Interview: Tommy Shannon (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Johnny Winter)

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HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: December 2012. We had the tremendous honour to talk with one of the greatest blues/rock bassists of all time: Tommy Shannon. Tommy as a member of Double Trouble, was playing with Stevie Ray Vaughan for 10 years. He has also played with Johnny Winter at Woodstock Festival in 1969 and formed Arc Angels and Storyville with Chris Layton, the drummer of Double Trouble. Some of the artists he has played with in his career are: Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Lonnie Mack, Little Richard, Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer. The 2-CD 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition of “Texas Flood” album will be released on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, featuring previously unreleased Philadelphia live set from 1983. Read below the very interesting things he told us:


Which are the current projects you are involved in? Are you doing any recordings at the moment?

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Yeah, I have done a few sessions here and there. Nobody really knows when they will be released.


We are very close to the 30th Anniversary Edition of “Texas Flood” album (featuring previously unreleased Philadelphia live set from 1983). Are you proud of this album today?

I’m very proud of this record. It’s the first one we did and we put our heart and soul in it. I’m very proud. I really liked the show in Philadelphia. I think it was great.


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Do you remember any funny or unknown story from the recordings of “Texas Flood”?

Well, Jackson Browne gave us his studio for a couple of days. So, we recorded eight songs one day and two the next day. And when we came back to Austin, we put the vocals on. Yeah, I’m very proud of that record. It’s just raw blues.


The first major US tour of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble was opening for The Moody Blues!!!  Were you surprised when you learned that you would support The Moody Blues?

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We really had a good time on that tour. They didn’t go so good. That is true. We had standing ovations everywhere we played and no one really knew us then.


Do you think the history would be different if Stevie had accepted David Bowie’s offer to tour with him after the release of (Bowie’s )“Let’s Dance” album (recorded in December 1982)?

Yeah. He was going to do that tour, but he finally didn’t do it. He didn’t want to break up the band. So, he quit just a few days before the start of the tour because he felt miserable. Stevie had a lovely good character and he didn’t want to turn his back to the music he loved so much. And he stayed with us.


Which is in your opinion the greatest skill that Stevie Ray Vaughan had as a guitar player?

Stevie played from his heart. He wouldn’t compromise. He put his heart and his soul, so he couldn’t do that and he wouldn’t do it. He was such a great guitar player and a great talent. Ofcourse, he wouldn’t compromise as far as his music, the music which loved. So, he decided to stay with us, his band, to play the music he loved.


How much difficult was to continue your life and career after Stevie’s loss?

It was really hard. It was one the hardest things that I have ever been through. I didn’t want to play, you know. Later, I started playing with some friends. It was really hard. Stevie was my very best friend. We lived so many things together, we travelled overseas..  I still miss him dearly.


Do you have any clear memories from your performance at Woodstock with Johnny Winter?

Yeah, I remember it. It was really mad backstage. We had to come in by helicopters. I can’t forget when I looked down from the sky and I saw 500.000 people being there. There were many great bands there: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Grateful Dead. I can’t remember everyone who played there. It was a really big thing.


You did an extremely successful tour with Eric Clapton. How was Eric as a person and as a collaborator onstage?

He was good. He was really good onstage and off stage. He’s a friendly guy. I never got to know him well, but he is a really cool guy.


How did you feel when you played with Jeff Beck?

Oh good, very good. He is a great guitar player.


Was it difficult to “follow” him musically on stage?

No, no. It wasn’t hard at all. We all were sure of what we were doing. We weren’t intimidated anyway.


You have played many times with probably the biggest hero of Stevie Ray Vaughan: Buddy Guy. How was playing with such a legend?

Playing with Buddy is always great. It’s so dynamic and powerful. I love Buddy Guy. I think everybody loves Buddy Guy (laughs).


Can you tell us how did it happen to play with John Mayer?

He’s really cool. He’s young, full of inspiration and he loves Stevie and the band very much. We played with him in Austin City Limits and then we went in New York playing on Conan O’Brien show. We did two live shows in New York.


Do you know that John Mayer has a SRV tattoo on his shoulder?

Yes, I did know that!


You auditioned for the role of Bill Wyman in The Rolling Stones. Can you describe us that experience?

It was great. It doesn’t happen every day to get to play in The Rolling Stones. I was really nervous at first but I got very comfortable once we started playing. We sounded really good and I think I did really good.


Is there anyone you would like to play with and hasn’t happened yet?

I have played with so many people in my life. One that I wish I could play with, is Jimi Hendrix. I never got to play with him.


Do you like this guy from Austin, Gary Clark Jr? Is he as good as many people say?

Yes, he’s very good. I remember him playing at Antone’s in front of just a handful of people. He gradually got better and better and the crowd got bigger. Yeah, he’s great and his band is great.


What kind of music are you listening to this period?

Right now, I ‘m mixing my CDs. The stuff that I’ve done through the years. I’m listening to Jimi Hendrix.


How important was Antone’s Nightclub for the music scene of Austin, Texas?

It was for Austin a great deal. Clifford Antone (ed: the owner) before he died, he brought a lot of bands to come and play, especially blues bands. It was a very important club, it brought many great musicians in this area. It’s still open.


Have you ever thought to write your autobiography?

Yeah, I have thought about it. People keep asking me to write it.


In the first three studio albums of Double Trouble you worked with the legendary producer John H. Hammond (as executive producer there). How was working with him?

Oh, John Hammond was great. He used to come in the studio to see how Stevie and the band were going and if we wanted anything. He was very important. He did many discoveries (ed: he discovered and signed Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen among many others). It was great that I worked with him. He worked with many different guys.


You have played with many musicians in your career. Who was the most talented person?

Oh, Stevie was the most talented. That’s what I think about. I ‘m not sure about the other ones.


How do you see the current situation in the music industry?

We live in a period of big changes. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Technology changes everything. I ‘m not sure where we are going on and I don’t think everyone else. It’s hard to say. It really is.


Is there anyone musician from the younger generation that you like?

I like Gary Clark Jr. I also like some of the newer bands like Collective Soul, Grizzly Bear, Red Hot Chili Peppers. So, bands like that. I have played with Joe Bonamassa and he’s a very good player.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Tommy Shannon for his great answers and to Mark Murray for his valuable help.

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