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Terry Stewart

Posted January, 2010


TerryStewartTerry Stewart, CEO,The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.I’m of the humble opinion really screwed up when they made the movie, “Night At The Museum” back in 2006.  They just plain got it all wrong.  Instead of casting Ben Stiller in the starring role, they should have cast me.  And, instead setting it in the Museum of Natural History, it should have taken place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Stick with me here because there’s sound logic to my thinking.

See, through a lot of my life, I’ve had a fantasy of rummaging through the attics and warehouses of such stars as Elvis Presley, Gene Simmons, or name your favorite Rolling Stone.  To be able and go through their items that are tied to major events in their lives would be both awe inspiring and surreal.

I’ve had the privilege of touring Graceland twice but, for some reason, the staff wouldn’t let me go up into the attic.  For my diverse viewing pleasure, I’ve visited many of the Hard Rock Cafés in the U.S. and Bahamas and stared in wonder at the many artifacts and memorabilia that once belonged to some of my favorite rock stars.

Next on my Rock and Roll Bucket List is to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame located in the city of Rock’s birth, Cleveland, Ohio.  It is there that one can see an endless array of guitars, clothing, cars, and a mind boggling collection of iconic memorabilia from the royalty of Rock and Roll.

If one loves Rock and Roll, then the Hall would be considered one of the holy shrines of the genre that must be visited and to which one pays homage.  Not one to just want to merely put a check mark next to the Hall’s entry on my bucket list, I wanted to delve into the behind the scenes mechanizations of the Hall.

Why?  Because not only am I a fan of classic rock music, I’m a business nerd and, while I will gaze in amazement at David Bowie’s red, thigh high platform boots, I will wonder what the arrangements were to get them there.  I’ll ask myself questions like:  What are the insurance arrangements to have this stuff in the Hall?  How are the artifacts verified and certified?  Boring stuff like that.

So that I can satisfy my geekiness ahead of time and enjoy my visit to the Hall when I do go there, I thought it might be a good idea to have a chat with the CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Terry Stewart.  I originally contacted Mr. Stewart for comment while writing the interview I conducted with Wild Cherry’s Rob Parissi.  At that time, Terry was kind enough to commit to being interviewed at a later date so that I could pick his encyclopedic mind about the Hall.

When we recently chatted by phone, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I guess that I had it in my mind that I would have to deal with some stuffed shirt without a sense of humor.  Was I ever wrong!  It became immediately clear why Terry Stewart and Rob Parissi are friends.  Stewart’s sense of humor and love for his work came through clearly during the small talk at the beginning of our conversation. 

After chatting about his home state of Alabama, Rob Parissi and other items of mutual interest, I inquired about what a visitor to the Hall would see if they were to visit there today.

“Well, they’ll see our normal, permanent exhibits which are on seven floors and 150,000 square feet of space. These permanent exhibits are pretty much the history of rock and roll. And we have a number of special exhibits.  We have the Motown 50ith Anniversary exhibit right now.  We always have a photography special exhibit such as George Kalinsky, the photographer for the (Madison Square) Garden. 

“And then we have the Woodstock 40th anniversary exhibit as well as a giant Bruce Springsteen exhibit.  But, you know, the average stay is four to five hours so there’s more to see and do in a day if you really immerse yourself in it.”

I was curious if there were a lot of repeat visitors to the Rock Hall.

“Yeah, we have visitors that come a lot but about 90% of our attendance is outside the region.  Those people are coming from 50 states and 100 countries.  They aren’t really big, repeat people.  It’s really a lot of first time visitors.”

While covering the subject of Hall visitors, the conversation migrated to the recent announcement that the Hall Annex in New York City was going to be closed.  I asked him about all the talk of taking the Annex on the road as a travelling exhibit.

“Our partners are looking at ways that make sense financially to move it to another town or to take it on the road.  That’s in their hands to come back to us with an opportunity that makes sense.”

Here’s hoping for a decision that places the Annex, or at ,least a tour stop, here in the Dallas area!

With responsibilities such as Stewart’s, I asked him if there was any Hall business that kept him awake at night.

“Well, surprisingly enough, no.  We’re in the best shape, financially that we’ve been in ten years.  We don’t have a big operating reserve that we should have.  But we’re in better shape than we have been.  So, I wouldn’t say that I’m staying awake at night.  I’m always concerned since we really are based on how much money we generate each year.  Every January 1st we start over again.”

The business geek comes roaring out of me when we start talking about the business end of the Hall.  In addition to the revenue from admission fees, they also have a tremendous store, both physical and online, where one can pick up items such as mugs, clothing, books and pins. 

As for those last two categories, I tried to appeal to Stewart’s generous side and tell him that I could go broke on my low budget (queue up the violins!) buying the great books and pins offered by the store. 

His response?  “Feel free too!”

Putting my business geek propeller hat back on, I asked Terry about how else the Hall is supported.

“Well, we also have our philanthropy.  We have about 75% 78% of our business earned through the door and the store.  Then the other 25% is membership, individual donations, corporate donations, grant foundations, and government funding.  So it’s a wide mix of money that makes up the rest of that mix.”

Knowing that many of Boomerocity’s global readers and their companies might be interested in helping the Hall with a contribution, I asked Mr. Stewart how they might donate.  He doesn’t hesitate even one nanosecond to answer.

“They can do it online or they can do it in person.  There are MANY ways we can take your money! We’ve got levels all the way up to Platinum, Chairman’s Club and all of that.  Membership runs up to $500 and after that you’re in the Donor’s Circle as far as different designations go.

“We don’t have a lot of programs or shows but we do the American Music Masters in the fall, which is a big deal. We have our induction ceremonies (to be held March 15th at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City) and our gala in May.  There are a lot of events here where you can separate yourself from your dollars and do some good with it.”

