Johnson grew up in Monroeville, where he first picked up guitar in middle school. Exposed to country music at home, he became obsessed with the guitar after discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kiss. He formed a garage band with some of his classmates called "Renegade". In 1979 the family moved to his mother's home town of Geraldine in DeKalb County. There he met Larry Davis, Danny Beason, Jeff Maddux and Jamie Collins and formed a band called "Silver Rose" which won the Geraldine High School talent show. A trip to Birmingham to see Van Halen play the BJCC made a deep impact. While attending electrical engineering courses in college, Johnson joined "Headline", Pat Upton's house band at P. J.'s Alley in Guntersville.
In 1987 Split the Dark's Marc Phillips sat in with Headline during a show at Louie Louie. A few weeks later, Philips asked Johnson to join Split the Dark, replacing the departed Scott Macdavid. He moved to Birmingham and recorded a few tracks with them before the band broke up in 1988. Johnson and Split the Dark bassist Eddie Usher joined the Atlanta-based band "Witness" later that year. 1989 saw Johnson with the Memphis-based Delta Rebels and another band called "Chinatown" with Eric Dover.
Johnson's next project was the four-piece rock band Chyld, which got its start in 1990. After working with different lead singers and acquiring a development deal with Virgin Records in November of that year, a record company representative heard Johnson sing a few cover songs and became convinced that Damon should become the lead vocalist and frontman. After changing their name to Brother Cane, the group began recording at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles during the summer of 1992.
Brother Cane went on to record three albums for Virgin, each of which produced a #1 single on the rock charts: "Got No Shame", "Fools Shine On", and "I Lie in the Bed I Make", respectfully. "Fools Shine On" was also chosen as the theme song for the 1995 movie "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers". After six years of recording and touring, Brother Cane amicably disbanded at the end of 1998.
In 2000, Johnson recorded and released an all-acoustic solo album, Dust. He became, briefly, a member of the Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent, Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw, and Michael Cartelone (a full album was recorded but ultimately shelved). In March of 2001, Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks recorded the Damon Johnson composition, "Everyday" (co-written with John Shanks) as the first single for her solo album, Trouble In Shangrila. Later that same year, Johnson became lead guitarist for the British rock vocalist, John Waite.
Early 2002 brought the debut album from Slave to the System, a side-project with producer Kelly Gray and Queensryche drummer Scott Rockenfield. In August of that year, Johnson's distinctive guitar work was featured on country/pop superstar Faith Hill’s smash hit single, "Cry", a track produced by Brother Cane co-writer, Marti Frederiksen. That same year also brought collaborations with Ted Nugent on his album, Craveman, and three songs with hard rockers Skid Row on their album, Thick Skin.
In December 2002 Johnson's next band, Red Halo debuted at The Nick, featuring three former members of Virgo's Merlot. Johnson sang lead vocals and played bass with the group, which recorded in Johnson's basement in Alabaster, which he dubbed Double Dragon Studios. In October 2003 Johnson stepped aside to focus on producing, introducing Mark Fain as the new front man for the group. Johnson produced recordings for several other groups in his home studio over the next several months.
Johnson took over guitar duties during Alice Cooper's "Eyes of Alice Cooper" tour when fellow Birmingham guitarist Eric Dover had to leave the group in August 2004. Cooper’s album, Dirty Diamonds, features Johnson’s playing and songwriting skills and he continues to tour with the band. On March 10, 2005 Johnson rejoined the other original members of Brother Cane for a reunion show as part of Phillips Fest, a benefit for Marc Phillips at the Alabama Theatre.
Meanwhile, Slave to the System inked a two-album deal with Spitfire/Eagle Rock Records in July 2005. Johnson performed as a member of the three-piece bar band The Welfare as well before joining up with Whiskey Falls for their 2007 debut single "Last Train Running". The new band, which performed at the 2007 City Stages, has a recording contract with Nashville's Midas Records.
In 2010 Johnson released his second solo album, Release.
Black Star Riders
Johnson was hired to play with Thin Lizzy, and began writing new songs with the band's members. Out of respect for Thin Lizzy's primary songwriter Phil Lynott, the new material was recorded and released with a new band name, Black Star Riders. BSR and Thin Lizzy have toured together throughout 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Johnson, previously of Alabaster, lives in Nashville with his wife and five children.
- Smith, Stephen V. (August 2006) "An Interview with Damon Johnson." Sand Mountain Life
- Crowe, Bill (January 2006) "Damon Johnson interview. SickThingsUK
- "Damon Johnson" (July 16, 2007) Wikipedia - accessed July 20, 2007
- Thompson, Brent (July 19, 2007) "On A Country Road" Birmingham Weekly
- Colurso, Mary (September 24, 2010) "Catchy "Release": Birmingham's Damon Johnson delves into his songbook for solo CD." The Birmingham News
- Rogers, Lisa (April 22, 2013) "Damon Johnson poised to turn new band into Rock Royalty." The Gadsden Times
- Ells, Blake (March 25, 2016) "From Louie Louie’s to Thin Lizzy." Weld for Birmingham