John 5

Guitarist and Songwriter
David Lee Roth Band, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie

Born on July 31, 1971, John 5 is a renowned guitarist and songwriter best known for stints with David Lee Roth and Marilyn Manson, as well as being Rob Zombie's primary collaborator and guitarist since 2006. John 5 is widely considered among the world's elite guitarists, and he also works as a staff writer for Chrysalis Records, working with a wide variety of artists including Rob Halford, Avril Lavigne, Garbage, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash and many others. Being something of a workaholic by musician standards, John 5 has also released a total of seven instrumental albums that showcase his staggering versatility. After the release of his latest solo effort, Careful with that Axe, the guitarist launched his first-ever instrumental tour with bassist Matt Bissonette and drummer Rodger Carter, who were also on the album. Touring as John 5 & the Creatures, the trio spent about six weeks on the road, playing nearly every night, amazing fans with a mix of John 5's solo tracks and staggering cover versions of classic tunes from multiple genres.

John 5 was born as John William Lowery in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He began playing guitar in 1978 at the age of 7. His parents supported his musical interests as long as it did not interfere with his education, the guitarist has said. John 5 has often listed former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads as a major influence, along with Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. The aspiring musician played in several bands while still in high school, including a Van Halen tribute act called Dirty Trixx. After graduation, John 5 moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams and quickly formed a band called Alligator Soup. Though the band never released an album, his involvement in it led to a meeting with Quiet Riot / Whitesnake bassist Rudy Sarzo, who asked Lowery to join his side project called Sun King. This band also parted ways without recording but allowed Lowery to meet producer Bob Marlette, known for his work with Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford's solo efforts.

John with Paul Stanley of KISS


Marlette was impressed enough with young Lowery's talent that he began hiring him for studio work for television and movie soundtracks and commercials. That exposure then led to Lowery joining Lita Ford for a lengthy tour supporting KISS. Lowery became close with the members of KISS, and would later appear on Paul Stanley's 2006 album, Live to Win. After the Lita Ford tour, Lowery joined an up-and-coming LA band called Red Square Black, which also featured former Ozzy drummer Randy Castillo. This led to Lowery's first official release in the 1994 EP called Square. The band would part ways after abrief tour, however, when Lowery was selected from a pool of 2,000 guitar hopefuls to join country / folk singer K.D. Lang on tour. In 1996, Lowery auditioned to replace Daisy Berkowitz as Marilyn Manson's guitarist, but was passed over in favor of Zim Zum because he was late to the audition. Of course, he would eventually take Zim Zum's place, but not before working with a pair of hard rock vocal legends.

After missing out on the Marilyn Manson gig, Lowery teamed up with Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. Calling the project 2wo, the duo released an album entitled Voyeurs in March of 1998. 2wo toured briefly but the project was short-lived as Halford returned to Judas Priest. It was around that same time that Van Halen parted ways with David Lee Roth, whom Lowery had dreamed of working with since childhood. Wondering if the singer needed any songs, Lowery sent his management six tracks he had written. Roth was impressed, and asked the young guitarist to send some more material. Again, Roth liked what he heard and invited Lowery to handle lead guitar on his fifth solo album. Recorded in just ten days, DLR Band was released in June 1998. A disappointment commercially, the album nonetheless got Lowery noticed for his playing talent and songwriting.

2wo, Rob Halford 2nd from left, John 5 2nd from right

While Lowery was busy working with Roth, Marilyn Manson dismissed Zim Zum and was looking for another guitarist. He was invited to join, and did, adopting the stage name John 5. The guitarist remained with Manson for just over five years, appearing on the 2000 album Holy Wood and 2003 record The Golden Age of Grotesque. Lowery quit Marilyn Manson in 2004, the same year his debut solo album, Vertigo, was released. He then formed a band called Loser, which recorded a song called "Disposable Sunshine" that was included on the soundtrack for the film Fantastic Four. The band signed a contract with Island Records, and began working on a debut album with the working title Just Like You. Shortly after Loser was signed, Lowery met former White Zombie frontman Rob Zombie at a Camp Freddy benefit concert. The two hit it off and Zombie asked John 5 to play guitar on his upcoming Ozzfest shows. The Rob Zombie shows conflicted with scheduled Loser gigs, and Lowery tried to find a replacement for those dates. Island disapproved of John 5 splitting time, however, and dropped the band without releasing the album.

