From South Central to Sammy Hagar: Vic Johnson Traces His Career on 'No Guitar Is Safe'


Vic Johnson left Colorado for South Central Los Angeles to live with his grandmother when he was old enough to vote but not quite old enough to buy a drink. His goal? To become a professional guitarist.

And become a professional guitarist he did.

Need proof? Listen to the impassioned new live album by Sammy Hagar and the Circle, called At Your Service, which features Johnson's fiery, funky guitar playing front and center on every song.

On the new episode of Guitar Player's No Guitar Is Safe podcast, Johnson tells host Jude Gold all about his rise to one of the coolest guitar gigs in rock—playing for Hagar in the Circle. This band features a fun set list for a guitarist, because Johnson gets to play four great repertoires: Hagar songs, Van Halen ("Van Hagar") songs, Montrose songs, and Led Zeppelin songs (because the band features John Bonham's son Jason on drums).

It was mere weeks after Johnson resigned from doing sessions with Dr. Dre (after a sketchy run-in with rival producer Suge Night) that Hagar's camp called Johnson to audition. (Bonus: Sammy Hagar also makes an appearance on this episode.)

"When Sammy hired me, I thought the gig would last for just that tour, which was about a year," says Johnson. "I've been with Sammy for 18 years and counting."

With a guitar in his hands, Johnson takes you on a musical retrospective from his days with the Busboys, Total Eclipse, and other bands on up through Dr. Dre sessions and Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas. He also demonstrates his elaborate Marshall/Mesa Boogie-powered "wet/dry/wet" stereo rig.

To hear the episode, visit the iTunes link below, where you can subscribe to No Guitar Is Safe in one click, or find the show anywhere else that hosts podcasts.