October 13, 1997 12:00 PM

MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE HE HAS spandex pants older than Jonny Lang, but Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler hadn’t paid much attention when the 16-year-old guitar whiz first opened for the band in Portland, Maine, on June 30. Backstage, Lang says, the Aerosmith front man “was like, ‘How was it? Did it go okay?’ Like they booed us or something. I said, ‘Yeah, we got a standing ovation.’ ”

As a blond bluesman too young to vote and too smart to drink (“I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize this”), Lang has faced a lot of skeptics. But with his first pro CD, Lie to Me, having gone gold, they’re fading fast. “He’s a young star already,” says B.B. King, who also hired Lang as an opening act. “And he’s gettin’ better all the time.”

Lang (real name: Jon Langseth) grew up with three sisters in Fargo, N.Dak., and made his musical debut at 10 when he sang the national anthem at a local semipro basketball game. “I was so nervous I forgot to stand for the anthem,” says his mother, Marcia, 45, a onetime singer who is divorced from his dad (also named Jon, 40), who managed the son’s rise. After a turn at the sax in the school band, Jonny took up guitar and, within months, landed small gigs in Fargo. That led to bigger jobs, word of mouth, slick guys in suits and, eventually, a four-record deal. “A&M came to hear us play and they liked us,” Lang chirps, oblivious to the odds he has beaten. “It was great.”

On tour since February, Lang spends his spare time watching cartoons on his tour bus, studying for his GED and hanging with his girlfriend, Haylie Johnson, 17, an actress (Fathers’Day) and UCLA freshman. The only thing that gives him the blues? “I hate the whole novelty thing,” he says of his teen-phenom billing. “What’s the novelty in somebody young knowing what they want to do?”

You May Like