Tentatively titled Bravo, the record came together in 1999 and 2000, but reports suggest the band and associated business executives were unsatisfied with the results.
In a new interview with AL.com, Johnson – a former member of Black Star Riders who’s currently in Thin Lizzy – discussed how much interaction he’d had with Ted Nugent and Jack Blades after Tommy Shaw found himself too busy to collaborate much on the project. “That was a really unique experience, to say the least,” he said. “I had a batch of songs I had written for what might be a solo album – and in that same batch of songs [was] ’Every Day’ … that Stevie Nicks wound up recording.”
Legendary A&R man John Kalodner, who had followed Johnson’s career, asked the guitarist to send him a tape of material, which resulted in a phone call: “He played the song for Jack, and Jack got excited. And in that very phone call, they said, ‘Listen, this is what’s happening. Damn Yankees are going to make a record. Tommy Shaw can’t do the record, but he’s given us his blessing to bring in someone else. Would you feel like coming out and having a jam? Let’s maybe write a couple things and see what happens.’”
Johnson admitted that, while the supergroup wasn’t much to his taste, his “tremendous respect” for the members and their other work meant he couldn’t refuse. He recalled that Nugent treated him “like a son,” and he connected so well with Blades that they started writing together on the first day. After about three months, they had a set of complete demos and played them for Kalodner, who reacted “like we were the next Bon Jovi or something.”
That may be one of the reasons Bon Jovi producer Luke Evans was brought aboard. “There was some good juju going on there,” Johnson recalled. “Tommy came in, sang on a few background vocals and sang on the songs that he already had written before I came in. … And we mixed the record, and everybody’s reaction within the band was very lukewarm. Myself included, Kalodner included.
“I just don’t think there was that one undeniable, knock-it-out-of-the-park hit … one song where it’s like, ‘Okay, this is undeniable, this is be the first single,’” he said. “By that time … everybody was starting to get busy again, Ted had a tour booked, Night Ranger had a tour booked. Michael Cartellone had to go back to his gig with [Lynyrd] Skynyrd.”
Still, Johnson, added, “It was a great experience, I learned a lot and I’ve got respect for all those guys. They treated me like an equal. And I certainly haven’t sold the number of records or played the size of shows that all those guys have, so it was pretty special to be included in something like that.”