Ah!  He brought up the induction ceremony!  Probably the only real criticism that I’ve ever heard with regards to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is every year when the inductees are announced.  This year was no exception.  While some of the names left me scratching my head, I keep my thoughts and opinions to myself.  However, I did want to know how he handled the question that had to be thrown at him at least a couple of million times.

“Well, it has to be a standard response because I get asked so often.  The fact is that we have a very disciplined, methodical process that we go through to induct performers.  There are 35 members on the nominating committee and 600 who vote.  And the realities are when somebody doesn’t get in, they simply didn’t get enough votes.  That never satisfies anybody but that is the case. 

“When you don’t have the support on the committee, you won’t get on the ballot.  If you get on the ballot, you have to get the votes from the 600.  BUT, the three other categories, non-performer, early influence and side men, are all done by committee.  I tell people that I think that the people that are worthy will get in.  They may not necessarily get in when they want to or when their fans want them to get in.  As soon as they get passed over for a year or two, people go, ‘Oh, my god . . .’”

Many huge names in the rock world have visited the Hall of Fame.  What have their reactions been?

“Oh!  The ones who come here love it!  There’s no issue about that.  They all love it.  They love music.  They love the history of this music.  When they come here and see how we treat it, they’re incredibly endorsing.  I don’t know that we ever had anybody here that didn’t think it was fabulous or inductees that came through.  I’m sure that there are some nit picks, nits and picks that they would like to change but then who wouldn’t?”

What is planned for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the near and long term?

Well, we just moved in to our new library and archive building.  We won’t open it until next fall.  So a lot of my focus right now is on finishing the capital campaign to pay for the library and to pay for the redesign of the museum because they’re redesigning about 30% - 40% of it.  That’ll take place over the next two years. 

“The library is up, staffed are moved in but it won’t be open to the public until next fall and to have enough material to open it up so that people can enjoy it.  There’ll be digital audio and video as well as hard copies of magazines, periodicals and books in the lending library.

On the short term, those are the two things that I’m going to focus on.”

How about three to five years out?

Well, we’re trying to find a way to finance a connector between us and the Science Museum which is next door.  They have a garage that’s highly unutilized and we have no garage.  So, if we can connect and keep it enclosed to get to the garage, we think that it will be very helpful to them and very satisfying to us.  That’s probably our biggest project.

After that, there may be space behind it in the hill to build enough flexible space to take care of the space that the Science Center and I need.  We need a temporary exhibit hall and we also need some classrooms.  They need classrooms, too, so maybe we can use the same classrooms.”

Is it just me or are you guys also struck by how ironic it is that rock and roll and science are looking at how they can be partners in education?  Who would have ever thunk it?

I’ll close this piece with a plea and a bit of advice to the legions of Boomerocity readers that are around this fertile green planet of ours: 

First, if you or your business is looking for a good cause in the area of cultural preservation to support, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be at the top of your list.  As Mr. Stewart told us, you can support the Hall without ever having to show up (but you’ll definitely want to visit!).  If you’re feeling generous and want to make an online donation, you can click here to make it happen.  Or, if you want something besides a warm fuzzy feeling about your contribution, you can purchase your choice of some great items from the Hall’s online store here.

Secondly, don’t assume that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame road show will, a) happen and, b) or, if it does, that it will come to a city, town or village near year.  Book a flight and hotel reservations to, and in , the great city of Cleveland, Ohio, and plan on spending a day – no, make that two days – at the incredible Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Tell ‘em, that Boomerocity sent you.

And, while you’re at it, buy a poor guy a book or pin from there, will ya?

Chad Smith

Posted August, 2012


BombasticMeatbatsColor1Ed Roth, Jeff Kollman, Kevin Chown & Chad SmithAs I wrote in my review of Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats’, Live Meat and Potatoes, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I absolutely love that album.  I meant it then and I still feel the same way now.  So, I was quite stoked when the opportunity arose to interview the band’s co-founder and drummer (that is, when he’s not beating the skins for his main gig, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or for the super group, Chickenfoot), Chad Smith.

The Bombastic Meatbats were formed as sort of a fluke. While doing some work with Glenn Hughes, Smith formed the band along with Jeff Kollman (guitarist for Cosmosquad), much in demand arranger/songwriter/keyboardist, Ed Roth, and bassist Kevin Chown (Uncle Kracker, Tarja Turunen). What resulted was a great rock/jazz/fusion/whatever-you-want-to-call-it band that is delighting audiences everywhere they’re heard.  But more about that in a moment.

Smith rang me up recently from his SoCal home to discuss Live Meat and Potatoes and the music business in general.  But before cutting to that chase, though, I had to ask a very obvious question:  How in the world did Chad and the boys come up with the band’s name?

“Well, we’re serious about our music but we have a real loose sense of humor and inside jokes.  But instrumental music sometimes has this stereotype of being ‘serious’, musicians only, lots of notes, and no sense of humor. We are serious about our music but everything else is just the personalities of our group. The combination of us together is kinda goofy – starting from the top – the Meatbats!

“I don’t know how we came up with it but it’s just part of the fun we like to have.  I think the live CD picks up on that.  We really like to stretch out and have fun with the audience and make them feel connected.  It can be a little intimidating when there’s no singing – nothing to connect to that way. So, we just like to have fun with it.

“Music is supposed to be fun, for goodness sakes! At least, that’s what I think. I don’t know what other people think but I’m going to play music!  I’m not working music – I’m playing it! To me, I always want it to be fun. Lots of times there’s work involved but, when you’re performing in front of a crowd and you’re entertaining, you present  your art the way you want to and that’s what we do.”

Back to how the band formed, I asked Chad to fill me in a little more on that story.

