ELTON JOHN BAND / DAVEY JOHNSTONE
Guitarist Davey (David William Logan) Johnstone was having a perfectly fine career in the British folk world before he was whisked away to a life of rock and roll by the piano player from Pinner.
Having already learned the violin at age seven, Davey got his first guitar when he was 11. Moving to London in 1968, Davey got his first album credit that year on the Noel Murphy LP, Another Round. Noel and Davey then formed the band Draught Porridge in 1969. In 1970 Davey played on the album Seasons by Magna Carta and in 1971 joined that group as second guitarist. Their next album, Songs From Wasties Orchard (named after the street Davey lived on) was helmed by Elton’s producer, Gus Dudgeon.
Gus then asked Davey to contribute to Bernie Taupin’s solo album in 1971. Davey played guitar, sitar, banjo, mandolin and lute while Bernie read his poetry aloud. Soon after, in August 1971, Gus called upon Davey once more, this time to play acoustic guitar and mandolin parts on four songs on Elton’s Madman Across The Water album, including the intricate harmonic part that anchors the title track. A week or so later, Elton invited Davey to join the band full-time, joining drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray both in the studio and on stage — and thus was born the group that solidified Elton’s sound.
Davey’s first show with Elton was at the Royal Festival Hall in 1972, where they played most of the Honky Chateau album they had just recorded, and the whirlwind began. The next four-plus years were a blur of #1 albums, top-of-the-charts singles and sellout concerts the world over.
In 1973, Davey released his solo album, Smiling Face, on Elton’s Rocket Records, and in 1976 got his first co-writing credits with Elton on Medley (Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly) and Grow Some Funk Of Your Own from the album Rock Of The Westies. He also co-wrote four songs on Blue Moves, including Cage The Songbird. Then, in 1977, Davey co-formed the band China with keyboardist James Newton Howard. They released an album on Rocket Records that year and the band backed Elton on his “retirement” concert at Wembley that November.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Davey played with Alice Cooper (touring and recording from 1977 to 1982, and appearing on From The Inside and Flush The Fashion) and Meatloaf (touring and appearing on 1981’s Dead Ringer), amongst others including Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger and Kiki Dee, with whom he toured the United States in 1978.
Davey, Nigel and Dee reunited with Elton in 1982 for a world tour and the recording of Too Low For Zero, and Davey has remained with Elton ever since. Davey toured extensively with Elton until 1986, including an appearance at Live Aid, when the singer had to have surgery on his vocal cords at the conclusion of the Australian tour with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. During the next two years Davey would resume his session work in Los Angeles.
Davey became Elton’s Music Director in 1988, when he put the band together for the 18-month world tour. In addition, Davey co-wrote six songs with Elton during the ’80s, including the hits I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (1983) and Wrap Her Up (1985), as well as 1984’s Passengers and 1987’s Heavy Traffic.
In 1990, while Elton was taking time off, Davey collaborated with lyricist Steve Trudell and formed the band Warpipes with singer Billy Trudel and past and future members of the Elton John band (Nigel Olsson, Guy Babylon, and Bob Birch). They released their album, Holes in the Heavens, in 1991. Record company troubles and Elton’s return to recording and touring prevented Warpipes from promoting the album. However, it was the creation of this group that would bring Bob in to Elton’s band, and paved the way for the return of Nigel to his place behind the drum kit for Elton.
Simultaneous to his duties as Music Director for Elton in the studio and on tour during the 1990s, Davey found time in 1996 to release an instructional guitar video for the Starlicks Master Sessions series. And in 1997, while on tour with Elton, Davey and John Jorgenson spent much of their off time writing and recording an instrumental album titled Crop Circles, which was released in 1998 on Solid Air Records.
Also in 1997, Davey collaborated with Bob Birch on music for an episode of Fox TV’s King Of The Hill.
Davey’s son, Tam (pictured on the cover of Davey’s Smiling Face LP) is also a musician; his band The General Store released two critically acclaimed records and he also fronted the disco-punk power trio, Glass Shark. In 2001, Davey’s 9-year-old son, Oliver, passed away. Elton’s album, Songs From The West Coast, carries a dedication to him.
Davey continues to support Elton on stage and in the studio, making many contributions to everything from tour set lists to song arrangements on new albums and demo recordings for shows like Billy Elliot: The Musical and Lestat.
Over the years, Davey has also contributed to the works of many musicians in addition to the ones already mentioned, including Bill Quateman, Joan Armatrading, Long John Baldry, Jimmy Webb, Barbi Benton, Brian Russell, Richie Lecea, Matthew Moore, Neil Sedaka, Colin Blunstone, Valerie Carter, Yvonne Elliman, Leo Sayer, Mary Travers, Eric Carmen, Jim Steinman, Olivia Newton-John, Julio Iglesias, Judy Collins, George Jones, Rod Stewart, Belinda Carlisle, Lenny Kravitz and Vonda Shepard.
Davey used RS41 ‘Scene King’ throughout the 1970’s and was regularly featured in Rotosound ads.