Who is Neil Gregory Johnson?
Location: Oregon, USA
Genera: Country | Blues | Folk
About: Neil Gregory Johnson is a cosmic cowboy with a passion for the bar band revival.
As a serious singer-songwriter who doesn't take himself too seriously, his music consists of free-wheeling finger-style guitar, good time country-blues arrangements, passionate vocals and meaningful lyrics. He's a charismatic story-teller and as captivating of a solo performer, as anyone in the cosmic country game, but when he has his band behind him he's a honky-tonk force to be reckoned with.
If you like Asleep At The Wheel, Gram Parsons, or John Prine then you might like Neil Gregory Johnson and his band. Johnson's new album 'Sad Songs For Stay At Home Dads' is available for purchase and can be found on any streaming platform.
Neil Gregory Johnson’s origin story begins in the garlic capital of the world. Gilroy, California.
Gilroy is nestled 80 miles southeast of the San Francisco bay area an hour away from Santa Cruz. Neil was a year old when his parents moved him up to Coquille, Oregon from his birthplace in Gilroy.
Later on that same year (1989) the Loma Prieta earthquake violently shook the bay area. 63 people had lost their lives, 3,757 were maimed or injured. It caused a total of 6 billion dollars worth of damage and disrupted the 1989 world series between the Oakland A’s and The San Francisco Giants, which would go on to later be coined 'the earthquake series'. The Loma Prieta earthquake is also symbolic of Johnson's personality, stage presence and persona. He’s a force to be reckoned with.
The Bar Band Family
Neil Gregory Johnson was raised in a household of bar band musicians who played out 4 to 5 days a week in local beer joints and honkey-tonks. For his father Thom Johnson and his mother Dawn Bridwell, experiencing the California bay area in the 1970's meant that love was free, fun was cheap and the cosmic country music of the day was portrayed best by the legend and mystique of Gram Parsons and his Flying Burrito Brothers, The Eagles, Dr Hook, Linda Ronstadt, and The Grateful Dead.
Neil's father Thom started playing guitar in bands around 12 to 13 years old. He and his friends had formed a rock group in the early 70’s inspired heavily by Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. In 1974, after graduating from Morello high school in Santa Cruz and a short stint hitchhiking the west, the group of friends would cook up a plan to join the navy band and travel the world.
As it would turn out, the band would be separated and Neil’s father would be the only one to make it through training. Soon after, he was deployed to the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea to pick up refugees. As a result, Thom for the next few years would be far removed from what was going on back home.
Neil's Music Roots Run Deep.
Meanwhile in the bay area, Neil's mother Dawn Bridwell (the daughter of a Portuguese dairyman and a locally known country singer for the band Dog Meat) was smoking joints with disc jockey Unkle Sherman at the cosmic country and blues radio station KFAT, now affectionately known as KPIG .
KFAT was broadcasting a quirky mix of country, blues, old-timey music, raunchy comedy, bluegrass, Hawaiian, and whatever struck the fancy of the disc jockey. It was on the air from mid-1975 to January, 1983 at 94.5 FM. From high atop Mt. Loma Prieta near San Jose, its signal reached from north of San Francisco to south of Monterey and east to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
KFAT would highlight genres of music a lot of stations wouldn’t even touch. The songwriter movement in Texas which included legends like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, and American roots music acts like Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks, and Asleep at The Wheel
This music would go on to heavily influence Neil's mother. Who for a time sang with John Lee Hooker, played bass with Rose Maddux, smoked pot in a broom closet with Joe Walsh, and interviewed a drunk Merle Haggard after he notoriously flipped the bird to 5000 people at the Oakland Coliseum.
She would also act as a radio correspondent for a plethora of artists whose music is now a holy revenant of the cosmic consciousness that is often forgotten in mainstream society.
Cosmic Consciousness is a term often used to denote a higher or particularly spiritual level of awareness and consciousness. This type of awareness may be associated with an experience of “knowing God," or of transcending the five senses and finding a hidden reality which is beyond the perceivable world. It is said that in a state of Cosmic Consciousness, the human mind is elevated beyond the awareness of the self and the ego, and enters a place of oneness and unity with the universe.
For many, finding this unity involves practices such as yoga, meditation, prayer and acts of faith. For others, dropping LSD and listening to the late great Gram Parsons, John Prine, or Jerry Jeff Walker would give you a mind blowing hit off of the great unknown.
For Neil Gregory Johnson channeling the unity of the universe through one’s own voice, and one’s own song is a worthy enough excuse to rope and ride the dusty cosmic trail.
To Be Continued...