Myself, Jeff Kollman – the guitar player - and Ed Roth, the keyboard player – Glenn was a solo artist after Deep Purple – and, years ago now – he just needed a band to do some gigs here and there and we would play with him. I played on some of his records and helped him produce them.  We’re really good friends and he’s a great musician.  We were just his band.  When you’re waiting around for the singer to show up – sometimes that happens.  They’re not always on time. Maybe it’s because they don’t have any gear to bring.  They don’t have to set up.  So, we would just jam on this funk – whatever it is, whatever we do – and it was just fun and we really sounded good.

“One of us – maybe it was me – said, ‘Man! We need to come up with some songs, record ‘em and make records!’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, okay!’  That was really it.  And we do!  Next thing you know, a couple of records, a live album, playing gigs, and having fun with your fans. That’s what it’s all about!”

And has the legendary bassist/vocalist ever returned the favor by playing any Bombastic gigs?

“He has! You know, tonight we’re playing down in San Pedro which is down by Long Beach and Glenn lives down there. I’m going to call ‘im up and see what he’s doing. I think he might be in the studio. I think he’s playing with some other people but we’ll be in his neck of the woods.  But, yeah, he comes in.  We don’t have a vocalist very often but he does come in and he’s played a couple of times with us. It’s always fun!”

Most bands don’t come out with a live album until well into their existence.  I asked Smith if it wasn’t a bit of a bold step to release a live CD as a third project.  Before I could even finish the question, Smith was already chuckling.

“Yeah, I guess, but our songs are, like, seven minutes long. We really stretch them out and we have musical conversations. We take risks. It’s a lot of improvising. Therein lies where the jazz part of it is.  I don’t really think of it as jazz. I just think of it as improvising and playing off each other and listening.  Those are really important things. For me, with any music that I like to play with other human beings you’re interacting with, you have to use dynamics and listen and have musical conversations. So, we do that.  It’s not just a jam band or some jazz situation where you just play the head and there’ll be solos. We have song structure.

“But, yeah, two records – I don’t know, I just felt that we were playing really good and we had been working and had just done the second record. I was going to go – I think – on a Chickenfoot tour and we were playing a lot at that point.  I said, ‘Let’s record!’ We were doing two shows at the club we were always playing at in L.A. – The Baked Potato – and I think most of the album is from the first night. But, yeah, why not? I think we excel live. I really do.”

I was curious what Bombastic Meatbats does for Smith, musically, that he doesn’t get from the Chili Peppers or Chickenfoot.

 “It keeps my chops up.  I do a little more playing, I suppose – a little bit more. When you’re in an instrumental band you don’t have to worry about stepping on the singer. You get to play a lot. I mean, I play a lot in the other bands, too, but a little bit more in this one just because the nature of the music. It’s really up to you. You can’t just sit back there, keeping the beat. You have to make it interesting all the time.

“But, yeah, any musical situation I’m in, I want to have fun and play with people who want to take chances and want to take musical risks and are dedicated to music but also want to have fun. I want to have fun playing music.  That’s the criteria for me and Meatbats certainly meets all of those things. They’re great guys and we’re friends. We get to do whatever we want. I mean, we’re not competing with the Lady Gaga’s and Rhianna’s and Katy Perry’s.  We have a little niche and that’s cool. It’s great to have that outlet for musical expression. I’m so grateful that people support live music and come out and see us.”

As for where Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats play live, it’s, for the most part, in southern California although he says that, “We have played in other places. We’ve never done a tour. We went to play in Japan and did a ten day tour there. In the states, trying to find venues for this kind of music is difficult – to make money to pay for travel, airplanes, hotels and stuff.  We’ve played in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and a couple of other places but no tours.  Maybe, who knows?”

When asked what is planned next with the Meatbats after the activity over the latest album dies down, Chad said, “We’ll probably have to wait until after I get done in April with the Chili Peppers and then we’ll write some more songs. We’ll get back down into the Tiki Room here in my house and come up with some new songs and come out with another record, I think.” And then, with a small sliver of humor, added, “Maybe well do another live album again!” 

When I asked Chad how he would like to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be after he’s left planet earth, after softly chuckling and giving the question some serious thought, Smith said, “That’s a good question. When we were inducted into the Hall of Fame in April, I got a little bit of that then because you’re looking back on your career. It was really cool and we were really honored.”

Then, Smith’s tone of voice turned very serious as he started talking about what is really important to him.

“A friend of mine who played bass with Elton John just killed himself a couple of days ago – Bob Burch. All of us – a lot of my friends – are from Detroit. I’m from Michigan. I played with him. I know him. It freaked me out, man.  Just crazy! Young guy, family, kid, what was he thinking to do that?  I mean, anybody but when it’s somebody you know, it really hits home, you know?

“I just want to be present and I want to be kind.  I want to be loving. I want to be a good father. I want to be a good husband. I want to be a good person and continue to do that. It really doesn’t have anything to do with music. Music is what I do. I know that the music that I play touches a lot of people, as humbly as I can say that. We’re very fortunate and I’m very fortunate to play music that people really connect with.  I’m really happy for that.  It blows me away when people come up to me, ‘Oh, your music changed my life – your drumming. I started a band because of I saw you play’ or whatever it was. That’s unbelievable.

“But, more importantly, I just want to be a good example for my family and friends who know me and can have a good influence on them.  They can look back and go, ‘You know, my dad was a hard working musician, doing what he loved. He was good to me. He was kind. He gave me a good map.’ That’s, hopefully, what I can do.”

Derek Sherinian

Posted September, 2011


derekcurrent2As a teenager growing up in Phoenix in the seventies, it seemed that music was alive everywhere and boundaries were being both explored and exploited.  Rock and roll was no longer relegated to three or four piece bands that were made up of a drummer, bass player and one or two guitar players and/or a vocalist.

