Keeps on keepin’ on

By Tom MacIntosh

Today we take a look at the career of one John Clayton Mayer, the American singer/songwriter, guitarist and record producer, born October 16, 1977, in Bridgeport Connecticut to two teachers, Richard and Margaret Mayer, the middle brother between older Carl and younger Ben. He got interested in the guitar after watching Michael J. Fox’s memorable performance of a Chuck Berry number Johnny B. Goode on a Gibson ES-345 in Back To The Future. It was the seed that grew into what Mayer is today, a seven-time Grammy Award winner, who has sold over 20 million records, and a busload of accolades from around the world.

His career began in the late 90s, when he teamed up with college mate Clay Cook to form the short-lived LoFi Masters performing in local clubs in Atlanta. After they dissolved, Mayer was helped by local producer and engineer Glenn Matullo to record an EP (extended play) Inside Wants Out, with 8 songs that found its way into the hands of the Gregg Latterman of Aware Records who invited him to participate in the Aware Festival concerts. In 2001 Aware released an online-only album of his called Room for Squares, which in turn, caught the attention of Columbia Records who remixed the album with some of his older material and spawned radio hits such as No Such Thing, Your Body Is a Wonderland, (Grammy winner 2003) and Why Georgia. The album went multi-platinum, which paved the way to global recognition as the new kid on the block. Two years later he released Heavier Things, which charted at the top of Billboard 200, and ‘Grammied’ again for best song, Daughters.

Mayer is an avid guitar collector with over 200 in his care. But the most iconic model came after the Heavier Things tour, the Fender Black1, a custom built weapon fitted with a mint pickguard, custom wound pickups, gold hardware and tuners from the SRV Tribute Stratocaster, based on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “first wife” strat.  In 2010, Fender came out with his signature John Mayer Black1 Special Edition.

In 2005 he stepped back to get a better perspective of his handsome situation and choose to follow his first ‘love’, the blues. That spring he formed the John Mayer Trio with Pino Palladino, a formidable bassman best known for playing with The Who from 2002-2016, and the 3rd piece of the pie was session drummer/producer wizard Steve Jordan. Together they would release the live album Try!, which also got a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Mayer and Jordan produced his 3rd studio effort Continuum, gathering 2 Grammys for best album and best single Waiting On the World to Change.

The long list of collaborators include Buddy Guy at a concert at the Irving Plaza (2003), on tour with pianist Herbie Hancock at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, appeared on singles by Eric Clapton (Back Home), John Scofield (That’s What I Say), B.B.King (80), Guy Sebastian (Like It Like That), Crosby Loggins (Time to Move), and co-wrote World Of Chances with Demi Lovato on her 2nd album Here We Go Again. He’s also sat in on rap material like Go, by Common, and Kanye West’s album Graduation. He was considered one of the “New Guitar Godsby Rolling Stone Magazine and appeared on the February cover along with John Frusciante and Derek Trucks; they dubbed him “Slowhand 2after the original ‘Slowhand’ Eric Clapton. He played a touching version of Human Nature at author Michael Jacksons memorial service in July 2009, and later that year put out his 4th studio album Battle Studies that went straight to the top of the Billboard 200 album chart. It featured hit singles like Who Says, Heartbreak Warfare and Half of My Heart. The subsequent promotional tour collected a cool 45 million dollars.

From 2010-2013, he suffered a physical setback needing several medical interventions for granuloma, inflammation of the vocal cords, delaying the release of his next project Born and Raised. Still, the throat trouble called for more treatment, and the moment came when he thought he would never sing again, “I did a lot of therapy, like anti-acid reflux, and it didn't work, then I went on vocal rest. No Alcohol. No spicy food. No Talking. Most of September I wasn’t talking at all. I’d have a Bluetooth keyboard, and sometimes would have an iPad to read what I type. I had to point to menus at restaurants.” (San Francisco Chronicle, June 12, 2012).

He was back a year later with a new album Paradise Valley crafted by elite producer Don Was (Iggy Pop, Elton John, Bob Dylan) and hit #2 on Billboard. It featured Frank Ocean on Wildfire Pt.2, and with Katy Perry on Who You Love.

By this time he had abandoned Fender for other makers, so they pulled his signature model off production. He wound up endorsing PRS Guitars who designed a guitar for him called the Super Eagle. It features ultra-grade woods, abalone inlays, JCF audio preamps, and a hand-signed sticker by glass artist David Smith. They made just 100 units and they sell for over $10,000 US.

In August 2015, after conceding that he had been hooked on music by the Grateful Dead, he formed a band with surviving members of the Dead, Bob Weir (rhythm guitar/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), Mickey Hart (percussion/drums), Oteil Burbridge -ex Allman Brothers (bass/percussion/vocals, and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards/vocals), called Dead & Company. They've been touring since 2015 without recording a single record, but the response to their concerts has been widely praised. They plan a live album on their 2016-present shows, including at Madison Square Garden, the Bonnaroo Music Festival, where former Dead singer Donna Jean Godchaux joined them onstage and then at two more gigs at Citi Field in Flushing , N.Y., and Fenway Park in Boston. The touring abruptly stopped when Mayer had to go to the hospital for an appendectomy.

Mayer’s 7th album The Search for Everything: Wave One hit the market in November 2017. It was an EP as well, with the lead single Love on the Weekend, and then ‘Wave Two, the 2nd EP containing the single Still Feel Like Your Man; the album The Search For Everything was finally released in April that year. The release was coined “a return to Mayer’s pop/rock roots while retaining a bit of bluesy flair that Mayer cultivated on his last several studio albums”, - Rolling Stone Magazine.

On top of being a prolific talent onstage and in the studio, he is also very into philanthropic events fundraising for causes like health care, education, the arts, and talent developing. Also at the Live Earth concert in N.J. to raise awareness to climate change, and helped out with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and other benefits and telethons like the Virginia Tech Massacre with the Dave Matthews Band, Toys For Tots, Inner City Arts, and the Los Angeles Mission, and has appeared in Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace, plus the Tiger Woods Foundation in the Tiger Jam 2011 with Keith Urban, for underprivileged children.

In closing this brief summary of the man’s life, (so far), you can see that he is a fully rounded fellow who has earned his place in the music world, and no doubt will keep on keepin’ on well into the future.