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John Jorgenson

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Southern California native John Jorgenson, a three-time winner of the Academy of Country Music award for Guitarist of the Year, was destined to be a part of the music business from an early age. Classically trained as a child, his father conducted for Benny Goodman. John, who idolized Goodman, played with his hero while his father was leading the way. Later, he went on to work for eight years as a member of the jazz and bluegrass group at Disneyland. While employed at the "happiest place on earth," John contributed his skills on a number of instruments, including mandolin, saxophone, guitar, and clarinet. At another point in his career he was the featured bassoonist for the L.A. Camerata. Still, it was Jorgenson's expertise as a guitarist that brought him fame and respect as he recorded with the groundbreaking Byrds as well as Rose Maddox, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Dan Fogelberg, and even Michael Nesmith. In 1986 Jorgenson joined forces with some of the biggest guns on the West Coast in order to form a truly traditional country-rock outfit called the Desert Rose Band. With former Byrd Chris Hillman singing lead and assistance from Herb Pedersen, Bill Bryson, Steve Duncan, and steel player Jay Dee Maness, the Desert Rose Band came out of the gate full force. Jorgenson's power-driven 12-string was one of the reasons. Their first single was a remake of the classic Johnnie & Jack hit "Ashes of Love" from their self-titled debut album. With the release of their second project in 1988, Running, they were named the Academy of Country Music's Touring Band of the Year. This honor was repeated in 1989 and 1990. Also, in 1989 and 1990 they were nominated for the Country Music Association's Best Vocal Group award. In spite of the number one hits, the classic covers they brought back to life, and all the Top Ten singles, the Desert Rose Band began to crumble by 1992. Jorgenson left to pursue other interests, including his guitar work with the Hellecasters, a band that came together after a one-time-only gig in 1991. Comprised of Jorgenson and fellow Telecaster disciples Will Ray and Jerry Donahue, the Hellecasters were made up of three lead players and no vocalist. The Return of the Hellecasters, their debut recording, was voted both Album of the Year and Country Album of the Year in 1993 by the Guitar Player magazine Reader's Poll. A second Hellecasters project in 1995, Escape from Hollywood, continued to refine and redefine guitar techniques. Jorgenson recorded and toured with Elton John during 1995 (continuing on for several years), and one year later recorded a bluegrass project with the legendary Rose Maddox at Mad Dog Studios. Released in 1996, The Moon Is Rising was also produced by Jorgenson. Emotional Savant followed in 1999. During the early 2000s, his interest in gypsy swing became evident; he portrayed Django Reinhardt in a film (Head in the Clouds), and formed a quintet including rhythm guitarist Doug Martin, violin player Jason Anick, bassist Simon Planting, and drummer Rick Reed. Franco-American Music appeared in 2004, followed by Ultraspontane three years later. ~ Jana Pendragon

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