Brian Johnson

220px-Brian Johnson

Background information
Born October 5th 1947

Age: 70

Genres Hard rock, rock and roll, blues-rock, heavy metal, glam rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, percussion
Years active 1972–present
Labels EMI, Epic, Atlantic
Associated acts AC/DC, Geordie

Brian Francis Johnson De Luca (born 5 October 1947) is an English singer and lyricist who has been the lead singer for the rock band AC/DC since 1980. He was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003 along with the other members of the band.

In 1972, Brian Johnson became one of the founding members of the glam rock band Geordie. After a few hit singles, including UK Top 10 "All Because of You" (1973), the band split up in 1978 then to be reformed by Johnson in 1980. But after signing a new record deal, Johnson was asked to audition for AC/DC, whose charismatic frontman, Bon Scott, had died on February 19, 1980. A fan in Chicago sent a tape of Johnson performing with Geordie to the band's manager Peter Mensch. Mensch recommended him to the band.[1] AC/DC lead guitarist and co-founder Angus Young later recalled, "I remember Bon playing me Little Richard, and then telling me the story of when he saw Brian singing." He says about that night, "There's this guy up there screaming at the top of his lungs and then the next thing you know he hits the deck. He's on the floor, rolling around and screaming. I thought it was great, and then to top it off—you couldn't get a better encore—they came in and wheeled the guy off!'" Later that night, Johnson would be diagnosed with appendicitis, which was the cause of his writhing around on stage.[2] The band agreed immediately that Johnson's performing style fitted AC/DC music. Johnson's first album with AC/DC, Back in Black, became the second best selling album of all time, and the best selling album by any band.


Brian Francis Johnson De Luca was born in Dunston, Gateshead, England. He is of English and Italian descent and is the eldest of four siblings, including his brother Maurice and sister Julie. His brother Maurice works for AC/DC as the cook. Johnson's father, Alan, was a Sergeant Major of the British Army's Durham Light Infantry and a coal miner; he died during the Ball Breaker tour. His mother, Ester De Luca, was an Italian from Frascati.[3] When he was young, Johnson performed in various shows with the Scouts, and appeared in a play which aired on television, and joined a local church choir.[4]

Early CareerEdit

Johnson's first band was the Gobi Desert Canoe Club.[5] He was also in a band called Fresh.[6] From 1970, Johnson played with cabaret/club band The Jasper Hart Band,[7] performing songs from the musical Hair as well as soft-rock/pop songs of the time. He and other members of the band went on to form Geordie.

His first and only solo single, "I Can't Forget You Now", he released also as a member of Geordie in January 1976 on the Red Bus label. In 1982, a compilation including only Geordie's 1973-1976 ten songs was issued as Brian Johnson's solo album Strange Man on the MCA label. The US 1989 CD Keep On Rocking, with re-recorded versions of the band's twelve known songs was released under the name of Brian Johnson and Geordie as well as the Australian 1991 compilation CD Rockin' With The Boys 1972-1976.


Following Bon Scott's death, the remaining members of the band briefly considered quitting; they eventually concluded, however, that Scott would have wanted AC/DC to continue, and various candidates were considered for his replacement, including Buzz Shearman, ex-Moxy member, who was not able to join because of voice problems, and ex-Back Street Crawler vocalist Terry Slesser. The remaining AC/DC members finally decided on ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson.

AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Angus Young later recalled, "I remember the first time I had ever heard Brian's (Johnson) name was from Bon. Bon had mentioned that he had been in England once touring with a band and he had mentioned that Brian had been in a band called Geordie and Bon had said 'Brian Johnson, he was a great rock and roll singer in the style of Little Richard.' And that was Bon's big idol, Little Richard. I think when he saw Brian at that time, to Bon it was 'Well he's a guy that knows what rock and roll is all about.' He mentioned that to us in Australia. I suppose when we decided to continue, Brian was the first name that Malcolm and myself came up with, so we said we should see if we can find him."

In March 1980 Johnson received a phone call inviting him to London to audition as the new vocalist for AC/DC. As a big AC/DC fan ("I was a huge fan of Bon Scott's, I still play his records - the sneakiest voice ever for blues") and having nothing much better to do (since his marriage had broken up, he'd been back living with is mum), he was happy to oblige.

