By Tommy Shaw

Photo by Jason Powell, taken backstage recently at Sweden Rock Festival, June 8, 2019 — Jimmy Johnson in the black t-shirt in the middle, leaning on the shoulder of Todd Sucherman, with Tommy Shaw aiming his guitar at the camera, James Young in the background, and Ricky Phillips in sunglasses


It is with profound sorrow that I am announcing my dear friend and right-hand man, guitar tech and inventor Jimmy Johnson, passed away in his hotel room in the early hours of the morning here today, July 24, 2019, on the Southern Coast of California. When he failed to show up for lobby call, fellow crewmembers contacted hotel management, broke into his room, and discovered him there.

Our love and deepest sympathy go out to his wife Susan and the rest of his family, who, like us, are just hearing what few details are available at this time.

Anyone who has seen STYX over the last couple of decades and seen my many guitar changes or caught a glimpse of my onstage guitar vaults — this was Jimmy Johnson’s domain. Always from his hand to mine. What you didn’t see were all of the electronics he also managed, from amplifiers, backup amps, effects, wireless transmitters/receivers, and an always-expanding collection of tools he never stopped collecting. He took great pride in being able to produce the proper tool for any situation that might arise, knowing how beneficial it would be for getting things back on track.

In the past few years, we had taken on nicknames for each other. I was Tommy Joe, and he was Jim Bob. On the rare occasions when there was some kind of guitar glitch, I could always count on Jim Bob to immediately hand me another one, recently strung and “Gorgomyted” (look up Gorgomyte — it’s Jimmy’s product, loved and used by the best players on earth).

And above it all, we were friends who always departed with a sincere “Love you!” 

I knew he was planning on seeing his old friend and dear friend Neil Peart of Rush here yesterday. I hope he did.

I can’t believe he’s gone. So many miles, gigs, guitars, laughs, tears, inside jokes, and shared experiences. He takes that with him, as I’ll hold onto here. He’ll live in my heart for the rest of my days, and now the extremely talented heavenly band he’s running with will never need worry about anything technical again.

We will find a way to take the stage tonight in your honor, as I know you’d insist. 

Rock on Jim Bob! 

Love you...

Tommy Joe