In 2000, critically acclaimed photographer and musician Richard Leo Johnson left Nashville, Tennessee, and settled in Savannah to resume his photography business. After more than a decade on the road performing at concerts in the United States, Canada, and Europe, he was looking to stay closer to home. The move to Savannah resulted in new relationships with many periodicals, book publishers, architects, and interior designers. Johnson's work has appeared in Coastal Living, Cottage Living, This Old House magazine, Southern Accents, and Architectural Record among many others.
Richard Leo Johnson is one of the most innovative and inspired acoustic guitarists on the current American music scene. Amazon.com’s
editors called Johnson “perhaps the next in a short line of guitar greats – a line that includes [Michael] Hedges, Derek Bailey, Pat Metheny,
Sonny Sharrock, and a few others,” while Playboy touted him as “the most innovative guitarist since Jim Hendrix.” A passionate and
intuitive player, he is often compared to such masters of the steel-string acoustic guitar as Bruce Cockburn, John Fahey, Michael Hedges,
Burt Jansch, Adrian Legg, Leo Kottke, Steve Tibbetts, and Ralph Towner. But Johnson’s style, characterized by complexity,
exhilarating speed, and hauntingly unfamiliar harmonies created through ‘found’ tunings, marks this self-taught player apart from any other
Johnson was raised in America’s deep South, in a small Arkansas town in the Mississippi Delta. He began playing guitar at age 9, briefly
taking lessons from a hard-drinking oil field worker before deciding he’d learn more on his own. Johnson recalls that his “real jumping off
point” was a cassette he received as a teenager, which featured John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame on
one side, and Leo Kottke’s Greenhouse on the other: Says Johnson: “I thought it was one person playing this stuff! The initial impact was
that it was somehow possible to make something happen that fused the linear liquidity of McLaughlin and the dense harmonic structure and
drive of Kottke.” The distinctive playing of Oregon’s guitarist, Ralph Towner also impressed Johnson. Practicing incessantly on his own, he
developed an idiosyncratic playing style which combined plucking and strumming, alternating between 6, 12, and 18 strings, using all parts
of the guitar, and employing 30 tunings he devised.
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