Jonny Goood, bassist for Lady Gaga: “Being a young black brother and playing dirty with a pick is unique to me…”

That’s not a typo: The Pennsylvania-raised bassist born Jonathan Drummond chose three O’s for his stage name for a reason. He doesn’t have the usual stage and session star bio, as he came from extreme poverty as a child and then veered off into a brief career in law enforcement before spending six months living out of a car. He today plays in the world’s biggest arenas with one of the world’s biggest pop stars, but the memories of those tough times still linger, giving him a ton of wisdom that every aspiring musician could use.

Jonny, how does it feel to play the big stages with Lady Gaga?

“I have to say it feels good, like my name, but that little bit of good is mixed with a lot of gratitude. It’s been a lot of hard work. In fact, I have ‘Hard Work’ tattooed on me, because this is all a product of my ethos. of work”.

What gear are you wearing at the Gaga concert?

“My main bass is a custom Fender Jazz with Nordstrand pickups, and then I have a Dunable and an aluminum-neck Aluminati, plus a couple of backup Fenders. We all use Kempers, so no effects pedals because the tones are fully automated. In this scenario, we need perfection, and Kemper is a perfect solution. I also play two synthesizers, a Korg MS-2000 and a Moog Voyager.”

(Image credit: Jonny Good)

Are you playing with click tracks?

“Yeah, but not the whole set, and not many bands can say that nowadays at this level. There’s a 30-minute period where Gaga sits at the piano and we join her on live instruments, like they did. in the ’60s. But I will say that we really improvised and brought our own for most of the show.”

Sum up your approach to bass for us.

“I’m proud to play one note at a time, because that note resonates. Tonight I’m going out and I’m not going to play any Jaco loco, I’m going to play one note at a time.” It will resonate much more, because my intention is to shake your whole being. I do a lot of knockdowns: in fact, I play 90 percent of Gaga’s show with a pick. Sounds really good. or anything, but being a young black brother on this stage and not playing gospel music but playing dirty with a pick is unique to me.”

Why did you choose the stage name Jonny Good?

“I’ve always prided myself on having a pretty decent character, so I came up with ‘Good’ and spelled it with three O’s for mind, body, and soul. That’s what each O stands for. If you strive every day to improve a a little body, a little mind and a little soul, the world opens up in ways you never imagined.”

Tell us about your background.

“I grew up in a horrible neighborhood, if I’m being honest: Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest crime rates in America. My gosh, it was tough. Fortunately, my brother and I stayed out of a lot of the trouble in that area, because we had great parents, my mom was great and my dad was a knucklehead at times, but he’s one of the strongest men I know.

“He came from absolutely nothing: he didn’t know his mom and dad the way I know mine. They gave us the best they could, but you know, in the winter we’d be boiling pots of water and taking them upstairs to take a bath in the tina. I never showered until I was in college, and when I went to school, everyone was celebrating their Christmases, but we skipped a couple because we couldn’t afford it.”

My main goal was to have integrity, and I stood up for myself, and those are the most important things a musician can bring to the stage.

That’s hard.

“Yes, it was, but that’s how I was able to handle sleeping in my car for six months in Los Angeles when I was trying to make it as a musician. I remember being in my car one time, and my dad called me, and I was in the worst pain. because of course he couldn’t afford a dentist. He calls me and says, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and I was about to say ‘I’m fine’ but my tooth chipped off and I had to spit it out.

“But I was like, ‘You know what? This is bullshit,’ because I knew it wasn’t going to be like this forever. I was like, ‘This is real trials and tribulations here. I can take the lower lows, but I already I know the highest highs are coming.’ He was right, because I came from nothing, I didn’t have shit!, and now I have everything.”

(Image credit: Jonny Good)

At one point you were a police officer and criminal investigator. Do you bring anything from those jobs to being a musician?

“I have to say yes, because when I was a cop, I was diligent, I had integrity and I was on time. My main goal was to have integrity and I stood up for myself, and those are the most important things.” a musician can take to the stage. As a police officer, I vowed to say, ‘If you’re in trouble, I’ll give my life for you,’ and when I did, he gave me character and a sense of purpose.

“I transferred that same sense of purpose to the stage, because I realized that ‘I can save a lot more people from here than as a police officer.’ In the police, I could only help one or two people at a time, but as a musician , I can say the right thing and help millions of people. Musicians can say, ‘Don’t drink codeine. That shit will kill you. Go to the gym instead.’ It’s about having that influence and knowing what to do with it.”

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