On Saturday (April 11) Manchester music legend Johnny Roadhouse died, aged 88. When I logged on to NME.COM this morning and read that story I was hit by a wave of sadness and nostalgia. He might have played saxophone with Elton John but my Johnny Roadhouse was the name above the door of the legendary Manchester music instrument store on Oxford Road opposite the Poly (as it was then).
I was at university in Manchester in the early 90s and still pursuing dreams of playing in a band. When my first guitar was nicked in a break-in in Whitworth Park halls I got a new one from Johnny Roadhouse – a cream Squire Tele with rosewood fretboard. In a desperate act of devotion I wanted the same colour combination Hendrix used. I got my Marshall JCM 800 amp and Laney 2X12 cab from there, not to mention countless sets of Ernie Ball strings (as used by Slash) and plectrums.
More important than any of that stuff I got a beaten up old solid-top f-hole acoustic with a super-high action that is still the best slide guitar I’ve ever owned. The staff at Johnny Roadhouse were always friendly – there was none of the sneering you get at most guitar stores – and it had the kind of labyrinthine, jumbled interior that made browsing such an emotional experience. It was a guitar womb.
Though I don’t play much nowadays (I leave that to the professionals) I still find myself gravitating to guitar shops, especially when I’m in a new city. All those shops browsed and I’ve never found anywhere quite as good as Johnny Roadhouse. For me, it was the very best guitar shop in the world. Thank you Johnny Roadhouse. RIP