Singer/guitarist Johnny Bruhns has fronted the Neil Diamond tribute Diamond is Forever, Led Zeppelin tribute Led-Zepplica, and Yes tribute Roundabout. In May 2010, Bruhns was invited to join the Yes spinoff band Yoso, featuring Yes members Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood, along with Toto singer Bobby Kimball.
The guitarist first encountered Yes members at Acoustic Music San Diego in Normal Heights, where Yes moonlighters Chris Squire and Alan White performed with their band the Syn in February 2006. “Steve Nardelli, who sang lead, came without his acoustic guitar, [and] the Syn’s management had asked to borrow mine for him...that’s what started my relationship with the Yes extended family.”
Bruhns, who mainly plays Steve Howe’s parts in Roundabout, sat in for Howe when Yes was preparing for a 2008 tour. “The fact that I’m also influenced by [latter-day Yes guitarist] Trevor Rabin was much appreciated at our rehearsals,” he says.
As for meeting Howe, Bruhns says, “Wow, I wish I had a better report on the man. He was not having a happy night there in Mesa, Arizona. When I told him who I was and what I had started doing, he let out a grunt of displeasure and turned away.
“I asked him to wait and told him a story about what he meant to me. I’d headlined with a band at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano 11 days before, not knowing that he’d played there, which apparently was the reason he perked up. I told him that when I came across a nice head shot of Chet Atkins, the walls are lined with promo shots, that the only thing I was thinking was ‘Steve Howe’s hero has played here.’ He said, ‘Oh, I see,’ and turned away again. I said, ‘Wait, you see? You’re my Chet Atkins!’ He didn’t seem to appreciate it, but I was thankful he listened just the same.
“I’ve never really been able to connect with my hero, sadly, but there’s still hope.”