For many Rob Zombie fans, John 5 is considered a hero, as it has been widely rumored that Zombie was considering retiring from the music business to focus on his movie career exclusively before the two met. John 5 dropped his second solo album, Songs for Sanity, in 2005, even as he was touring with Rob Zombie on the 2005 Ozzfest tour. Following the tour, Zombie and John 5 hit the studio to begin work on Zombie's third album. Released in March, 2006, Educated Horses was Zombie's first album on which songs were written by anyone other than himself or producer Scott Humphrey. The album was easily John 5's biggest commercial success at that point, selling 120,000 copies in its first week to debut at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. John 5 has been an official member of Zombie's band ever since, appearing on the 2010 album Hellbilly Deluxe 2 and the 2013 set Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. Both albums reached the top 10 on Billboard, but failed to sell 500,000 copies, as Educated Horses did.

Even as he remained an active member of Rob Zombie's band for nearly a decade, John 5 has been just as active as a solo artist. Releasing a second solo effort entitled Songs for Sanity in 2005, the guitar virtuoso dropped The Devil Knows My Name in 2007, and Requiem in 2008. John 5's 2009 album Remixploitation included remixed and retitled versions of previous works with just one brand new track. The following year Lowery released The Art of Malice, followed by God Told Me in 2012 and Careful with that Axe in 2014. During his solo career, John 5 has released cover versions of the Guns N' Roses classic "Welcome to the Jungle", Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Young Thing" from country music legend Chet Atkins. All of John 5's albums are instrumental, with no vocals. Like Joe Satriani, cited as a major influence, John 5 belts out vocal-like melodies with his guitar. On cover songs he does the same, mimicking the original singer with precisely delivered notes on his axe.

Technically, John 5 is as gifted a guitarist as any that have ever lived. I was fortunate enough yesterday to attend the Colorado Springs stop on his first-ever solo tour, at a small club called Sunshine Studios. I was blown away with the things this guy can do on a guitar. I was so impressed, in fact, that I spent much of today putting this biography together. John plays as fast as any guitarist I've seen live, and that list includes people like Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Kirk Hammett, Kerry King and Gary Holt, among many others. Amazing thing about John 5 is that he never seems to miss a note, his fingers move smoothly no matter how fast the song. He also has an amazing ability to switch between different genres, making each seem like his area of mastery. In a set that included instrumental remakes of songs from Michael Jackson and Chet Atkins, John finished with a mind-blowing medley that included snippets of Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell", Iron Maiden's "The Trooper", Dio's "Stand Up and Shout", Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and the KISS classic "Detroit Rock City". The guitarist seemed just at home on Atkins' country standard as on a classical piece he nailed or the "Star-Spangled Banner", which he played using his teeth for a pic. If John 5 ever does a solo tour again, I will go out of my way to see it, and I recommend the show to all of you, as well.


The axe John 5 uses the most these days is his own "J5" line of Fender Stratocaster. During his recent instrumental tour, he used this guitar exclusively except for a couple of songs when he brought out his LED-lit guitar and his "lava lamp" guitar. During his tenure with Marilyn Manson, he primarily used Ibanez guitars. Like many rock guitarists, John uses a Marshall stack with 2 JCM900 heads. John 5's strings are made by Dean Markely, who he has an endorement deal with. For pickups, John primarily uses DiMarzio D Activators. John 5 uses the SD-1 Super Overdrive, NS-2 Noise Supressor and CH-1 Super Chorus pedals from Boss as well as a Dunlop GC-5 Wah pedal.

Guitars: Manson Era: Ibanez AX Custom, Ibanez AX 7-521, Ibanez Iceman, Ibanez RG Custom, Gibson Les Paul, Gibson 1952 Acoustic, Taylor 912 Acoustic;

Current Era: Fender J5 Telecaster, Fender J5 Acoustic, Fender J5 Bigsby Telecaster, Fender 53 Black Guard Telecaster, Fender 55 White Guard Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul

Pickups: DiMarzio D Activator Pickups

Amplification: Marshall JCM900 4100 heads

Speakers: Marshall 1960B cabinets

John & his favorite axe: the Fender J5 Signature Series Telecaster