Malcolm remembers the day: "We were all sitting there going, Where's this guy Brian? He should have been here an hour ago. 'Oh him? He's downstairs playing pool with the roadies' - so we thought, Well, at least he plays pool." When someone fetched him in to meet them, Johnson, Malcolm recalls, "had tears in his eyes. He was as sad about Bon as we were. Anyway, we said, Do you want to give it a go? And he said, 'I do Whole Lotta Rosie with Geordie,' and off he went. We went, Fucking hell, this guy is cutting the mustard. Anything else you know? 'Nutbush City Limits?' OK, we can knock that out, and he sang that great too. It put a little smile on our faces - for the first time since Bon. So we just started working with him then." Within days, Johnson was in the band, the news being made official, amusingly enough, on April 1. A week after that he was sent a plane ticket to the Bahamas (their management's idea; a tax thing) where he joined the Youngs, bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd and Highway to Hell producer Lange in Compass Point Studios.

Johnson and company finished the work they had begun under the late Bon Scott, and the result was the album Back in Black, the first AC/DC album to feature Johnson, which was released in July that year. It was a worldwide success and went on to become the second best selling album of all time. Their next album, 1981's For Those About to Rock We Salute You also sold well. The raw, self-produced albums Flick of the Switch and Fly on the Wall were not as commercially successful as the previous two albums with Johnson. Who Made Who, released in 1986, was the soundtrack for the horror film Maximum Overdrive and brought back AC/DC's mainstream popularity. In 1986, Johnson appeared in his home city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the controversial music video for "You Shook Me All Night Long", and the video received significant airplay on MTV.[8]

[1][2]Brian Johnson hangs on to a bell while performing the song "Hells Bells".The 1988 album Blow Up Your Video was the last AC/DC album to feature lyrics from Johnson. Starting with 1990's The Razors Edge, guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young have written all of AC/DC's material. When asked by a fan during a radio interview why he stopped contributing lyrics, he laughed, "I ran out of words", and went on to explain that during recording, he didn't always enjoy the pressure of having to come up with an album's worth of lyrics and was relieved when the Young brothers filled in during The Razors Edge. The band has since continued in that tradition for every album since. In 2008, they released their tenth album with Johnson, Black Ice.[9]

On studio albums, Johnson performs all lead vocals and some background along with Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams. The same applies live on stage, but on some songs, such as Dirty Deeds done Dirt Cheap, lead guitarist Angus Young also sings backing vocals

Brian Johnson customarily wears a cap on stage and frequently off. Originally, he wore a flat cap, once regarded as a symbol of his native Tyneside, but has occasionally worn baseball caps as well. His brother suggested that the singer wear the cap onstage to prevent sweat rolling off his thick, curly hair into his eyes while singing. "He said, 'Put it on, at least you'll be able to see what the bloody freak you're doing!' So I put it on and after three songs in the second set, I looked at him, put my thumbs up — 'This is brilliant!' He never did get that hat back."[10]

In February 2010 during the Black Ice World Tour Johnson lashed out at a group of AC/DC fans who had written an open letter to the band asking for a change in the setlist, saying "Fuck them! What about the fans who haven't heard them? There are a few cocky fans. A lot of people now with the computers, they sit on their fat ass in their house somewhere going 'Oh they played that song last night, they should change it'. Well, bollocks to you. I don't think they realise changing a song in a set now is not the same as it used to be."[11]

In some live performances of "Hells Bells", Johnson rings a giant bell at the beginning of the song.

Helen of Troy musicalEdit

Since April 2003, Brian Johnson, who says "I love musical theatre, especially the classic stuff, like Rodgers and Hammerstein",[12] has been working on a musical version of Helen of Troy with Sarasota Ballet choreographer, Robert de Warren. The musical is a Les Misérables-style musical with rousing anthems, tender ballads and minimal dialogue. He conceived the project with writers Ian La Frenais, Dick Clement and Brendan Healy after seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats and being underwhelmed at what he saw.

