Mick grew up obsessed with The Shadows, The Beatles and particularly Fiesta Red Stratocasters.
This obsession, coupled with a fascination for how things work, both mechanical and electronic, led him to make his first guitar – a copy of Hank’s Strat – at the tender age of 12, and his first amp at 15.
Mick & his wife Shirley pictured in 1964
Custom Built Guitars
That inspirational 1959 Fender Stratocaster now belongs to Bruce Welch, and Mick looks after it – nursing it through its old age. In 2009 Mick was commissioned by Fender USA to design and profile the neck for their Bruce Welch CRS 50th Anniversary Custom Shop guitar, a copy of said ’59 Strat – pictured above – which was originally bought by Cliff Richard for Hank Marvin.
Mick has built Johnson ‘Strats’ for legions of satisfied customers the world over. These flawless hand built guitars take on many different forms, from the standard Fiesta Red instruments beloved of so many Shadows fans, to the more exotic quilted or flamed maple topped beauties, and to the bizarre paint jobs of the ‘Crash’ series. When it comes to Strats, if you can envision it, Mick can build it.
If Strats are not your bag then Mick will be just as happy to make you something else. Everything from Firebirds to Twin-necks have all been given the Johnson treatment. He even built a white Teardrop for Sergio Pizzorno of Kasabian.
In 2000 after quite a lay-off Mick got back into making acoustic guitars with a spruce/rosewood dreadnought which turned out remarkably well, having a strident tone typical of the style but also a perfectly balanced voice. When Bruce Welch saw the guitar he promptly commissioned a similar, if slightly more lavishly decorated instrument. The guitar appeared extensively on Shadows tours and DVDs and can also be heard on their recording of Jerry Lordan’s Life Story. Bruce continues to use the guitar to this day.
Mick has since turned out consistently fine acoustics, whether they be Dreadnought, OOO, Parlour, 6 or 12 string. He has even built a stunningly accurate Maccaferri-style instrument.
More recently, Mick has been involved with the Buddy Holly Foundation in the recreation of Buddy’s famous ‘leather-clad’ 1942 Gibson J-45. The first of this series, named ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ was presented by Graham Nash to former Hollies vocalist Allan Clarke at The Royal Albert Hall on 8th October 2011.
In a flurry of J-45-based activity, Mick has now completed several more instruments in this unique series for recipients Roger Daltrey, Mike Berry and Marty Wilde, named “Oh Boy”, ‘Tell Me How’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter Any More’ respectively.
There are more guitars still to come for Hank Marvin –“You’re The One” , and Bruce Welch -“Crying, Waiting, Hoping”. Watch this space for further details . . .
Jazz . . .’nice’. . .
A few years back, Mick decided to tackle the complex world of the arch-top jazz guitar. Learning from the masters such as Bob Benedetto, he turned out an absolutely cracking instrument. To get it ‘so right’ first time is quite a feat, however you’d probably need to be possessed of very persuasive powers, as well as a fairly fat wallet, to get him to make another one!
Mick also has a long line of satisfied customers among the bass-playing fraternity. Alan Jones of Shadows fame, Brian Hodgson of Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes, and Pete Lincoln of The Sweet all play custom-built Johnson basses.
Mick’s reputation in his local area as a Mr Fixit for practically anything music-related is legendary. As well as possessing all the required skills for instrument repair, whether it be cracked or split bodies, broken headstocks, resprays, re-frets or a simple set-up, he can also tackle just about any electronic repair you can throw at him.
© 2011 Mick Johnson