John 5: my top 5 not-so-guilty pleasures of all time
If you're the kind of guy who likes to sport horror film makeup while peeling off scarifying licks of doom with Rob Zombie, you must be cranking the metal 24/7, right? Not if you're the kind of guy who calls himself John 5. This shred monster doesn't live by headbanging along, not by a long stretch.
"You can't listen to the same thing every day," 5 says. "I mean, come one, would you eat the same food or wear the same clothes every day? That would get boring. You need some variety, certainly in the case with music."
Well-oiled guitar picking from the rural regions of the Southern United States is deep under 5's skin. In act, before he made his name as an axeman for Marilyn Manson, Zombie, and years before his own successful solo career, 5 caught country star k.d. lang's attention and joined her band in the late '90s.
"Country music is so important to me," he says. "It's always funny – with my friends growing up, and even now with some musicians I know, they'll say, 'Ah, country. I don't want to listen to that.' But then I'll start playing it and they'll be knocked out. It's completely different from the metal shred thing. And the guitar playing – you're using all of your fingers. The playing style is night and day."
On the following pages, John 5 runs down his not-so-guilty pleasures – five albums (the number of which is purely coincidental) that he would gladly play for any card-carrying metal maniac any time. "I'm very proud of these records," he says. "They've inspired me a lot. And I bet, if people check them out, they might feel the same way."
Willie Nelson & Family - Honeysuckle Rose Original Soundtrack (1980)
“This was a great movie, and it has unbelievable music by Willie Nelson. I just love Willie Nelson so much. His voice, his guitar playing – he’s such a good picker. I’ve been a huge fan of his for most of my life.
“I discovered the film when it came out on cable. I don't think a lot of people have seen it, but it's worth searching for. The story is fantastic, but of course, I really got into the music. It’s one of my favorites, for sure.”
Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins - Me & Chet (1972)
“Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins made two albums together. One was called Me & Jerry, the other was called Me & Chet – they would switch their names around. Such good guitar picking on these records. Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins are two of my favorite country guitar players ever.
"I’m actually listing the second record they made as my number two choice. This one has a song called Jerry’s breakdown, and it’s an incredible instrumental. There’s other great ones – Mystery Train, Flying South. The whole album is full of that beautiful Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed style of playing. People should check this out. They’ll really get into it.”
Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed - Me & Jerry (1970)
“This is the first one they did. It’s just as good as Me & Chet. Stumpwater is a brilliant song. Man, there’s some unbelievable picking on this album. It absolutely blows me away. Both of the albums they made together inspired me so much. It’s a whole different world, that’s for sure.
“Jerry Reed was an incredible, incredible picker. I might do a cover of Jerry’s Breakdown and some of his other songs to turn people on to him. A lot of people probably know of him from being in Smokey & The Bandit or something, but he was a tremendous guitar player.
“And, of course, he was also in The Waterboy. Just a great talent.”
Dixie Chicks - Home (2002)
“I was already a fan of the Dixie Chicks, but this album really did it for me. What I love about it is how organic it sounds. It’s kind of a bluegrass record, with some really wonderful songs – extraordinary songs. And my God, the picking on this is unreal. Fast, fast playing. I don’t know all the musicians who are on it, but they’re amazing.
“Their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide is on here, and they do a brilliant job of it. Top Of The World, Lil’ Jack Slade – there’s a bunch of good songs on the album. Anybody who doesn’t know the Dixie Chicks has to check this out.”
Doc Watson - The Best Of Doc Watson 1964 - 1968 (1999)
“The great Doc Watson. He’s got so many old classics and has been such an inspiration to me. His version of Tennessee Stud is so amazing.
“You could pick up any Doc Watson and find a lot to like, but the greatest hits is probably the best way to experience him. I got into him around 1996, and man, I just love him. His talent was enormous. He had a beautiful voice, and of course, he could really, really play guitar. And he was blind, too! A mind-blowing talent.”