Malcolm McDowell, who made his recording debut singing one of the songs for the soundtrack in Brian's studio, has agreed to play Zeus. The Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan and Bruce Vilanch are also set to participate.[13]

In 2004 Johnson travelled to Greece to film an episode of the television series Goddess Odyssey in which he researched the Helen of Troy myth. It was released on DVD in July 2005 and contains music from the theatre production.[14]

A small public performance, that featured songs written for the musical, was given in New York on June 13, 2005.

Other activitiesEdit

A car and racing enthusiast, Brian Johnson currently enjoys racing his vintage race cars: a Royale RP-4 and a Pilbeam MP84, which he races in vintage and historic races throughout the United States.

In 1997, Johnson recorded with the band Jackyl on their song "Locked and Loaded", and in 2002 wrote lyrics on the track "Kill the Sunshine" from their album Relentless.

In the video game Call of Duty: Finest Hour, he voices Sergeant Starkey of British forces.

He also made a cameo appearance in the 2005 film Goal! where he appears as a Newcastle United fan in a bar in California watching a Newcastle game.

In 2006 he took part in car racing reality television series The Race, broadcast on Sky One in the UK.

In 2007 Johnson and AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams took part in the Classic Rock Cares tour to raise funds for the John Entwistle Foundation which is run by Entwistle's long time friend and drummer Steve Luongo. [15] They performed AC/DC songs as well as songs written by Johnson for the film Totally Baked. These were "Blood Alley", "Chain Gang on the Road" and "Who Phoned the Law".

On 26 July 2009 Johnson appeared as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car on the BBC television programme Top Gear. His time of 1:45.9 ties him with Simon Cowell and Kevin McCloud for the second fastest time in the Chevrolet Lacetti, just 0.1 seconds behind Jay Kay. He was introduced by Jeremy Clarkson as "a man who has sold more albums than The Beatles, and I bet almost none of [the audience] have ever heard of him".

His autobiography Rockers and Rollers was published in October 2009[citation needed], and was released in the United States on 29 July.[16]

Possible retirementEdit

In July 2009, Brian Johnson was interviewed by Classic Rock magazine, and stated that he is thinking about retirement.[17]

In November he clarified his comments, saying he did not wish to retire but would if he could not perform an entire concert.[18]

Personal lifeEdit

Johnson married his first wife, Carol, in 1968.[19] They divorced during the writing of the The Razors Edge album. They have two daughters, Joanne (born 1968) and Kala (born 1973).[20] He is now married to Brenda.

He currently resides at his home in Sarasota, Florida. He is also an avid supporter of English football team Newcastle United, and once attempted to buy the club.

Brian states in his autobiography that he has "never believed in God as such, but if there has to be one, then let it be the one who looked after me."[21][page needed]

In September 2009, Johnson was diagnosed with Barrett's Syndrome.[22] This caused AC/DC to cancel a few shows in their 2009 tour of Black Ice.[22] However, doctors were able to prevent the disease from developing into cancer.[22]


With Geordie

Title Release date Label
Hope You Like It 1973 Repertoire Records
Don't Be Fooled by the Name 1974 Repertoire Records
Save the World 1976 EMI
No Good Woman 1978 EMI

With AC/DC

Title Release date Label U.S. Album Sales Worldwide sales
Back in Black July 1980 Atlantic 22,000,000 49,000,000
For Those About to Rock November 1981 Atlantic 4,000,000 7,000,000
Flick of the Switch September 1983 Atlantic 1,000,000 4,000,000
Fly on the Wall June 1985 Atlantic 1,000,000 4,200,000
Who Made Who 5,000,000 10,000,000
Blow Up Your Video Atlantic 2,000,000 4,000,000
The Razors Edge Seber 1990 Atco 5,000,000 12,000,000
Live October 1992 Atco 5,000,000 8,000,000
Ballbreaker September 1995 Elektra 2,000,000 6,000,000
Stiff Upper Lip February 2000 Elektra 1,000,000 4,000,000

October 2008

Columbia 2,500,000 [23]



Title Release date
Totally Baked Soundtrack April 2007
200px-ACDC - Hells Bells

Brian Johnson hangs on to a bell while performing the song "Hells Bells".

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.