Elton John’s Guitarist Explains How Elton Decided To Make An Album With His Touring Crew

During a recent appearance on the Rock History Book Youtube channel, Elton John’s long-time guitarist Davey Johnstone reflected on the making process of the previous Elton John albums. He also recalled the one John wanted to do as a band project.

Elton John has a backing band, named ‘The Elton John Band,’ that he has performed with during both studio recordings and live shows. The current members are Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone, and Ray Cooper. The band has contributed to some of Elton John’s most commercially successful albums like ‘Honky Château,’ ‘Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player,’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.’

The guitarist Davey Johnstone has had a long-time collaboration with Elton John starting from the early 1970s. He first played on John’s 1971 album, ‘Madman Across the Water,’ and then, he was invited to be a full member of Elton John’s band. During the conversation, Johnstone recalled the recording sessions of ‘Madman’ and said that it was great to work with Elton John.

Later on, Johnstone remembered recording Elton John’s following album, ‘Honky Château,’ which was the first album featuring John’s touring band members Murray, Olsson, and Johnstone. Davey Johnstone made a great contribution to the album by playing electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and also handling the backing vocals.

Davey Johnstone talked about Elton John’s decision to make an album with his touring crew. He said that Elton didn’t want to use any orchestra or session players. He wanted to produce something only with his touring band and wanted the album to be a band project. Thus, they made their way to France to record the album. Johnstone noted that they realized at some point that they could work it out together, so they didn’t need anyone else.

Here is how Davey Johnstone recalled Elton John’s decision to make an album with his touring band:

“The main thing was that up to ‘Madman,’ when I walked in the studio in ‘Madman,’ Nigel and Dee weren’t there. They weren’t on that record because, in those days, Gus wanted to use the tried and true session players that he knew in the London scene, so there were people like Chris Spedding who worked with all kinds of people. Barry Morgan, a great drummer, Roger Cook, and all these people who were known as session players.

Herbie Flowers, an amazing bass player who played on all kinds of great stuff so I was just young kind of because I played acoustic guitar, mandolin, and even sitar. They were basically going well, ‘Who’s this kid?’ and again, I’ve always been very adapted. Walking in and going, ‘Okay, I’m here, what should we do?’ I don’t care somebody can play and how great they are. I don’t do it because I can deliver something also.

What I found was that after the ‘Madman’ sessions, because in that week, I did those sessions with Elton because we did ‘Holiday Inn’ at the same on that week. ‘Tiny Dancer,’ ‘Levon,’ we recorded all these songs, and in that first week, I was an acoustic guitar session guy, so it was great fun, but Elton wanted to do his next album as very much a band project.

No orchestras, no all these session guys. He just wanted to use his touring band. Dee, Nigel, and I has been the guitar player, so the four of us went off to France to make the next Elton album which was going to be a band project, and that’s the way it all really kicked into gear when suddenly it was like ‘Okay, we don’t need anybody else. Let’s do this.'”

You can watch the entire conversation below.