The secrets behind Eric Johnson's tone on Cliffs of Dover

Eric Johnson performs live
(Image credit: Gary Malerba/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Before the release of Ah Via Musicom in 1990, Eric Johnson had a small but dedicated cult following that discovered him via his club performances in his hometown of Austin, Texas, his appearance on the PBS showcase Austin City Limits, his 1986 Guitar Player magazine cover story on his debut album Tones or bootleg live cassettes that were circulated by electric guitar fans.

Ah Via Musicom catapulted Johnson to guitar-hero stardom, achieving certified Gold and Platinum sales. A crucial element of the album’s success was the instrumental track Cliffs of Dover, which combined an infectious, lilting Celtic-inspired melody that appealed to general music fans with dazzling, blazing runs and a sweet, violin-like tone that impressed fans of technical guitar playing.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.