KJAZZ Radio UK is pleased to welcome New Jersey-born Wayne Wesley Johnson was inspired as a boy by Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, Nokie Edwards and The Ventures, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery and later by George Benson, Pat Martino, and Earl Klugh. Wayne took up guitar when he was nine and was groomed primarily as a jazz style flatpicking guitarist, having studied with Sandy DeVito, Gary Keller, Eddie Berg, and Vic Cenicola. He also studied classical technique with Carol Hammersma, and flamenco techniques with Ruben and Miguel Romero. Wayne was a leader of his own bands, “The Yellow Jackets” and “Sons and Lovers,” and also worked on occasion as drummer for guitar legend Les Paul, with whom he toured the U.S. and South America. He also worked as a drummer for Nokie Edwards, formerly of The Ventures, and with his friends and thumbpicking artists Thom Bresh, Tom (T.W.) Doyle, Eddie Pennington, Steve King, Bob Saxton, Tommy Flint, and Anthony Smith. Wayne’s international circle of friends includes some of the world’s greatest guitarists and guitar makers. He was introduced only a few years ago, in Nashville, to the thumbpicking country style of Thom Bresh (son of the late Merle Travis), Buster “B” Jones, the late Marcel Dadi, Eddie Pennington, Bob Saxton, Tommy Flint, and the fingerstyle influences of Laurence Juber (Wings), Ed Gerhard, Martin Simpson, Charles David Alexander, and the classical French guitarist Valerie Du Chateau. Wayne was privileged to perform with Thom Bresh at a private convention held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Upon putting down the flatpick in favor of thumb and fingerstyle technique, Johnson later became interested in the Spanish and New Mexico flamenco and Latin sounds of Paco de Lucia, Ottmar Liebert, Armik, Strunz and Farah, Shahin and Sepher, Willie and Lobo, the Gipsy Kings, and his friend and partner on “Hypnotic Safari” Ruben Romero. Wayne has since begun developing a playing style of his own, an integration of different techniques, which he refers to as “Jazzamenco.” Over the years, Wayne has also developed as a collector and has had as many as 100 guitars in his collection, several of which are featured on his recordings. He has also designed guitars both for himself and for well-known manufacturers. A self-professed “equipment junkie,” Wayne has an arsenal of guitars, amplifiers, studio gear, and sound modules. With the advent of reliable and higher-performance guitar synthesizers and Roland COSM technology, Wayne has embraced the use of the GR-1, GR-30, and VG-8, used on some mixes of his latest CD. Additionally, Wayne is a contributing consultant to Just Jazz Guitar Magazine. KJAZZ Radio UK is delighted to have several songs in rotation from Wayne’s extensive collection of guitar work and were privileged to be sharing these with the listener.
Wayne Wesley Johnson’s “Tap Guitar” invention is a Real Show Stopper!
Santa Fe, NM, April 19, 2007; For nearly 40 plus years, Wayne’s been trying to figure out how he could accomplish some “strummin’ and drummin,” at the same time.
Wayne Wesley Johnson is a guitarist and a drummer, too, with a long list of musical accomplishments. He’d been performing on both since he was a young boy. He’s bounced back and forth between playing and recording on six strings with the likes of Ruben Romero, Tom Doyle, Thom Bresh, Edgar Cruz, Tim Farrell, Anthony Smith, Nokie Edwards, Lou Pallo and others, and keeping the drum beat for Les Paul, Nokie Edwards (formerly of the Ventures) , Mason Williams, Tommy Flint, Tommy Doyle, Bob Saxton, and more on various occasions.
A few years ago, Wayne moved from the east coast to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he gained a great deal of exposure to the “rumba flamenca” or “Nuevo flamenco” rhythmic guitar style. He had already become fascinated with the sounds of the Gipsy Kings, Paco de Lucia, Ruben & Miguel Romero, Strunz and Farah, Shahin & Sephre, and Willie & Lobo. Part of the rhythm involved tapping on the flamenco guitars top, what the puro flamenco players call the “golpe” or “tap.”
Upon perfecting the varied rumba strumming patterns, Wayne noticed that he was able to integrate different tapping patterns into his own original strumming techniques, fully utilizing the percussive natures of the guitar. He calls his style of music Jazzamenco. “If I tapped in one place, near the bridge, I got a deep sound…closer to the neck, a higher tone,” said Johnson. “I even experimented with mounting Pickup the World brand transducers directly under the top to accentuate the taps. I also had some of my flamenco guitars built with 24 frets, which extended the fingerboard partially, over the sound hole. Since I use acrylic nails on my right hand, I discovered that by tapping the end of the fingerboard with my thumbnail, on an upstroke, I could get an interesting percussive effect that complimented the other things I was doing.”
