By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
"The best musical advice is to listen to as much good music as you can and study it. It’s amazing how it will find its way into your own playing.”
The focus of this edition's spotlight brings us back to the land of stars: lights, glitz, and glam; a place where dreams are made and dreams are saved, we could only be taking about the land of opportunity known as Los Angeles.
This spotlight takes us to a suburban part of LA where we highlight a guitarist that has really blossomed into an icon and a talk-of-the-circuit, and a real favourite amongst his peers and heroes.
He possesses a touch that is hard to come by and a technique that is forever in the minds of those who look to master it. A player that’s found that magical tonal connection between the celebrated legacy of the past and his pursuit of modern blues.
His bottleneck slide work has evoked favourable comparisons to his heroes, influenced and inspired, never imitating.
Ladies and gentlemen, a well-dressed man with a well-dressed name, Mr. Johnny Stachela.
A Modern Master & Bottled Wizard 🎼
The guitar itself as a symbol has always possessed a certain type of magnetism, a strong lure of desire and intrigue that many fall under the spell of, this is also true of Johnny Stachela.
Starting out at the impressionable age of five years old Johnny would try to learn and imitate Black Sabbath riffs on a toy Guitar. His parents were great fans of classic & heavy rock so this would of course be the backbone of his musical education. By the age of 12 he had cemented his soul to the instrument and decided this was a way to go.
“I was standing in the magazine aisle at Tower records, looking at a guitar ad. I knew then I had to play guitar. That was going to be my thing.”
Johnny Stachela - https://www.johnnystachela.com/bio/
Prior to discovering his true path in musical choice he would lean on his early influences such as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Until he discovered a certain film with parts played and fulfilled by a certain guitarist...
Like many of us back then he was completely astounded at the age of 12 when he saw the movie “Crossroads”. This film of course starred Ralph Macchio a true Hollywood icon at the time and was the go-to golden boy, but what's fascinating is the musicians involved in this film: Steve Vai and the great Ry Cooder.
The film really tried to introduce the Blues to the masses commercially and was a really charming cult success; what it did also convey was the beauty and picturesque extravagance of world-class slide playing.
“I immediately started looking into B.B. King and stuff like that, I was brought up around lots of records which led me to Bands like the Allman Brothers. I came from a rock background and I was around stuff like AC/DC, the first riff I ever learned was that Sabbath, blues and Black Sabbath was the same to me, it was simply blues music with a hook.”
J. Stachela - Vintage Guitar Magazine
As many artists have a variable view on genres the Blues is always quite conformative but Johnny's take on what the Blues really means to him is really quite exceptional and refreshing.
“The blues to me has always been about the feeling. And that’s what I loved about it. Some people think the blues are sad, but for me it’s the release of emotion into musical expression. The blues is honest. It’s life. It’s so real. There’s so much feeling. There is comfort in knowing that others have the same pain. We’re all in it together.”
Looking back over when and how he started as a guitar player is always a great form of nostalgia, not to mention the journey of his musical tastes and certain key moments that sparked change, intervention and development.
“Their sound really lit a flame 🔥 in me, Duane Allman and Dickey Betts opened a world of discovery into the blues and jazz giants, I know I'm not alone here I found a wealth of inspiration within the music they created.”
Vintage Guitar yearbook 2021.
Have Slide Guitar, Will Travel 🧳
So once a young Johnny had cut his teeth playing the circuit around LA with some local outfits he began to hook up with some real cool players on the scene at the time. The reason he was able to do this was he was being noticed and sonically recognised for his exquisite & accomplished slide playing.
Every so often one or two players come along that really work the magic of the medicine bottle. Johnny Stachela is one of these truly blessed and hard-working players.
“Your slide playing is fantastic. You have tone and touch that is hard to come by.If I wanted to learn to play the slide today, where should I start? Who should I listen to?
The first guys that really caught my ear were Duane Allman and Ry Cooder. I love Elmore James. I think Derek Trucks has taken slide guitar beyond the stratosphere. Good intonation is the most important skill when it comes to slide. You have to really develop your ear. The beauty is that without frets the possibilities are infinite. It’s much easier to start with open E or G tunings. You get the nice overtones while you’re developing your right hand technique. It’s nice to play in standard tuning as well because you can just pull out the slide in any song.”
Weapon of choice here would be the secretly iconic weapon of those in the know, the myth the legend of the Coricidin Bottle. These secret little tone trophies are of course historically linked to Daune Allman and his iconic slide playing and tonal capabilities.
“In 2017, Duane Betts and Johnny Stachela united to form a band called the Pistoleers. “Our friendship goes back awhile and we have a great chemistry playing music together.” The next obvious step was to focus on Duane’s original music.”
The Allman Betts Band 🤘
With great perseverance, dedication, and commitment comes great reward... Johnny had become a staple on the LA music scene, the man has the magic touch and it was in high demand.
He recorded and toured with Leroy Powell (Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson), and cultivated a working relationship with Gov’t Mule bassist Jorgen Carlsson- recording at Carlsson’s studio a 2015 solo EP debut, Walk Through Fire, then enlisting him as a producer on the next year’s follow-up, Handle It, from the Johnny Stachela Band. His group held a year-long residency at the venerable Santa Monica blues club, Harvelles, sharing sets with longtime friend, guitarist and singer Duane Betts. By 2017, Duane Betts and the Pistoleers materialised out of an oft-discussed desire to form a band.
In 2018, Stachela and Betts partnered with the Devon Allman Project as guests, supporting and sitting-in on a year-long Allman/Betts world tour before joining The Allman Betts Band. Brandishing his Gibson SG, Stachela’s slide work, in particular, has evoked critical acclaim and favorable comparisons to celebrated legacy of Duane Allman, Warren Haynes, and Derek Trucks.
Stachela Slide Strings 🎸
So in conclusion and overview we need to look at the all-important string choice here, being that Johnny is predominantly a slide player string choices both critical and tactical.
Very particular and highly-developed slide guitar players such as Johnny require a string that both physically performs with reliability along with the correct tonality in relation to the slide and the resonance required.
For many years Stachela has been dedicated to DR Handmade Strings and his preference ironically is very similar to Derek Trucks in the fact that he predominantly leans towards DR Pure Blues.
We can see that the choice is straight up 10-46 so no custom gauge here and as you can also see he's pretty dedicated to DR there’s a good few sets there, (maybe he won a competition at Strings Direct or something 😉).
Here's what DR Strings have to say on their website all good things: 👍
JOHNNY STACHELA - ALLMAN BETTS BAND
Pure Nickel Round Core Electric Guitar Strings
Bio - Johnny Stachela is currently on a world wide tour and garnering much attention with the newly formed Allman Betts Band. Brandishing his Gibson SG, Stachela’s slide work, in particular, has evoked critical acclaim and favorable comparisons to the celebrated legacy of Duane Allman, Warren Haynes, and Derek Trucks.
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