Home » Sounds of Syracuse » Don’t Drop Anything …
or else Terry Johnson will make a guitar out of it.

Don’t Drop Anything …
or else Terry Johnson will make a guitar out of it.

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Finders keepers applied to musical instrument technology has arrived. Somewhere out there, there is always somebody busy, tinkering with the unexpected. They forge their own crazy ideas with their own crazy energy according to their own crazy laws. And while the rest of us giggle and acknowledge their craziness, they establish genius in their resulting effort.

Part of why I am careful to regard weirdness, or craziness as a bad thing.

Terry Johnson made a guitar out of a Rachel ray frying pan and wound up on the Rachel Ray Show. I imagine a doughnut rolling down the road… Terry Johnson running out to chase the sucker down, roping it cowboy-style, and dragging it home to make a bass out of the wretched glazed catch of the day. Crazy ideas work if you have the guts and gumption to “do it” and follow through.

Terry Johnson with one of his unconventional, unique creations

I am very inspired to meet and chat with Terry Johnson.

Chuck Schiele: So…….. Terry. How does this work? What. You’re sitting around, minding your own business… and one day, for no particular reason you get an epiphany about making guitars out of brooms? You have these crazy instruments. Please tell us about them. Why do you do this?

Terry Johnson: I’m a full-time working musician. I have been playing out since I was 12 years old. Approximately 4 or 5 years ago A friend gave me Cigar Box guitar. I decided to up him and make him something stranger, so I made a guitar out of a broom to give him. I put on three strings, parts of a bow and arrow, a muffler clamp  off of mini bike. I wanted to make it really rude and crude as a joke. So at the end of making it I decided to plug it in to see if it made a noise and I fell in love with the sound. I ended up not giving it to him. Now it is one of the main instruments that I use for my band swamp drivers.

       I was playing with another band at the time and I practiced with the broom and finally I took the instrument to play at a gig. I walked in with his broom and Leaned it against the wall. I went back out to get my amplifier and normal guitar. And when I came back in everybody was taking pictures of this broom. From that night’s response I decided to have a complete band and everybody play homemade instruments. One of the first instruments after the broom that I made as bad as it sounds was a three-string plunger and as I played it gave this eerie swamp sound. So the instruments actually help give the band its name swamp drivers. The drive part of the name comes from the way the band plays. We’re high energy driving band.

CS: Do you play conventional instruments, too?

TJ: The guys in the band own their own conventional instruments. But, after all the attention that we’ve gotten with these instruments, we’re all very happy playing our homemade instruments, instead. Each one of the guys in the band makes and plays his own instruments. My drummer Phil Deal made a garbage can drum set, it looks crazy but I have to say at every Fest we’ve ever played the sound technicians come up and shake our hands. saying it’s one of the best kits I’ve ever heard. My bass player Joe bar, has made several different bases ranging from a 2-string washtub bass, a toilet seat bass, and Harley Davidson theme bass. All three of the band members sing. As far as myself  goes, my instruments range from a 3-string broom I call the “witch stick,”  a 3-string plunger I called the “Crap o Caster. A 1-string garden hoe I call a “Diddly Hole.” I made guitars made out of Harley Davidson motorcycle parts that were featured in Guitar Player magazine and put on Guitar World. Many videos have gone viral. I’ve got a guitar made out of a frying pan that also went viral. A few months ago one of my fans saw me playing the guitar that I made out of a Rachael Ray frying pan and he submitted it to the Rachael Ray Show. In January of this year I was invited to go on Rachael Ray TV show and played the instrument on her show.

One of Terry’s homemade instruments made out of a Rachel Ray pan that got him on the Rachel Ray show!

CS: I can imagine quite a response when people see you playing these instruments…

TJ: The response from people that have never seen our show before is hilarious. First thing: they walk by and they see our instruments are a plunger or the garden hoe and they start to laugh. Then we start to play and it blows them away. Our sound is a very high-energy ZZ Top ish style of music.

    I’ve also completed two instrumental CDs, again, featuring all homemade instruments. I’ve also started a business called Mojo Johnson guitars. Mojo Johnson has a few of the instruments that I’ve made plus a guitar you design from a cigar box guitar. It has only three strings and just a few frets that anybody can play. I designed it for my granddaughter and then I found that anybody can learn how to play it.

CS: Is there a future goal for this?

TJ: Future goals the band is to start playing at bigger festivals and events. Because of the internet we are always being asked to come all around the world to play, UK, Australia, etc. But at this time doing the one off show just isn’t possible, hopefully down the road we can.

CS: Any thoughts on creativity itself?

TJ: It’s incredible how our instruments have changed the creativity of the band. It makes us play and think of things outside the normal box that we’ve done for years. It’s not the look of the instruments it’s the sound that we get from them.

CS: Your thoughts on CNY music scene:

TJ: Central New York music scene very strong. There are a lot of places but there’s a lot more bands that want to play. All the bands know one another and I say most bands help each other out.

CS: Tell us about the Rachel Ray show.

TJ: The Rachael Ray Show is probably one of the coolest and scariest things that I’ve ever done. At the beginning I didn’t feel nervous at all but when I came around the corner, walked across in front of everybody all the cameras and people it was very intimidating. They took me to the spot for me to play and I heard somebody talk to me, I looked up and it was Rachael small talking from across the room. She made it very comfortable and easy for me. After small talking with her for a while she just said to “go ahead play.” I didn’t get a chance to warm up, si it was a little intimidating. But, I have to say it all came off without a hitch.

Terry and his 3-string plunger he calls the “Crap o Caster.

CS: Whats on the horizon for you and the Swamp Drivers?

TJ: Always making new and different instruments. Trying to get other people besides Rachael Ray to take interest in what we’re doing. We’ve got several instruments made out of Harley Davidson motorcycle parts that I thought they would take a look at. That hasn’t happened yet but you just never know. As far as gigs go we are always trying to move up the corporate ladder so-to-speak. We would love to be playing cigar box music festivals or actually any Festival.

 CS: How can we all keep up with your progress?

TJ: Mojo Johnson guitars has his own website www.MojoJohnsonGuitars.com. The site has a few guitars that I’m selling. I just spoke before I developed a guitar for my granddaughter to learn how to play and I found that many other people with disabilities or lost finger, arthritis and other disabilities  can play the Mojo Music Maker guutar. You can also buy the bands CDs, the two instrumental CDs, t-shirts, hats and of course the Mojo Maker Guitar.

Cs: Thank, Terry. Good luck with all this and for chatting with us at Table Hopping.

TJ: Thank you, Chuck

Video:

Rachael Ray Show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=2MmcGdrgNVs&t=49s 

Guitar World link with includes one of my viral video’s

https://www.guitarworld.com/ gear/meet-hog-o-caster-guitar- made-harley-parts

This is our Swamp Drivers band demo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch? time_continue=1&v=wSRXzg5jtWA

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.