Keyboards – and by that I mean the new fangled synthesizers that were sweeping the entertainment industry – were beginning to make their presence known in the music business and on our stereos.  Keyboard-heavy bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Deep Purple commanded our attention and filled our ears with incredible, intricate sounds that seemed to permeate every cell of our mushy brains.  The keyboard wizardry of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and Jon Lord, respectively, took the tickling of the ivories to a whole new, mind blowing level.

In the new millennia, an artist who has the same kind of keyboard genius pulsing through his veins and is of the same superior level of talent and creativity is one Derek Sherinian.  Beginning his affair with the piano at the age of five and, after three semesters of attending the Berklee School of Music on a scholarship, Derek found himself playing the keys with the legendary Buddy Miles, learning the ways of the road and sharpening his performance skills.

Sherinian then went on to work with the likes of Alice Cooper (who called him “the Caligula of the Keyboards”), KISS, Yngwie Malmsteen and Dream Theater.  He’s currently the keyboard maestro for the super group, Black Country Communion (with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, bassist, Glenn Hughes, and Jason Bonham on drums) as well as for Billy Idol.

When he wasn’t working with these rock power houses, he produced an incredible body of solo work over the years with albums such as his first release in 1999, Planet X, which was followed by Inertia two years later.  In 2003, he released Black Utopia and Mythology the following year.  Between then and now, he produced Blood of the Snake  and Molecular Heinosity.  These albums still stand very well on their own and are a definite must for the discriminating listener who loves exceptional music.

On the 27th of this month, Derek releases Oceana and it is his best work yet.  Co-written with his good friend and drummer, Simon Phillips, the project also enjoys some great musical muscle from friends like Joe Bonamassa, Steve Lukather, Tony MacAlpine, Tony Franklin, Steve Stevens, Doug Aldrich and Jimmy Johnson.

I got to chat about Oceana with Sherinian recently.  Despite the fact that he was enduring a gauntlet of interviews, Derek didn’t act at all tired from the grueling chat-fest schedule. In fact, he sounded enthusiastic to be talking about his new album.

I started off the interview by asking Derek how he would describe Oceana to any of his fans or fans of the various bands and artists he has worked with, or are currently working with.

“I think Oceana is the most melodic and the most grooving of my solo records – and the most focused. I’ve always been very adventurous with the genres and styles of my past records. I’d say that Oceana has the most emphasis on the strong melodies. It’s less heavy metal and less progressive than its predecessors. I really think it’s my best work to date. I know that’s a cliché that artists will say but Simon Phillips and I really but a lot of time and care into the composition, the playing, the production and the choice of players.  We’re very happy with the outcome. The record’s getting rave reviews all around the world so we’re very excited about it.”

I asked Sherinian if he and Simon wrote all the parts for the various artists to play who appeared on Oceana or did they listen to the song and come up with their own magic, he said, “Well, all the songs that I wrote with Simon where it was just the two of us, we brought Steve Lukather in to play guitar because we always hear his guitar – it’s just always there in our minds. He always comes in and exceeds our expectations.

“Then, the other songs where I co-wrote – I did two songs with Steve Stevens  where we came up with the stuff and then put everyone else behind what we wrote.  One song I wrote with Joe Bonamassa and the other with Doug Aldrich – it basically works out that, if I write with a guitar player, that’s who winds up playing on the record.

In this day and age where albums are often made by way of e-mailing tracks back and forth between artists who then add their track in at a studio more convenient to them, I asked Derek if there was much in the way of face time in the studio with the other artists or were they e-mailing tracks back and forth?

“Oh, no, there was no e-mailing.  Everyone came into Simon’s studio – all the guitar players and we tracked everyone. It was great! The cool thing about living in Los Angeles is that you have the best musicians in the world within a five mile radius from my house. They’re all here.

 “The album took four and half months from the first day of writing to the mastering. It usually takes three to six months depending on everyone’s schedule because everyone’s busy in their own band or making their own records. It’s a challenge to coordinate and schedule everyone to come in.”

I figured the toughest part of making an album would be sweating over the finer points of engineering the album, finding a producer one could trust or work well with, or trying to nail down the precise sound one was looking for.  When I asked Sherinian what he thought the toughest part of producing an album was, his answer surprised me.

“The toughest part is coming up with names for these instrumental songs with no lyrics and then naming the album. That really is the toughest part. That really is the hardest part and the biggest struggle.”

Musical geniuses all derive inspiration for their music in endless ways.  Derek said that, “I get inspired by whoever I’m collaborating with. I do write some songs by myself but I get much more enjoyment by going into a room with nothing with someone else and then yanking something from nothing and watching it evolve – the feedback, the back and forth. That, to me, is exciting and I get inspired by working with people that I really respect.”

I followed up that question by asking if he has a particular person or audience in mind as he crafts his music.

“I don’t know. I all just comes down to just closing your mind off and letting your hands move and let your ears rule what’s going on. It all just works out how it’s supposed to.”

I found it interesting that Sherinian co-wrote Oceana with a drummer (Simon Phillips) instead of, say, a guitar player.  I asked him why that was.

“Well, Simon and I first started working together on my Inertia record in 2001. For one thing, Simon is my favorite drummer. I love his choice of beats and groove.  But he’s also very melodic. He’s very capable of going on a keyboard and writing and comes up with great ideas. We just have a connection when we write – a chemistry and it always flows very nicely and we always come up with great stuff together.”

As mentioned earlier, the “Caligula of the keyboards” has worked with some great people throughout your career.  When I asked Sherinian who he hasn’t worked with but hasn’t yet, his answer appeared to be very much at the forefront of his mind.

“I haven’t worked with Jeff Beck yet. He’s on my list and it’s going to happen at some time. I don’t know when but it’s destined to happen. That’s on my bucket list. I’d like to play on his record or, more, I’d him playing on my record with me and Simon writing and playing – or tour with him – in any capacity would be great. But I think that would be the best if he agreed to play on one of my records and have Simon co-write and produce.

