John Richard Jorgenson (born July 6, 1956) is an American musician. Although best known for his guitar work with bands such as the Desert Rose Band and The Hellecasters, he is also proficient on the mandolin, mandocello, Dobro, pedal steel guitar, piano, upright bass, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone. While a member of the Desert Rose Band, he won the Academy of Country Music's "Guitarist of the Year" award three consecutive years.
Jorgenson has recorded or toured with Elton John, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr., Barbra Streisand, Luciano Pavarotti, Roy Orbison, Patty Loveless, Michael Nesmith, and Bonnie Raitt.
He was born in 1956 in Madison, Wisconsin, into a musical family. His mother was a piano teacher and his father an orchestra conductor and college music professor. Jorgenson has played professionally since the age of fourteen, and had been playing both the piano and clarinet since age eight.
Jorgenson attended high school in Redlands, California, graduating in May 1974. One of his early bands in this period was named Rocking Pneumonia, c. 1971.
In his early 20s he played full-time at Disneyland, playing clarinet with the Main Street Maniacs (Dixieland), mandolin with the Thunder Mountain Boys (bluegrass) and guitar with the Rhythm Brothers (Django Reinhardt style swing). These three groups were composed of the same four members, who changed costumes and music styles at intervals throughout each day.
In 1993 Jorgenson formed the guitar trio the Hellecasters with Will Ray and guitarist Jerry Donahue of Fairport Convention. Intended as a temporary collaboration, the Hellecasters went on to release several albums during the 1990s. Their debut, Return of the Hellecasters (1993) won both "Album of the Year" and "Country Album of the Year" from Guitar Player magazine.
In 1994 he was invited to join Elton John's band for an 18-month tour. He remained with the band for the next six years, performing both live and in the studio, occasionally on saxophone. In 2002 he played bass guitar in the All-star Bluegrass Celebration in Nashville. Two years later he portrayed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt in the film Head in the Clouds.
Jorgenson collaborated with Brad Paisley, James Burton, Vince Gill, Albert Lee, Brent Mason, Redd Volkaert and Steve Wariner on the song "Cluster Pluck", on Paisley's album Play (2009). The song won a Grammy Award in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category.
He is a patron for Guitar-X (Tech Music Schools) in London, where he regularly visits to hold master classes. He is also a patron for Le QuecumBar, the world's only music venue dedicated to Gypsy swing in London.
His gypsy jazz ensemble, John Jorgenson Quintet includes Doug Martin (rhythm guitar), Jason Anick (violin), Simon Planting (bass), and Rick Reed (percussion).
G&L Guitars made a very few signature John Jorgenson ASAT guitars in Silver Sparkle with Silver Sparkle Pickguard, rosewood fretboard and Black ASAT Pickups in 1995. Fender made signature guitar models for Jorgensen in 1997 and 1998. The Fender Limited Edition John Jorgenson Hellecaster was made in Japan in 1997. It features a black sparkle-finished maple body, vintage-tinted, high-gloss maple neck with reversed large-style Strat headstock, rosewood fretboard with gold sparkle dot inlays, 22 jumbo frets and Schaller locking tuners. Refinements included three Seymour Duncan custom-voiced, split-coil, hum-cancelling pickups which allow players to get controlled feedback in distortion mode and a custom-wired, five-way pickup selector switch with an additional push/pull control allowing seven tone variations. Other touches included a custom two-pivot-point tremolo, a Wilkinson "Wilkaloid" self-lubricating nut, gold sparkle pickguard and gold hardware.
The Fender John Jorgenson Signature Custom Korina Telecaster was made at the Fender Custom Shop in 1998, sporting a solid Korina body, a maple neck with pearloid dot inlays and a 25.5" scale length, African rosewood or an ebony on black finish fretboard with 22 Dunlop 6130 frets. Other features included dual side-by-side Telecaster humbucking pickups, a modified vintage style Tele bridge, a special custom five-way pickup switching featuring five different combinations (each in humbucking mode), 1.688" width at the nut and Sperzel Trimlok locking tuners.
Desert Rose Band