Jonny Lang (born Jon Gordon Langseth, Jr., January 29, 1981) is an American blues, gospel, and rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. Lang's music is notable for both his unusual voice, which at 13 was compared to that of a 40-year-old blues veteran, and for his guitar solos. His solo patterns have especially been noted for his frequent use of wide vibratos. He has five albums that charted on the top 50 of the Billboard 200 chart and has won a Grammy Award for Turn Around.
Jonny Lang is of Norwegian descent and was born in Fargo, North Dakota, USA. He started playing the guitar at the age of twelve. He got his start playing guitar for his friends on the Vallager's porch at their lake place. He would play everything from modern hits to the classics; even performing an astounding rendition of Jimi Hendrix's take on the National Anthem. After his father took him to see the Bad Medicine Blues Band, one of the few blues bands in Fargo. Lang soon started taking guitar lessons from Ted Larsen, the band's guitar player. Several months after Lang began, he joined the band, which was then renamed Kid Jonny Lang & The Big Bang.
The band moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and independently released the album Smokin' when Lang was fourteen. Lang was signed to A&M Records in 1996. He released the critically acclaimed multi-platinum Lie to Me on January 28, 1997. The next album, Wander this World, was released on October 20, 1998 and earned a Grammy nomination. This was followed by the more soulful Long Time Coming on October 14, 2003. Lang also made a cover of Edgar Winter's "Dying to Live". Lang's 2006 album, the gospel-influenced Turn Around, won him his first Grammy Award.
In his earliest performing years, Lang always performed barefoot on stage, because "it feels good" and once in tribute to Luther Allison, a friend who had recently died. He has since given up that practice, after several near-accidents and electric shocks.
In more than ten years on the road, Lang has toured with the Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck and Sting. In 1999, he was invited to play for a White House audience including President and Mrs. Clinton. Earlier that year he was selected by the newly elected Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura to perform at his Inaugural Ball. Lang also makes a cameo appearance in the film Blues Brothers 2000 as a janitor. In 2004, Eric Clapton asked Lang to play at the Crossroads Guitar Festival to raise money for the Crossroads Centre Antigua.
Lang also appears regularly as a part of the Experience Hendrix Tour along with many other well-known guitarists to pay tribute the deceased guitar legend.
Jonny Lang originally used Benedict guitars but now mainly uses a Fender Telecaster Thinline made by the Fender Custom Shop. He also uses one of two Jonny Lang Signature Series Gibson Les Pauls he owns for some occasions. The Telecaster Thinline has a Spruce body, maple top and birdseye maple neck. He uses Bill Lawrence Pickups (500L Neck, 500XL Bridge) and a Seymour Duncan P-90 in the middle. He uses a Route 66 pedal of Visual Sound and a Vox 847 reissue Wah Wah pedal for some songs. Live, he plays through a pair of modified Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue Amps. Jonny also used an arbiter Fuzz Face and an Electro Harmonix POG for The Experience Hendrix tour. Lang has also used Audiotech Guitar Products ABC Selector CCM on his 2005 acoustic tour.
The Fender Telecaster featured on the cover of Lie to Me is in fact not a Telecaster at all, but an original Fender Esquire. Upon filming the music video for the title track "Lie to Me" which took place in a San Francisco music store, the owner of the store suggested Jonny play the Esquire in the video. Jonny fell in love with the guitar and it was purchased and given to him as a gift. He continues to use it, but not as often as his Custom Shop Telecaster and Signature Series Les Paul.
From 1993 to 1996, Lang's backing band was The Big Bang. This group consisted of three founding members of the Bad Medicine Blues Band: Ted "Lightnin' Boy" Larsen on guitar, his brother Michael Rey Larsen on drums, and Jeff Hayenga on bass. Keyboardist Bruce McCabe joined The Big Bang in 1995 after Lang and this young band from Fargo impressed him with their set opening for McCabe's band at the time, The Hoopsnakes.
From 1996 to 2004, Lang's backing band included Paul Diethelm on guitar, Bruce McCabe on keyboards, Doug Nelson on bass and Billy Thommes on drums. Also appearing on keyboards during 2003 and 2004 was Donnie La Marca, filling in for McCabe during his break from touring. Nelson was killed in a traffic accident in 2000 and was replaced by Billy Franze. Franze was in turn replaced by Jim Anton in 2003. Saxophone player David Eiland was added in 2000, providing Lang with a foil for extended instrumental jams. In 2005, Lang replaced the entire lineup, except for Anton, and embarked on an acoustic tour. He performed with Wendy Alane Wright at the 2000 pre-Grammy party. Guitarist Reeve Carney was the band's opening act for several shows in 2005, as well as for the 2006 and 2007 tours. The new band also includes organist and Houston, Texas native Charles Jones, drummer Barry Alexander, and organist Bill Brown from Minneapolis.
The current band line up includes:
- Barry Alexander from Minneapolis, MN on drums
- James Anton from Minneapolis, MN on bass
- Akil Thompson from Nashville, TN on rhythm guitar
- Dwan Hill from Nashville, TN on keys
- Missi Hale from Los Angeles, CA on background vocals
On September 17, 2013 Lang released his first studio album in seven years, Fight for My Soul.
Lang married former Kids Incorporated cast member Haylie Johnson on June 8, 2001. Lang and his wife share the same birthday, although she is one year older. They live in Los Angeles, California.
Lang and Johnson have 4 children. Fraternal twins - son Raimy Lee and daughter Saylor Monroe, daughter Rennix Belle, and daughter Lilou Jaymes.
Lang has two older sisters, Stephanie and Heidi Jo. He also has one younger sister, Jessica ("Jesse"), who was a contestant on season 8 of American Idol. Actress Ashley Johnson (Growing Pains, What Women Want) is Lang's sister-in-law.
Conversion to Christianity
After a period of alcoholism and drug abuse, Jonny Lang became a Christian in 2000, which led him to stop substance abuse. In an interview with Sara Groves on Christianity Today, Lang gave details about his conversion, assuring he had a supernatural experience with the Holy Ghost. In his own words, he has said that he formerly "hated Christianity" and "despised the things of God", but now he wants to share with others about Jesus' love.
The songs "Only a Man" and "Thankful" from his album Turn Around, are about his belief in God. He has also co-written a couple of songs with Christian-music artist Steven Curtis Chapman, notably "My Love Remains".
Filmography And Television Appearances
- 1997 Disney Channel's In Concert
- 1998 Blues Brothers 2000
- 1998 The Drew Carey Show episode "In Ramada Da Vida" (cameo)
- 2004 Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2004
- 2008 Live at Montreaux 1999 DVD
- 2010 Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010