1954 – Born on this day, Neal Schon, guitar, Journey, (1982 US No.2 single ‘Open Armson February 27th, 1954 at 11:15 pm
1954 – Born on this day, Neal Schon, guitar, Journey, (1982 US No.2 single ‘Open Arms’), Santana, (1977 UK No.11 single ‘She’s Not There’).
The son of a jazz saxophonist, Schon first picked up the guitar at the age of 5. A quick learner, he joined Santana as a teenage prodigy at the age of 15. He went to Aragon High School in San Mateo, but dropped out (with his parents’ blessing) before graduating. Schon had famously been asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominos, but since Santana called him first, he decided to join Santana for the album Santana III. Schon also played in Azteca before moving on in 1973 to form Journey, a group he continues to lead today.
Schon’s guitar style has been described as soulful, taking inspiration from 1960s-era soul singers such as Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, and blending it with blues runs similar to B. B. King.
In addition to his five solo albums and 14 studio albums with Journey, his work also includes: a pair of albums with keyboardist Jan Hammer, short-term collaborations with Sammy Hagar (HSAS and Planet Us) and Paul Rodgers, stints with Bad English (a supergroup that featured Journey’s Jonathan Cain and Deen Castronovo and Jonathan Cain’s former Babys bandmates John Waite and Ricky Phillips) and Hardline (which also featured Deen Castronovo). Even as Journey’s latest lineup plays to a still-faithful body of fans, Schon has immersed himself in side projects such as Piranha Blues (1999) and “Black Soup Cracker” a funk outfit that features former Prince associates Rosie Gaines and Michael Bland, and more recently Soul SirkUS with Jeff Scott Soto.
Schon can also be heard on other albums including three tracks on Michael Bolton’s The Hunger, with the Schon sound most recognizable on “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. Also the most prolific album by Santana was Caravanserai. It was very critically acclaimed but the funny part was Neil actually did all the great guitar parts on it and Carlos got the credit.
Schon’s first guitar was an acoustic Stella, followed two years later by a Gibson ES-335 which was subsequently stolen and replaced with a ’56 Les Paul Goldtop reissue that he used for many years. A white Schon guitar can be clearly seen in the music video for the Journey song “Girl Can’t Help It”, as well as a gold version in the Journey videos for “I’ll Be Alright Without You” and “Be Good to Yourself”.
Schon has been married four times and has five children: Miles, Elizabeth, Sarah, Aja and Sophia. Neal Schon’s father, the late Matthew Schon, was a jazz musician and composer who provided the arrangements on the Journey song “Mother, Father”.
* Untold Passion – as Schon & Hammer (1981)
* Here to Stay – as Schon & Hammer (1982)
* Late Nite (1989)
* Beyond the Thunder (1995)
* Abraxas Pool (1997)
* Electric World (1997)
* Piranha Blues (1998)
* Neal Schon & Jan Hammer Collection: No More Lies (1998)
* “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, featured on Merry Axemas, Vol. 2: More Guitars for Christmas (1998)
* Voice (2001)
* Dice With The Universe—Band: Trichromes (2002) with Bill Kreutzman of Grateful Dead fame
* I on U (2005)
* World Play – Soul SirkUS (2005)
* See the Journey discography for the complete list of Journey albums, as Schon played lead guitar for all Journey’s album releases.