Wayne came to realize that by tapping in different zones on the acoustic guitar, that he could get a variety of percussive tonalities…..”Wouldn’t it be great if when I tapped in the different areas, I could get real drum sounds?” thought Johnson. So the research began. “I got out some masking tape and placed it on the top and rims of my guitar. Then, I went about playing my rumba strums and tapping on the areas most suited to the style, keeping track on where I was striking the top of the guitar. Then, I scored the tape with a pen to identify different target zones. I cut the tape into pads to identify the actual target areas. I also added a few to the sides…the rims of the guitar in order to get more percussion sounds from the instrument. The goal was to replace the masking tape with midi trigger pads that would trigger a drum synthesizer/controller. I had to find a source for the pads and controller. After extensive research I located a firm in Southern California that was able to develop the needed materials and electronics and integrate them into my flamenco acoustic guitar. We’re in the process of applying for a patent on the design and utility.”
Today, two prototypes have been produced and Wayne is considering refinements that could go into production models which could eventually be made available for sale . Both drummers and guitarists alike seem to be impressed with Wayne’s new instrument design and invention.
Enthusiasts can see Wayne perform regularly with his “Tap Guitar” at his Friday evening performances at Brumby’s in Santa Fe, where he performs a surf set with his guitar buddy, Miguel de Soto. The tunes, Walk Don’t Run, Pipeline, Wipe Out and some other favorites really lend themselves nicely to the “Tap Guitars” playability. “We get standing ovations all the time…What’s really neat about the Tap Guitar’s design is that I can store different drum kits for different songs and genre’s of music. I can have a general midi trap set with traditional cymbals, snare, bass and tom toms for one program, and a Latin kit with bongos, congas, and timbales, cowbell, wood block, claves, etc. for yet another style of music, or Asian or African drums, and I can switch back and forth rather quickly.”
“At first, I wasn’t sure just how the concept would work out…I still only have two hands, but where there’s a will there’s a way. The strumming techniques I use, provide me with opportunities to trigger the drums in time with my style and approach. There’s also a volume control on the rim of the guitar that permits me to balance my drum sounds with my guitar’s electrical output. When I don’t want the triggers alive, I can turn down the pad volumes and use the guitar as a purely traditional flamenco style instrument….when I want to add percussive effects, or drums, just turn up the volume on the pads and I’m ready to go. What I found interesting is that the guitar’s acoustic electric tone isn’t adversely affected by the addition of the custom electronics and trigger pads.”
A full orchestra
In addition to the midi drum trigger system Wayne’s tap guitar is also outfitted with RMC acoustic gold saddle pickups and an outboard preamp. “The RMC piezo pickup system is an off the shelf standard model and provides me with both great amplified acoustic guitar tone, as well as synth access. What that means is that by pairing the guitar up with a Roland floor or rack mounted guitar synthesizer, I am able to compliment my performances by adding orchestral strings, organ, piano, brass, woodwinds, voices, oriental instruments, and other sound effects via the interface with a Roland GR series synthesizer which I re program to suit my own musical tastes.”
On occasion, Wayne also uses either a Lexicon Jam Man or an Echoplex to record parts, live and on the fly. “For example, I can begin by tapping with my fingers on a few pads to give me a ride cymbal, a bass drum and snare drum and hit a foot switch and begin storing that pattern in the systems memory…..It plays back automatically and continuously. Then, I can add other syncopated drums, or percussion instruments, one at a time and layer them into the mix, creating an entire rhythm section. I then begin strumming my chord patterns and store them and layer them into the mix, also…..It’s live multi tracking. Once I’ve got that entire “groove” created, I can then play my melodies and improvisation on top of all that….It’s like bringing a studio full of musicians to the stage, but it can all be done by just one guy.”
Wayne enjoys performing with others, but recognizes that not all venues have the budget to hire a band. “I love to play with other musicians, but I also get a lot of solo gigs throughout the year. I don’t care how great a performer is…if he plays for 3 hours and doesn’t vary his sound and presentation and dynamics, the audience is going to get bored and lose interest. I think it’s important to keep a solo performance interesting, varied and exciting. The tap guitar is now one of the tools I use to keep the folks in the room. Between that and some different playing techniques, whether it be fingerstyle, flat pickin’ or thumbpickin’ techniques, my goal is to give the audience a variety of sounds and styles and good music to enjoy. The Tap Guitar certainly helps me to accomplish that task. It’s also handy when I do play with others. I can add some percussive nuances to our musical presentation, even if we already have a real drummer on stage with us. Sometimes, I can even get into lick tradeoffs with the drummer. That adds to the overall showmanship.”
To find out more and buy Wayne and his music.
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