Recently, modern blues legend Joe Bonamassa sat down for an interview with Guitar World. During this chat, among other things, Bonamassa also reflected on the parallels between him and Eric Johnson, a guitar player who had a significant impact on him. Not hiding that he’s influenced by Johnson, Joe said:
“Eric was another one that I learned a ton from and whom I’m still learning from. Every time that I see him, I always apologize to him. I’m like, ‘Man, I’m sorry for stealing your style.’”
What’s more, Bonamassa went on to call Johnson one of the greatest guitar players of all time, pointing out that he’s one of the most unique-sounding 6-string heroes out there. Joe continued:
“His tone is distinct. And I don’t have to remind people of all the amazing music he’s made over the last 30 years. He’s easily one of the best out there and has been for a long time. He can cover any style or whatever he needs to. He’s a joy to watch and listen to.”
It wasn’t uncommon for Joe Bonamassa to get compared to Eric Johnson over the years. And this goes both in terms of sonic textures and the choice of notes. However, as the years went by, Bonamassa became somewhat of a blues guitar encyclopedia in a human form. In other words, he could pull off the styles of various classic blues and blues rock guitar players.
Speaking of classic blues and blues rock players, during the interview, Bonamassa also reflected on how some guitar players and guitar fans today like to call Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page a “sloppy” guitar player. Following up on what he was talking about Eric Johnson, Joe said:
“A lot of people like to call Page sloppy, and that’s fine. You can call him sloppy all day long, but can you play it? …Try to play ‘The Rain Song’ as well as he played it. You won’t be able to. Not a chance.”
To solidify his stance on the matter, Bonamassa also added that, even though some may consider him to be “sloppy” according to some modern standards, Jimmy Page was one of the most in-demand session guitar players of his era:
“The thing about Jimmy Page that most people don’t realize is he was a very in-demand session guy before the Yardbirds and Zeppelin. He did boatloads of amazing things before he even was in those bands… Call him sloppy, but he was a once-in-a-generation talent.”
It’s no secret that Joe Bonamassa is one of the most divisive figures in modern blues and rock music. Despite the fact that most people don’t underestimate his playing skills and overall musicianship, there’s still been some controversy surrounding his statements and the overall approach to public relations.
For instance, in late 2022, Bonamassa got into the spotlight for officially announcing that he was leaving social media. Well, technically, he still has his profiles but he said that he won’t be directly engaged in sharing the content. All of this happened, as Joe explained, for someone apparently insulting his looks.
After a show in Tucson, Arizona in November 2022, Joe took to his social media to say this:
“So, after sleeping on this I have come to a conclusion. Last night I allowed a few clowns @rich_tones being one of them to cause me to go onstage angry. That is not fair to you the fans.”
“Also, This isn’t what I signed up for 8 years ago. Social media has become such a distraction for me. This place feels like it has the maturity of high school and I fear I am gonna be provoked one day into saying something I might regret.”
“So I’m leaving this wonderful place to the influencers and good-looking. Enjoy it before it destroys your soul. I will see you in real life somewhere down the road and in Riverside tonight.”
“Any posts on this page going forward will not be from me. Thanks for the 8 years.“
The “rich_tones” user on Instagram put some fuel on the fire the previous day by commenting on one of Joe’s photos:
“Time to shave the head Joe, it’s over. Your hair had a good run but it’s now in retirement”.
For some time, Bonamassa has also been under fire for his stance toward excessive guitar pedal use. And if there’s one thing that we’ve learned about guitar players is that you should never mess with their love for flashy guitar gear. Back in 2017, Joe explained why he’s not that keen on having many guitar pedals, saying:
“I’ve really gotten over pedals. I can’t keep up with this craze of boutique pedals that make you sound like everything but your guitar. I can’t get my head around it.
“So you don’t want to play the guitar [properly] so you buy a box that makes it sound like an algorithm like you just fired up your computer and you can spend the night staring at your fuckin’ shoes? C’mon man…”
“I know I’ll get shit for saying this, but it’s fucking lazy. It’s insulting to people who spent 35 years playing and learning, like a lot of players. And we continue to work at it! These guys can barely play a chord but call themselves soundscapists. Get the fuck outta here! It’s bullshit.“
“There’s so much masking and spin going on there. Can we get real for a minute? What do you actually play? Pick up an acoustic guitar… try that!”
About one year later, he addressed the issue once again in an interview. Asked about the negative reactions he received due to the statements made above, he replied:
“Well, some of it is self-inflicted wounds, some of it is just misunderstood, and some of it is just part of being a grump. At the end of the day, everybody has good and bad days. The guy was interviewing me that day, I was probably stressed out and grumpy about something, I just unleashed… Anyway, we all survived, the Sun rose the next day.“
“Everybody likes pedals, everybody uses pedals. Me included. Just to clarify some of these mystiques and myths. I feel that these are to augment and accentuate playing. Not to create playing. That’s my opinion.“
“I think sometimes people become too reliant on the stomp-box for everything. Even the song. That’s just one guy’s opinion, who plays ‘grandfather’s blues.’ That’s just me.”