Does Johnny Depp Play Guitar?

Johnny Depp is a household name that brings to mind a string of Hollywood box office hits. With his bad boy image, the actor became one of the most successful stars of all time. But many people may not realize that film is not the only facet of showbiz where Johnny shines.

Does Johnny Depp Play Guitar?

Johnny Depp performing at the Glastonbury Festival in June 2017

Depp is a musician at heart, specifically a guitarist. He dropped out of high school to become a rock star and accidentally became a Hollywood legend. But through it all, he still pursued his passion for guitar in the company of many famous musicians.

His Early Music Career

Depp learned to play guitar at the age of 12 and said he used to lock himself away and play continuously to keep his mind off his real-life problems.

His first taste of fame came at age 17 when he was the guitarist for punk band, The Kids. The band created enough of a presence in Florida to be selected as supporting acts for artists like Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, and The Ramones.

In 1987 he joined the Rock City Angels, but after about six months, he decided to pursue acting as his full-time career.  In the 1990s, he also played for the band called P, featuring Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, Flea, the bassist from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.

The Hollywood Vampires

Hollywood Vampires

In 2015 Depp got some of his rock star buddies together and formed the band Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper, Tommy Henriksen, and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. Depp plays lead, slide, and rhythm guitar and keyboards and also does lead and backing vocals.

The Hollywood Vampires released their debut album in September 2015, which included 11 cover songs and three originals co-written by Depp. They then did two world tours in 2016 and 2018. The Hollywood Vampires released their second album, Rise, in June 2019, but this time it featured mainly original works, including songs by Depp. 

Is Johnny Depp’s Guitar Playing Any Good?

The guitarist has a crowd of rock star friends he’s worked with for decades who give him two thumbs up for his skill. One of his closest friends, Alice Cooper, considers Johnny a guitar player first and then the great actor that he is as well.

Alice Cooper couldn’t find enough good things to say about Depp as a guitar player in an interview on the Mistress Carrie podcast (1). He brushed off the idea that his friend was a wannabe musician by pointing out that he has collaborated with Jeff Beck, one of the greatest guitarists of all time. “He’s a much better rock star,” said Cooper.

Alice Cooper also compares Depp to their other band member, Joe Perry, saying “he can trade leads with Joe,” and that Joe Perry admits that Johnny’s playing is really good. 

Johnny Depp’s Guitar Collection

Depp has a massive guitar collection of rare and vintage guitars, including some classic Les Pauls, well-known models from Gibson and Ibanez, and a 1956 Fender Stratocaster.

Depp’s Duesenberg Guitars

The Hollywood Vampires performing at Gröna Lund, Stockholm

Johnny has a Mike Campbell Signature Duesenberg, but then the manufacturers also designed an Alliance Johnny Depp model. They wanted to build one that suited his style and needs but also one that told his story. 

So Johnny Depp’s Duesenberg has engravings of his tattoos on the aluminum top plate, each representing a significant event in his life. He also has the Duesenberg Johnny Depp Unique “Wooden Fence” guitar.

Jeff Beck And Johnny Depp

Depp and Beck met in 2016, apparently connecting over guitars and cars. The two began their collaboration in 2019 in preparation for their album, 18, which they released very recently (2). 

Depp plays guitar and sings on the 13-track album, which includes 2 of his original songs. The two also did covers of the Marvin Gaye song What’s Going On and John Lennon’s Isolation.

While he awaited the verdict on his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard for accusing him of domestic abuse, he headed to the UK to join Jeff Beck on stage. 

Collaborations With Other Musicians

Depp has collaborated with many musicians besides his own Hollywood Vampires bandmates, who are true legends in the music world

Depp played with Shane MacGowan and the Popes for The Snake in 1994 and again in 2010 for Pandemonium Ensues.

He also worked with well-known names Marilyn Manson, Oasis back in 1995 and 1997, his bandmate’s other group, Aerosmith, and Paul McCartney.

Depp played guitar and did some co-writing for Vanessa Paradis, his long-standing partner and mother of his kids.

• • •

A Musician In Front Of The Camera

Over the years, the actor/musician had the opportunity to showcase his excellent musical talent in some of his movies. 

Chocolat

In the 2000 feel-good movie Chocolat, his character, Roux, is seen playing guitar, and Depp actually plays in three soundtrack songs: Minor Swing, They’re Red Hot, and Caravan.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico

In this 2003 film, Johnny Depp was the composer of Sand’s Theme.

The Rum Diary

This movie was released in 2011, and Depp played the piano in The Mermaid Song.

Wild Thing 

Dior’s ad for their new fragrance, Sauvage, sees Depp in the desert with wolves prowling around him, playing the iconic Wild Thing.

• • •

A Final Note

Johnny Depp playing guitar live.

Johnny Depp’s acting career has made him a Hollywood sensation, and he’s so, so good at his day job. When you watch his films, he leads you to believe in every character he plays. But when he plays guitar, you see the real Johnny. Music isn’t what he does; it’s who he is. 

• • •

References:

  1. The Mistress Carrie podcast, “Episode 41, Alice Cooper,” as published here: https://player.fm/series/the-mistress-carrie-podcast/ep-41-alice-cooper-8IyruCQzdmDZwSKp
  2. Jon Dolan, “Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp Join Forces for the at Times Pro Forma, at Times Genuinely Ugly Rock Album ’18’,” as published here: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/johnny-depps-jeff-beck-18-1382799/ 

Image Credits

Featured image: Andy Templeton, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Johnny Depp Glastonbury 2017: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Hollywood Vampires: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Hollywood Vampires at Gröna Lund, Stockholm: KevM, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Johnny Depp Hollywood Vampires solo image: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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