By Truckers are very southern, at all, but many people think so. I never considered Blackfoot ?southern?, and neither did they. I considered them a metal band, particularly their first two lps.
I don't know! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and apparently so is southern rock.

RTJ : I talked recently with people like Bruce Brookshire and Eddie Stone from Doc Hollyday.
Don't you think that Southern Rock as a problem to stay recognized in the USA ?

Jay Johnson : Eddie Stone is a great guy! Great singer too.
The music scene in America changes so much that that is difficult to answer. Some kids today are aware of southern rock, but most are not. Whether we like it or not, the majority of the cd buying public is kids aged 16 to 25. It's a question of what is popular. Right now, rap and hip hop is the big thing. I guess southern rock fans will just have to wait until history repeats itself and good music comes back into fashion in the USA.

RTJ : By the way, as for us, europeans, it is a special kind of music,
what is for you Southern Rock ?

Jay Johnson : It's a heaping helping of bacon, eggs and grits washed down with a quart of whiskey and lots of attitude.

RTJ : When we listen to the new cd ?Trouble Comin's Live ? We can be surprised to find so many Molly, Blackfoot, Skynyrd covers. Isn't a risk to be only recognized as a cover band ?

Jay Johnson : No, I don't think there is a risk of being categorized as a cover band. How can that happen when everyone on the new SRA cd was involved with Skynyrd, Hatchet and Blackfoot at one time or another, Some of these guys WROTE those songs for crying out loud. How can Dave Hlubek and Jakson Spires be considered cover artists when they invented those songs to begin with? Jimmy Farrar SANG the original versions of Beatin the Odds and Bloody Reunion, so I dare anybody to walk up to him and tell him he's just covering that stuff. He would blow a gasket and whoever said that to him would be sporting a black eye! Jimmy's a big bad boy! If we are viewed as a cover band, then I suggest that the new versions of Skynyrd and Hatchet are ?cover bands? as well, according to that way of thinking. NONE of the guys in the current Hatchet band were on ANY of the early hit records by the original band. Hell, none of them were in the original Molly Hatchet band AT ALL, come to think of it. Skynyrd has only two original guys left, but I truly don't consider them a cover band. Sometimes Jakson and I have mentioned that we would love to just go out and play only the new SRA songs in our shows, but we feel that would be cheating the fans who come to see us. They WANT to hear Train Train, and the other stuff. We can't turn our backs on the past, and we can't stop creating new music either. We love what we do.

RTJ : It seems to me that you have made many different recordings and works on this cd, like second guitars in harmony in some songs, Bounty Hunter, Wishing Well, Call me the Breeze,
I know a Little, Highway Song...

Jay Johnson : We just do our own versions of those tunes, try to be faithful to the originals but insert our own ideas in as well.
We did do some cool harmonies on ?I Know a Little?, but there are no harmonies on ?Wishing Well?.
Charlie Hargrett and I did do a unison solo in the centre if I remember right. Anytime Mike Estes is with us we do some more Skynyrd stuff, since he was in the band for several years. He's another great guy. I mess with him a lot and we rag on him a bunch, but everybody likes Mikee.

RTJ : What is this cd for SRA : a concretized result or a launching pad ?

Jay Johnson : It is what it is. You listen to TROUBLE'S COMIN' LIVE, and you get what you paid for. It's us, live, period. I don't know about it being a launching pad, but it sure is flying off the shelves at the moment.
I liked doing the studio records, but like so many bands before us, I never felt that we captured the power of the band as it exists onstage, so I set out to do a live record almost immediately after I finished mixing the DANGER ROAD cd in 2001. We recorded 5 shows over three years just to get what I thought best represented us live. The band really had a lot of patience with me, because initially we were going to release the cd last year, but I just felt we had to get this one right, and I kept pushing the release date back. Duane Roland also pushed me to keep recording so we could have more stuff to choose from. Charles, Scott and I finally finished mixing it in May 2004, so it's been a long road since we recorded the first show s for it in Wheeling WV.
The best part about that is that we now have a record with all of our past and present band members, and I think it really smokes.

RTJ : By the way, can you give us the official reasons why Dave Hlubek and Duane Rolland
leaved the band ?

Jay Johnson : Sure! Dave left because he worried about his health and he wanted to slow down his touring pace. That's the reason he gave me and told me to relate to the fans, anyway. He still works from time to time with different groups. I think Jakson played a show with him a month or so ago, with Mike Estes and his band.
As for Duane, his hip literally jumped out of his pelvis on the way to a SRA show in Maryland last year. He has had several hip replacements, and this time it took him out altogether. He really suffered badly with the pain after that. There's just no way he could have continued travelling the way we do, and we certainly did not want to contribute to his heath problems, so we did not argue when he told us he had to bow out due to his hip. As of today he's doing much better---in fact we hope he can come out and play some with us some. Maybe it can happen!
We appreciate Duane and Dave a lot. They really are brothers of the road and we wish them all the best.

RTJ : You obviously know that Blackfoot is back again. What do you think about that and don't you think it can be a problem for SRA (Jackson) ?

Jay Johnson : Well, I for one think it is cool that people will get to hear the band again. The inevitable lawsuits have slowed them down at the moment though, so they have got to get past the latest legal garbage before they can even play a note. It's sad that the greed of outside forces gets in the way so often. The fans are the ones who ultimately pay for that unnecessary shit.
As to being a problem, I don't foresee that at this point. Jackson is the leader of the SRA band, so I assure you that he has no intention of walking away from it. The Blackfoot guys are planning to perform when SRA is not booked, and vice versa. Also there is some talk of us doing some shows together, which I would really like to see happen.

RTJ : What kind of music do you listen to now ? Do you enjoy Skynyrd today ?

Jay Johnson : I liked the Edge of Forever album that Skynyrd did some time back, but I am really stuck on the old band, the original band. You just can't beat it. As to newer bands, I am absolutely crazy about NIGHTWISH from Finland. That is one hell of a band. I can't stop listening to them. Killer stuff.

RTJ : If I ask you to give me the top five Southern Rock cds, what can you tell me ?

Jay Johnson :
1. Blackfoot: No Reservations
2. Lynyrd Skynyrd: Pronounced
3. Blackfoot: Flyin' High
4. Allman Brothers: Live at the Fillmore
5. Charlie Daniels Band: Million Mile Reflections

RTJ : So, I thank you Jay to have answered to our questions. Do you want to tell us anything else ? I wish you, and from RTJ too, the best for SRA and for you !

Jay Johnson : Thanks friends! Keep on rockin ?!


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