“It would also be great to get Edward Van Halen to come in play on one of my solo records. I got a chance to play with him live in 2006 at a private party. That was very cool but it would be nice to write a killer instrumental with him and have him come in and track it.”

With someone who is as intricate in their playing guitar as he is on keyboard, I asked if creating music with a Lukather, Stevens or Bonamassa proved to be more challenging or more synergistic.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll go in and do something with someone like Tony MacAlpine, who has amazing chops. I just blend. I’m very chameleonic but at the same time I keep my signature sound with whoever I’m playing with. So, it doesn’t matter.”

As for tour plans in support of Oceana, Derek shared that, “there’s talk of us doing some stuff in Europe next year. We’re trying to put that all together. Just stay tuned to my website, for updates on that.”

Sherinians said that, as for plans for the next year, five years, beyond, “I know that next year I’m going to do some more stuff with Black Country Communion – another record.  At the end of this month I start rehearsing with Billy Idol. We’re going to do a short run.  Beyond that, it’s just broad strokes. I just try to stay musical and creative and surround myself with the best players in the world and keep moving forward.

“I would love to get to a place where I sell enough records that I can go tour my solo stuff around the world so that I don’t have to do anything else. That would be an awesome place to be, career-wise, and I’m not there yet.  That’s what I’m working on.”

As our call was wrapping up, my final question to the keyboard genius was the one I often ask at the close of an interview these days: How do you want to be remembered and what would you like to have accomplished when you’ve gone to the great keyboard in the sky?

“I want to be remembered as one of the greats and I want to be known that influenced a whole legion of young – not just keyboard players but musicians. I want to be known as someone that was the architect of metal fusion through my albums, my legacy of who I’ve played with. I just want to leave a mark.”

No doubt, Derek Sherinian will be around for a very long time and will build just such a legacy.  You can pre-order/order Oceana or Derek’s other great solo work by clicking on the icons on the right side of this page.  Every serious rock music library should have these albums.

Also, as he mentioned, you can keep up with his solo tour schedule as well as with Black Country Communion, Billy Idol and others buy visiting

Kim Simmonds

Posted August, 2012


kimsimmonds 1As the story goes, a thirteen year old Kim Simmonds secretly ordered a guitar through a mail order company.  The guitar had to be assembled, which the young Welsh man immediately did.  He began listing to various rock ‘n roll and blues bands and started imitating their sound on his cheap guitar. 

That was in 1961.  Four years later, young Kim started a band called Savoy Brown.  One year later, the band was one of the first British blues bands to record.  In the forty-seven years since the band formed, it has enjoyed a roster of musicians that has included three of the four original members of Foghat as well as members of Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, U.F.O., Robert Cray and other great acts.

Over the years, the band also has had the distinction of jamming with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and opened for such acts as Cream and went on to have bands such as KISS, Jethro Tull and AC/DC open for them.

Kim Simmonds has single handedly managed to keep Savoy Brown alive and rockin’ to this very day.  he band enjoys quite an active tour schedule as well as Kim hitting off on  his own solo shows.  In fact, Simmonds is part of this summer’s Rock N’ Blues Fest, joining Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, and Mountain’s Leslie West for what promises to be a memorable and historic tour.

With that tour coming up, I had the privilege of calling Kim at his home in upstate New York to discuss the tour as well as his view of the current state of the blues and the music business.  Immediately gracious, I knew that I was in for a real treat speaking with such an iconic blues man – especially one with such a classy accent!

With the aforementioned stellar line up for the Rock ‘n’Blues Fest Tour, I asked Simmonds if he had ever worked with any of those gentlemen before.

“Interesting. Let me think.  Years ago, when Leslie was starting out, I invited him up on stage to jam with Savoy Brown and I think that he remembers that as a pivotal point for him.  That was on Long Island. In the last few years, I guested on one of Leslie’s albums and we’ve done lots of dates together over the years.

“Rick Derringer, we’ve done dates together – all the artists!  The Winter brothers, we’ve done dates together from the sixties on.  Leslie’s probably the only one that I’ve actually played with, so to speak. But all the artists I’ve done shows with throughout their respective careers so I’m very familiar with them as artists. I’m a fan of music, as well, and follow everybody.”

As for how each show is going to be staged and staffed, band wise, Kim shared, “We’re going to share Edgar Winter’s band. From what I gather, they’re going to be like the ‘house band’. I’ll go on and do my piece, which will be a selection of Savoy Brown classics and I’m sure that everybody will do a selection of their hits.”

When I asked if they were going to do their own blues work or blues covers, Simmonds said, “To tell the truth, I find it a little tiresome when I see artists do blues covers that we’re all familiar with – unless you can do them in a fresh way. I enjoy the challenge of a classic blues tune and doing it in a fresh way but there’s so much Savoy Brown material.  The reason that I’m doing it is that I’m hoping, perhaps, to play to people who are not particularly familiar with me.

“If you come to a Savoy Brown show and see me play, I’ll take a lot of chances because I’m playing to an audience that know who I am.  If I go out on a limb, they understand that. But, in an audience like this, I’m hoping to play to some fresh faces but they’re not ready to be taking out on that limb. So, I’ll just try to pitch it right down the middle, I guess.

“I’ll do some improvisation, there’s no doubt about that. But, I’ll often play acoustic stuff, for instance, in a Savoy Brown show. I’ll improvise with an acoustic.  That can be challenging, even for my fans. I just think that this kind of tour, where I have a limited amount of time and exposure, I better make sure that I play songs that are readily identifiable with me.”

I couldn’t chat with one of the statesmen of the blues without asking his learned opinion about the state of the blues today from his vantage point.

“It’s very important when you play, period – whether you’re playing blues or any kind of music – that the music is the most important thing and that the audience is the most important thing. If you put yourself as the most important thing, then you’re not doing the music any service – especially with blues. It’s a very small genre. It’s the music that’s the important thing. On top of that, you’ve got to try to break through and have hits with what you’re doing.

