Johnny A. is not a household name, and he’s never had a hit song.

In fact, most people can’t even pronounce his actual last name — Antonopolous — hence the A.

But this Boston-based guitarist has earned the respect and friendship of some of the world’s best-known musicians during the past 30 years or more, from the members of Aerosmith and The J. Geils Band to B.B. King and the late Les Paul.

Plus, he has something very few guitarists can claim — a guitar made by the legendary Gibson company and named in his honor. The Gibson Johnny A. Signature Model, first made in 2003, is painted gold and has two P-90 pickups.

Mainers will get a chance to hear the man and his namesake electric guitar on Friday at One Longfellow Square in Portland, where he’ll be performing with his trio.

The guitarist has played the fairly small room before, and enjoyed himself.

“I really like the experience of being close to the audience and connecting more than I could in a big room on a big stage,” said Johnny A., who now lives in Salem, N.H. “As an instrumental artist doing a two-hour show, I have to do a wide range of things, and a small room allows me to do some of the more quiet stuff.”

When’s he’s doing his own music, Johnny A.’s repertoire ranges from “Chet Atkins country stuff to jazz to rock to blues.” A note about Johnny A. on the Gibson website says his guitar style is “recognized as one of the most innovative and expressive of our time.”

Born in Malden, Mass., just outside of Boston, Johnny A. was first drawn to the guitar after hearing The Beatles in the mid-’60s. He was further influenced by, and later became a part of, the thriving Boston music scene of the late 1960s and ’70s.

Many bands and musicians who were in Boston at that time have gone on to national stardom, including Aerosmith, The J. Geils Band, James Montgomery and The Cars.

The Boston musicians at that time knew each other well, and stayed friends over the years, Johnny A. said. In January 2010, he played an all-star revue at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium with Montgomery, Johnny Winter, Brad Whitford of Aerosmith and Barry Goudreau of the band Boston. So it was like old-home week for Johnny A.

“I’ve known James forever, and all those guys have been friends for a long time,” he said.

Although he’s been around the Boston music scene for more than 30 years, Johnny A. says he doesn’t like to give his exact age, because “rock is the only musical idiom where age can work against you.”

He has had several bands — The Streets, and Hearts on Fire were two of the better-known — and has worked for other notable musicians. Beginning in the early 1990s, he had a seven-year stint as guitarist and music director for former J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf.

“It was a great education. He is the consummate professional and one of the better rock ‘n’ roll frontmen this country has produced,” Johnny A. said. “He’s one of those ‘the show must go on’ guys.”

Besides releasing his own instrumental music and touring with his trio, Johnny A. is still a busy session guy and musical guest. He recently was asked to do a song on a Les Paul tribute album, and just did a show with Edgar Winter.

“Anything to keep busy, keep it creative, and keep food on the table,” he said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]


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