Neal Schon has been at the top of the tree since 1971 – when he was asked by both Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton to join their bands! The founder of Journey way back in 1975, Schon has been the sole constant member throughout its 14 million-selling albums and endless touring history. GI’s Stuart Bull met Neal for not just one, but two in-depth interviews, plus an exclusive look at Neal’s system with tech specialist Adam Day, while Tim Slater profiles one of Rock guitar’s most enduring greats.
Imagine being 15 years old and being invited by Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana to join their respective bands. Sounds like the stuff of fantasy doesn’t it? But American Rock guitarist Neal Schon was a gifted teenage prodigy who got his big break at the tender age of 15 when, in 1971, Carlos Santana out-manoeuvred Clapton and secured him as second guitarist. Santana’s pioneering Latin-Rock fusion band was still riding high on the momentum generated by its scene stealing appearance at Woodstock three years previously, but even greater success was to follow, with Journey, just four years later.
Who knows where musical ability really comes from? But if you happen to believe it’s an inherited trait, then Neal Schon had the perfect pedigree. Besides being in the military (Schon was born at Tinker air force base in Oklahoma) both of his parents were highly accomplished musicians; his mother Barbara was a professional singer with USAF big bands, while his father, Matthew Schon, was a Jazz tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger, who also taught reed instruments. Maybe it was inevitable that music would feature prominently in Schon’s early years.