“One thing Savoy Brown did in the sixties – and I think it was very important and I think that I can speak like this even though it’s not acknowledged in the mainstream – I know for certain that Savoy Brown had a huge impact on people with blues because we had hits. People said, ‘What is this song?’ Perhaps we covered a Muddy Waters song. Who is McKinley Morganfield?  Lots and lots of people have said that, through Savoy Brown, they discovered McKinley Morganfield was Muddy Waters. When we came over here, all we were interested in doing was saying, ‘Hey! There’s such a guy as B.B. King playing!’  In the sixties that wasn’t common knowledge. The music we were playing was certainly more important than us. And, then,  we had hits playing the music. They weren’t number one hits, of course, but they were hits. Suddenly, people were hearing on FM radio these songs that were really, essentially, blues songs. There was blues guitar and blues vocals.

“One thing we’re lacking today is, a) people having a tendency to be more focused on themselves and not enough on the music and, also, we are not getting breakthrough artists having hits – getting into the charts. And that was the case through the fifties.  Jimmy Reed would have R&B hits.  The artists would have hits.  Some of them would cross over into the pop charts.

“I’m hoping that we would have some younger artists who are able to do this – to focus on the music, put themselves aside, and try to develop songs that will really grow the music. The only way to broaden out is for artist – and I would presume up and coming artists – and I don’t me to commercialize or sell out or anything like that – I mean really focus in and really get things so that your appeal is broad. Nowadays, I think it’s quite obvious that people aren’t having hits with blues songs so, therefore, the music is not broadening. And, throughout the years there’s been people who were playing blues and were having hits. The last that I can think of off the top of my head – and I wouldn’t say that they were a solid blues band – but Blues Traveler had some hits there. You had this harmonica driven band and it was rootsy and so forth.

“So, what I’d like to see is some of the younger blues artists break through.  I think we need that and I’m really crossing my fingers that some of them will cross over and reinvigorate the music.  It doesn’t matter how good of a guitar player you are; it doesn’t how good of a singer you are; can you put it into a musical form?  Can you put it into a song that will resonate with people? Guitar playing doesn’t necessarily resonate with a lot of people. It does but it only resonates if it’s within the context of music that resonates with them.”

Then, putting a nice bow on his view about the blues, Simmonds concluded, “There’s no doubt about it, it’s a genre that will never go out of fashion. I still love to hear blues guitar, blues singing. It’s soulful where a lot of music isn’t soulful. And I think it’s an antidote to music that gets too syrupy and sugary. So the blues definitely has a place. But it’s very important that we all realize that it’s the music and not ourselves and that we all realize that we’ve got to try further the music and that it’s not necessarily about furthering ourselves.”

With a career that spans seven decades, I asked the blues icon what saw as the biggest changes, positive and negative, in the music business.

“I think the most negative is the technology that has – while it’s very, very good and makes our life better as musicians, it also can be counter-productive. I would take guitar effects away from every blues guitar player. I don’t understand why a blues guitar or a jazz guitar player or a roots guitar player – and I talk about guitar players because I’m a guitar player – why do you need effects? It’s all about transposing your feelings through an instrument. Blues is a very, very direct, plain, simple music. The more you complicate it and the more you let technology take over – and believe me, I’m talking as someone who has made all the mistakes! – it’s a dead end.  I think a lot of blues and roots artists are in it for that reason.

“I’ve seen a lot of them who are terrific musicians but will be playing with too many effects and letting that get into the way. It destroys your personality. It’s like that in all genres. Like in movies, we all know the movies we watch ten years later and somehow it’s all terribly dated. It has too many effects that pertain to that particular period. The great thing about blues, it had no effects!  You can play a Howlin’ Wolf song now, it sounds AMAZING! Amazing!  It’s like, wow! And it’s because it had no effects – and don’t forget that there were effects around in the past – and they had none of those effects.

“So, one of the failings is the way that technology has dominated the music scene. I don’t know how you deal with that. Can you take a little bit of it and leave the rest? One would like to think so, but it’s such beguiling, technological world we live in. We see everybody with a telephone and all the modern conveniences. That’s seeped into music. And that’s fine for certain kinds of music but I wouldn’t think that it would be appropriate for blues and roots music.

“What’s the ‘ups’ of the music business?  The ups are that the world really hasn’t changed at all.  People still pick up a guitar, pick up an amp, go into a garage with three other people and start making a band. That hasn’t changed since Presley came around. So that’s the good thing. People are still doing exactly the same with the same instruments and the same equipment that people did fifty years ago.”

And what would Kim do to fix the music business if he were made the music czar?

With just the slightest of hesitation, Kim replied, “I would take foot pedals away from every guitar player!  I’d ban them! Of course, there’d be little speakeasy’s with the technology in them!”

What haven’t you done or accomplished yet that you would still like to do?  You’ve jammed with some of the biggest names in music history. Is there anyone who you haven’t jammed with who you wish to?

“Yeah, I think that I’ve so satisfied myself in the fact that I’ve met my heroes. I’ve played with my heroes. I missed the opportunity to play with some of them. I think if you asked me who I would like to jam with, there are some people have now passed away. I wish I had taken the opportunity when I had it to introduce myself. Perhaps I was too shy or intimidated and I let an opportunity go by.  Sometimes, you don’t really understand who’s really important to you until you get older.  Sometimes YOU think you’re the most important thing and as you get older you realize that you’re far from being the most important thing.

“The most important thing are the people who’ve influenced you and, sometimes, you bury those.  Sometimes, you don’t want to admit, perhaps, that somebody was a big influence on you because you think that it’s not cool to say that. But the older you get, you go, ‘Man! This person was so important to me. I had the opportunity and I didn’t take it!’

