Q&A: Rocker Johnny Solinger to auction off star-studded guitar for Alaska veterans

Johnny Solinger poses with a guitar signed by Ted Nugent at the Pacific Yard House in Conroe, Texas. The guitar on the wall is one of eight he owns that he and other rock stars signed that he intends to auction off for charity, including one to help Alaska veterans.
Johnny Solinger poses with a guitar signed by Ted Nugent at the Pacific Yard House in Conroe, Texas. The guitar on the wall is one of eight he owns that he and other rock stars signed that he intends to auction off for charity, including one to help Alaska veterans. (Photo courtesy Johnny Solinger)

Huna Totem Corp. brought a Las Vegas rock and roll show to Juneau last month, and Alaska left quite an impression on one of the performers.

Rock and country singer Johnny Solinger said he’s got some unfinished charity work to do up here. He wants to auction off a guitar he and other rock stars have signed to help Alaska veterans.

I caught up with Solinger, who lives just outside of Houston, Texas, on Friday.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What’s your connection to Alaska?

Oh, man, Alaska! Well, I was there for the first time actually, in October. I was there for a show called Raiding the Rock Vault, which is a Vegas show that a corporation brought in there for us to entertain.

And I understand you’ve been thinking about making some kind of significant donation to veterans in –

Well, here’s, here’s the deal … I’ve got eight of these things that I had signed because the show is out of the Hard Rock Casino in Vegas there, and the Hard Rock’s closed — at the end of this year, it’s closing down. And so when I found out about that, I, you know, I was like, “Wow.” … So when I was there, I was able to purchase, I don’t know, half a dozen, eight of these things with the intention of using them during the holidays.

One of those guitars is going to Alaska. I had such a good time there, Texas boy. None of these guys had ever been to Alaska. And man, I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been to red China, I’ve been to Russia — but not Alaska. Well, I fixed that. And I want to go back again and again and again. I went up on the on the glacier. I went to Alaskan Brewing. I went to Alaska Kush. … And with all the hoopla there, I never got to auction it off.

So, since I didn’t get to leave anything there in Alaska, because I felt that guitar would remain there … I decided since Veterans Day was coming that I could donate, you know, use this guitar to benefit the veterans of Alaska because out of all of the sponsors for that event, they were nowhere to be seen on the list. I mean, you had food shelters, and a lot of great causes. I just didn’t see veterans on there.

So it sounds like you’ve done something like this before. Do you have a rough guess for what the approximate value of something like this is?

Heck no, I mean, somebody — it’s what they’ll pay for it. I mean, at the Rock Vault, they sell these things and it’ll be whoever played that night, you know, the cast will sign it. … You know, it’s thousands of dollars. But it’s not crazy money. I mean, unless you just love Def Leppard, which a lot of people do. Phil Soussan is on this guitar. He played for Ozzy Osbourne. And I’m from Skid Row. … Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard who I just played with is on his guitar. And Todd Kerns, who played with me in Rock Vault, is in this guitar from Slash’s band. … So yeah, there’s some cool heavy hitters on here. You know, I’ll have a picture of it up. And we’ll run it.

And as far as this particular guitar and Alaska and this connection for our audience, if they want to see what happens with it — you know, I know the details aren’t settled, but how will you be getting the word out?

Oh I’ll post it. Yeah, you can follow it. Yeah, you can follow all along what’s gonna happen. … Yeah, you’ll see this exact guitar that’s going to go up. I’m you know, I’m trying to figure out how to do a live auction in order to — I don’t want just anybody to get these guitars. … I want it to stay in Alaska, this guitar. I want it to be in Alaska, because Rock Vault was there. I want the name Rock Vault to be attached to this guitar. I want my name and my grandfather’s name who served in World War II, his name is Willard J. “Scrappy” Smith. You know, this is — there’s reasons I’m doing this.

OK, great. Anything else you want to add I didn’t ask about?

I know that Rock Vault wants to come back. It was a very successful event. And, you know, I saw a lot, a lot of the locals and, you know, there was no music school there. I asked about it. Like, you know, I have School of Rocks all around me. I mean, I got kids that got bad skills all around. So I was wondering about music education there in Juneau, and just, you know, just the place is so beautiful. You got eagles flocking around like crows here. You got whales down there where we catch catfish. I mean, it was just a different world for me, brother. And I want to go back, you know, as a solo artist and with Rock Vault.

Solinger is spending part of his Veterans Day playing a concert — with free admission for vets – in Conroe, Texas, where he lives.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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