Jon also worked with Ronnie Milsap, whom he described as “a merry prankster, always joking and keeping things light during recording sessions. He was exceptionally considerate and attentive to input from the other musicians about what would make the best recording, always listening and extremely aware of everything that was going on in the process.” Being blind, Milsap had developed acute hearing and was sensitive to the smallest detail. Recalling a session, Jon said, “While listening to a multi-track playback he could tell which of the tracks had a hum.”
“Ronnie always pushed for excellence,” Jon continued. “He was driven to achieve the absolute most perfect, inspired recordings he could make. Few artists can produce themselves, but when Ronnie walked into the room everyone knew that he was in charge. He was a leader. He knew what he wanted. He would pull the musicians together and run it down, and pretty much go with the demo as far as the overall concept, but he would always encourage the musicians to be creative, to put a little extra something in there to make it shine. And he always had ideas whenever one was called for.”
Jon worked on Contemporary Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman’s first album, produced by Phil Naish. Steven was only in his early twenties, full of youthful exuberance, but already a really fine guitarist and singer/song writer. “He always performed in the studio as if he were in front of a crowd of fifty thousand people: he gave it all he had every time he stepped up to the microphone.”
Jon continued, “On one song on his debut album it was just him and me on acoustic guitars. He had worked out a very complex chord progression using an alternate tuning. It was something completely unique and original, like nothing I had ever played before, and I had to learn it on the spot. It took a while to work everything out, but in the end we had a really nice recording.”
Jon concluded, “I was very happy to see him achieve such a high level of success in the music industry. He was genuine, kind, down to earth, and real, and devoted to his faith and his family.
When Larry Lee, former member of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, recorded his two solo albums, “Larry Lee” and “Marooned,” Jon served as musical director. He also played guitar on the sessions with David Sanborn (pioneer jazz-pop sax player), Nikki Hopkins (piano, legendary L.A. session player who toured with The Rolling Stones), guest artist Rick Danko (of The Band, on bass and vocals), Bill Champlin (lead singer for Chicago), David Hungate (bassist for Toto), and Michael Baird (top L.A. drummer). Ace L.A. producer, John Ryan. who was behind artists from the Styx to Vince Gill, worked with Larry Lee on this project (for more see Part 2 – The Producers).
The list of talented, creative, and accomplished performers Jon has worked with is long. In the years he was based in Nashville, he played on well over 500 records. Sometimes he just didn’t know what to expect at a session: it was an adventure. Whether it was the musical equivalent of a placid day on the beach or something more like whitewater rafting, it was a good day. “I really enjoyed the experience of working in world-class studios with top artists, producers, engineers, and musicians. It brought out a higher degree of refinement and finesse in both my playing and songwriting. But most of all, I’m now able to hear where a musical idea is going and intuitively know how to make it shine.”
As a result of his wide experience in blues, R&B, jazz, rock, country, gospel, and Contemporary Christian music, Jon is a versatile guitar player (and a solid bass player too, for those who don’t know). He plays delicate Celtic-inspired acoustic songs, funky Bayou blues on a fat hollow-body electric, and screamin’ rock and roll with equal proficiency and finesse.
Many artists and producers have respected Jon’s talent enough to work with him again and again, appreciating a playing style that is both tasteful and out-of-the box; always innovative but never too avant garde; and sometimes the guitar equivalent of a 200-plus mph sports car going flat out on all 12 cylinders while cornering with control and style. Whatever the genre, the man has rhythm, and his guitar sings. It seems ever so propitious, however unconsciously prophetic by his mother, that his middle initials are R&B.
Copyright © 2011-2012 Ilona Goin. All rights reserved.
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