“So, there are some regrets like that.  One of my regrets is with the guitar player, Billy Butler, who played with Bill Doggett and was a huge influence on me. I have a story where I jammed with Charles Brown in New York City and I borrowed the guitar player’s guitar and played with Charles Brown and had a good time. I came off stage and sat the guitar down and looked over and the guitar player looked like he might not have been in the best of moods.  Normally, I would go up and say, ‘Thank you for letting me use your guitar.’

“Well, I felt a bit intimidated so I didn’t.  Of course, it was Billy Butler and it was my opportunity there to say hi and converse with who I think is one of the greatest guitar players ever.  I didn’t. So, there’s a regret there.

After you’ve stepped off the tour bus of life for the final time and walked up to that great stage in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

“Well, I think I would simply like to be remembered as one of the architects of the British blues movement of the sixties. Hopefully, I’d like to think that I was one of the finest exponents of it.  But, you know, that’s for others to decide.  But, simply that, really. I’d like to be remembered for the contributions I’ve made to British blues and the blues scene from the British standpoint. And the band!  More than me, I’ve used the band to try and create the music that is really special to people.”

Rob Shanahan

Posted March, 2010

robshanahanringoShanahan on Drums Behind Ringo Starr - Photo Courtesy of Rob ShanahanWhile working on my interview with Aerosmith drummer, Joey Kramer, I needed some great photos of him to grace the pages of the interview.  As I was checking out various shots on Kramer’s website, I noticed that my favorite ones were shot by photographer, Rob Shanahan.

I tracked down Shanahan to ask for permission to use his photos.  My search for him led me to a huge array of photographs of many other easily recognizable artists – not only from “my day” but many current celebrities.

While he was gracious enough to allow me to use some of his great pictures, it reminded me of an idea that I had when I launched Interview some of the better rock photographers who have “shot” some of the icons of our day.  After checking out Shanahan’s online portfolio of artists he’s photographed, I knew that I wanted to interview him.

I’ve had several conversations with the 42 year-old Shanahan.  The first observation that I had was that, though he takes his craft very seriously, he’s clearly having the time of his life doing what he does.  When he mentions who all he’s had the privilege of photographing, it’s not in the spirit of name dropping but of sharing the excitement and awe just as he surely did when he first started shooting pictures at the age of fifteen.

Since those early days, Shanahan’s work has appeared on such international publications as Rolling Stone Magazine and has been used for such album covers as Ringo Starr’s latest album, Y Not.

Early in the conversation, Rob immediately confirmed what I gathered from his photographic portfolio:  Not only is he an incredible photographer, he’s also a professional drummer (and a darn good one, at that), having pounded the skins for 16 years with his band, the Hollywood Stones. He’s been drumming since he was 11 years old. 

Let me stop right here to plug his band, Hollywood Stones.  The band is probably THE best Rolling Stones tribute band in existence today.  I’m a huge Stones fan and I don’t like my Stones music messed with – even by the Stones.  But these guys are REALLY good.  Seriously.

Don’t believe me?  Well, then, will you believe accolades from the L.A. Times, NBC News or Showtime! Magazine?  Or, if you think you can’t trust the press to get it right, how about the likes of Dick Clark, Slash, and Eric Burdon?  Yeah, they’re THAT good.

Their uncanny ability to mimic the Bad Boys of Rock ‘n Roll has taken them, not only all over the U.S., but to the U.K., South America and other parts of the world.  Did I tell you that they’re THAT good?  Well, they are.

Back to the Stones in a moment.

It’s obvious that Shanahan’s role as an acclaimed professional drummer has guided him to shoot photographs that reflect not only the perspective of audiences and readers but the perspective of the artists (especially drummers) as well.  His musician’s eye guides him to produce the kinds of shots that his subjects and the readers love and are captivated by. 

Early in our first conversation, Shanahan had me spellbound with his story of how he met Stones drummer, Charlie Watts.  The story was prompted by my comment of the pictures on his website ( of Watts and that it must have been “a dream come true” for him.  His telling of the story reveals his almost childlike awe of the circles he travels in.

“Unbelievable!  I should probably tell you how that came about because it’s a really great story.  Do you know Jim Keltner?  Jim Keltner is one of THE drum studio session guys.  He did all of George Harrison’s and John Lennon’s solo records.  He played drums for Lennon on ‘Imagine’ and on so many great songs we’ve all heard a million times on the radio.  He’s just a really terrific guy.

“I met Jim through the Paiste cymbal company. I’ve become really good friends with Jim photographing him probably a half a dozen times over the years.  Every drum or cymbal ad of Jim within the last seven years, I’ve photographed.  I love working with Jim, I feel that he’s the older brother that I never had.

“He knows my love of the Stones and I told Jim that I’d love to meet Charlie.  He made the call to Charlie and made it happen.

“I think the first city that I went to see him was in Las Vegas at the MGM. I go to the ‘Will Call’ and I get my pass and I noticed the initials ‘C.W’ on it.  I realized that it’s Charlie Watts initials, signifying that I was his guest. 

“I go in and get escorted to the back.  Everyone was really nice.  They knew that Charlie was coming out to meet me.  All of a sudden, Charlie comes in and I was like, ‘Holy crap!’  So, I met Charlie backstage and we had, maybe, five minutes so he asked me, ‘What are you doing the next couple of days?’

“I’m sure that I had something going on.  I don’t remember but I said, ‘Whatever you want to do!’  He asked, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Little Rock?  I’ll have a lot more time.  I’ve got a lot going on in Vegas with ‘meet and greets’ and such.’ So, I went to Little Rock to meet up with him again.

 “So, when Charlie says, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Little Rock?’, you go!  I went and had a really good time with him there.  He took me backstage and showed me around - hung out in his dressing room.  We talked about old drummers and all the drummers that I had been working with lately – recently, etc., etc.  And then, when they came back into Los Angeles, I had an idea - to get Charlie and Ringo together – again – back together! When was the last time these guys had seen each other? 

