What do you get when you combine George Benson and Jimi Hendrix with a bundle of natural talent and passion for music? You get Shreveport’s own Ron Johnson, a unique guitarist who has played with some of the world’s most famous artists, yet never forgets his faith, his family or his music.
Ron got his first guitar at the age of three, and he never looked back. He says every year Christmas would come around and he’d want another guitar, except for twice, and one of those was when he got a new amp! Ron remembers listening as a small boy to musicians like Elvis Presley and his band practicing for the Louisiana Hayride in the back room of a store near Ron’s home in Shreveport, and the effect that had on him and the other youngsters lasts to this day.
Ron began playing professionally in his teens, when one of his first jobs was with Little Milton at the age of 15. Ron jokes about having to sneak into clubs to play because he was underage. He really enjoyed the Beatles’ music through the 1960s, but says one of the biggest turning points in his career came when he first heard Jimi Hendrix. He laughs, “I began playing and even dressing like Hendrix… I thought I was Jimi Hendrix Jr!” Ron was also impressed by the playing style and energy of guitarist Mark Farner on the Grand Funk Railroad Live Album, and with much of Carlos Santana’s early work. Along with these guitarists, Ron credits as one of his greatest influences Dr. Earnest Lampkin, who introduced him to jazz and was a mentor to him during his college years at Grambling State University.
Ron’s achievements include playing on 2 platinum albums with the group H-Town and opening or playing for many others like Ike & Tina Turner, The Temptations, The Manhattans, The Gap Band, Keith Sweat, Cameo and many more.
Ron’s band Windstorm has been together for 24 years. Their global tours have taken them “around the world twice” as Ron likes to put it, playing in places as distant as Africa and London, England. Ron takes enormous pride in the fact that he neither drinks nor does drugs, and when asked about the subject, he said, “Why risk getting put in jail for that stuff? I just want to play guitar!”
Despite his fame, Ron still remains very down-to-earth. He is quick to give credit to God for his talent and success, he’s very proud of his children, and one of his main goals continues to be helping kids and local musicians here in Northwest Louisiana. He takes many young musicians under his wing and often trains them in his own garage. During a Windstorm performance at Loyola High School, Ron even encouraged some of the student musicians to come up to the stage and play. “I’m not going to be around forever,” he says, “so I work with the kids and hope that the music can live on.”
In addition to his work with other groups and Windstorm, Ron has released multiple solo albums, known as The Ron Johnson Project. These albums have many of Ron’s own songs as well as covers of some classics. On the album “Just Me”, for example, he does a beautiful soft-jazz version of the Beatles’ “Yesterday”, and on his latest album “Unplugged”, he pays tribute to Carlos Santana with his own arrangement of “Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile)”.