Schon was born at Tinker Air Force Base in Mdwest City Oklahoma. Schon first picked up the guitar at “around the age of five.” A quick learner, he joined Santana as a teenager at 15. Schon has said he was asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominos, but that he joined Santana instead, and performed on the album Santana III. Schon also played in Azteca before moving on in 1973 to form Journey, a group he continues to lead as of late 2013.
Schon’s guitar style has been described as soulful, taking inspiration from 1960s-era soul singers such as Aretha Franklinand Gladys Knight, and blending it with blues runs similar to B. B. King. He was influenced by guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Wes Montgomery.
In addition to his five solo albums and 14 studio albums with Journey, his work also includes: a pair of albums with keyboardist Jan Hammer, short-term collaborations with Sammy Hagar (HSAS and Planet Us) and Paul Rodgers, stints with Bad English (a supergroup that featured Journey’s Jonathan Cain and Deen Castronovo and Jonathan Cain’s former Babys bandmates John Waite and Ricky Phillips) and Hardline (which also featured Deen Castronovo). Even as Journey’s latest lineup plays to a still-faithful body of fans, Schon has immersed himself in side projects such as Piranha Blues (1999) and “Black Soup Cracker” a funk outfit that features former Prince associates Rosie Gaines and Michael Bland, and more recently Soul SirkUS with Jeff Scott Soto.
Schon can be heard on other albums including three tracks on Michael Bolton‘s The Hunger, with the Schon sound most recognizable on “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. He also joined Larry Graham to play in an all-star band for cult funk artist and ex-wife of Miles Davis, Betty Davis. In addition, Schon (along with then Journey manager Herbie Herbert) also contributed to Lenny White’s 1977 album “Big City”, specifically the instrumental jam “And we meet again”.