Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Brian Johnson School's Young Rock Band
Just how great is Brian Johnson? Well, not only has he been the "Thundervoice" of AC/DC for the last 28 years but he also has a long record of charity work and involvement in the fine arts community in his adopted American hometown, Sarasota, Florida.
Now, he's helping a young band from that beautiful beach community learn the ropes of rock 'n' roll as documented by this story in today's Herald Tribune.
A hand up from a legend of rock
BY JENNIFER SHEA CORRESPONDENT
In the drizzling rain, five scared boys with perfect rock 'n' roll hair stood on the sidewalk in front of Sarasota pub the Irish Rover.
Brian Johnson, rock legend, lead singer for AC/DC, bounced in between them, infinitely energetic.
Years of screaming "Back in Black" haven't taken a toll on Johnson's vocal cords, nor has the occasional cigarette.
Ten eyes, wide with fear, never left Johnson's face. The boys heard every syllable he spoke with an accent as thick as the day he left England.
"The first time you'll never forget," Johnson told them. "Your first time on stage, you'll never match.
"This is a special time, my boys, you'll be excellent. Remember to look at your audience; look 'em in the eye."
The band, Bad Sara, consists of four middle-schoolers and a high school freshman; Alex Rappaport, 14, Garrett Moore, 13, Mike Magazino, 14, James Hyde, 13, and Austin Bowman, 15.
About a month ago, Garrett recognized Johnson's wife, Brenda, in a parking lot and handed her a CD that he and his friends recorded in his garage. Garrett sings lead and writes most of the lyrics. Alex and James write their guitar parts and Mike "just comes in on drums, like magic." Garrett said.
Brenda liked the CD so she gave it to her husband.
"Not bad for homemade," Johnson growled. "All you could hear was cymbals and vowels, but I said to myself, 'they've got something, something that needs to be nurtured.'"
Brenda Johnson had invited her nephews from Norway to visit for the holidays and thought it would be nice to have Garrett and the band come over and jam with them.
"But I didn't tell Brian," she said. "The kids came over and I said, 'you've only got one shot with Brian, but don't be nervous.' They were so sweet and respectful.
"They were great, so Brian went out and just started jamming with them."
Brian Johnson interjected: "I heard 'em, I liked 'em, but there is no jumping off place in Sarasota for a rock band.
"So I call my friend Duff, (Paul Duffy, owner of the Irish Rover), and I tell him, give 'em a chance,'" he added.
Duffy agreed, and Bad Sara packed the place. It was standing room only; children, teenagers and adults stood on chairs to see the boys play.
They opened with "Get to Me," and "My Way," both original compositions. The walls vibrated; the energy inside the Rover was palpable.
"I just kept thinking to myself, I can't believe we're really here," Alex said afterward. "I've been waiting for this moment all my life."
The band followed with songs by Nazareth, Black Crowes and Guns N' Roses.
Johnson was not the only well-known musician at the Rover: Donald "Duck" Dunn, an accomplished studio bass player who played with the original Blues Brothers Band and Skid Row guitarist Scotti Hill offered encouragement and musical support to the boys.
Out of the blue, with ultimate cheek, Alex launched into the opening chords of AC/DC's smash hit "Highway to Hell." Garrett decided to surprise Johnson by "covering a few of the songs that helped make Brian a rock legend."
Johnson, vibrating with excitement, could no longer contain himself. He jumped to his feet and joined the boys on stage for "Shook Me All Night Long" and "Thunderstruck."
"Not many people ever get the opportunity to do something like this. Scotti, Brian and Duck signed my guitar; I feel like I'm in a dream," Austin said. Austin intends to go to college while pursuing a musical career.
For the rest of the story, click here. For Bad Sara's MySpace page, click here.
P.S. AC/DC fans should definitely check out this slide show of Brian and Cliff Williams performing at the Irish Rover's 2nd Anniversary party