“So, I called Ringo to ask if he would be interested in doing a shoot with Charlie. He said (sliding into a perfect English accent), ‘Oh, that would be lovely!’

“So, back in LA, the day before the Dodger Stadium show, Jim picked up Charlie at the hotel and came up to Ringo’s.  I was there with Ringo, waiting in the driveway for Charlie. The car pulls up and out comes Charlie.

“Ringo yells, ‘Charlie!’ and Charlie yells, ‘Ringo!’ and they go running towards each other.  I just grab my camera and just start shooting.  I have this great sequence of them running towards each other with outstretched arms and hugging.  It’s a fantastic sequence.

“We hung out at Ringo’s house for the afternoon, for like four or five hours.  He has a couple of rooms in the house just devoted to drum kits.  One is with an electronic kit and the other one has an acoustic kit.

“They went back and forth and played and talked.  I shot pictures of everything and then, at about four o’clock, Ringo looks at his watch and says, ‘Oh!  It’s tea time!’  So the four of us - me, Charlie, Ringo and Jim – are sitting there, poolside, at this little table, having tea and we’re talking about drums, recording, what the Stones are doing now, family, this and that.  I had to pinch myself! 

“What I did is I put together a book of that day and had it published.  I did just a small run of five copies.  I sent one to London to Charlie.  I gave one to Ringo, one to Jim and I have two copies here.  One that I don’t touch – it’s just tucked away and then one that I show people that sits out in my office.  People freak out and go, ‘Holy crap! Do you realize what you’ve got?’

“The important thing is the four of us like the book.  I’ve received a call from Ringo, Charlie and Jim, all completely thrilled with the book.  It was a special day and I am thankful I was able to document it.”

Having been immediately blown away by such an incredible story, I had to ask the obvious question: How did Shanahan break in to the rock photography field?

“I landed in California in the summer of ’88, fresh out of school in Minnesota.  I went to Minnesota State- Mankato.  Studied Photography and business then moved to California.  I just started taking pictures of whatever I could to make money.

“It’s a long story but I started shooting sports – I was the big long lens guy on the sidelines of the football field.  I was shooting for the NFL and Major League Baseball. I did that for about ten years. I’m really not that big of a sports fan but I love my Minnesota Vikings! 

 “I enjoyed shooting but my real passion was music.  I just felt that I really needed to start shooting music so I started poking around in the industry.  I figured that I would just go with what I know.  I know drummers and I know drums.

“Every time I‘d look through a drum magazine, I would think, ‘I should be doing these photographs. Why shouldn’t a drummer be the one to photograph drummers?”

“So I got busy shooting in the music industry.  The next thing you know, I’m shooting more drummers and more ads, then other musicians– and the phone started ringing. It just kinda goes from there, you know?  You never really set the path – it just kind of happens.”

My next obvious question:  How did he manage to not only meet, but become the personal photographer and a friend of, Ringo Starr?

“I met Ringo through Sheila E. I photographed her for a Paiste cymbal ad and she really loved the ad.  Ever since then, she’s called me for all of her stuff. I’ve shot her record covers and her drum and cymbal ads.  Whenever she needs photos, she calls me. 

“She was out on tour with Ringo in ’06 for the All Starr tour. When they came through L.A., she called and said, ‘Rob, you’ve got to come, take pictures.  I’d love to get some shots live, backstage with Ringo, etc.’ I was so nervous.  I was about to meet Ringo.  I couldn’t believe it!

“At the time, in the band, were Billy Squier, John Waite, and Richard Marx. So, I’m back in her dressing room and those guys are popping in and out, saying, ‘hi’.  She’d introduce me and I’m, like, ‘Hi, Billy, how’s it going?  I’m a big fan.’ ‘Hi, John, I love The Babys and all that stuff.’  ‘Hey, Richard . . .”

“The whole time, I’m thinking about Ringo.  Where the heck is Ringo?

“Finally, he comes in and she (Sheila) goes, ‘Hey, Ringo, this is Rob.’  The first thing he says to me, and this is hilarious, ‘Oh, so you’re Sheila’s photographer.’  That’s all he said to me and he walks out.

“I’m, like, ‘Okay, that went well.’”  I thought, ‘That’s Ringo!  I was in the same room!’  I freaked out.

“Anyway, everything went fine.  After the show, I’m hanging out and talking to Eric Singer, the drummer for KISS. I’d never met him before so it was cool sitting and talking to him.  Ringo’s publicist came up to me and introduced herself and said, ‘Hey, Ringo wanted to know if you would be interested in shooting the next couple of shows for him – a band photo and some things for the press.  He wanted me to ask you.’  I’m like, ‘Holy crap! Yeah, of course!’

“So, that was it.  I drove down to San Diego the next day for the show down there.  I brought lights, brought the back drop and did the band group photos after the sound check and before the show.

“I remember Elizabeth, Ringo’s publicist, telling me in San Diego, ‘Just do your thing.  Whatever you want to shoot during rehearsals, sound check; if you want to be up on the drum riser – whatever you want to shoot.’

“I’m up on the drum riser shooting, three feet from Ringo while he’s playing.  I can feel the drums and he’s playing with the camera.  We had a good relationship from the beginning, you know?”

Shanahan also enjoyed the unique privilege of traveling with Ringo during his trip to his home town Liverpool a couple of years back. While Rob shot around 1,900 photos of the historic shows that took place in England, he also accompanied Ringo and Barbara on their visit to Ringo’s high school and his two childhood homes on Madryn Street and on Admiral Grove.

While we were chatting about all of that, Rob also mentioned that he was traveling with Ringo the following week to New York City for a PR tour for Ringo’s new record, Y-Not, which Rob also photographed the cover.  While he was in New York City, he also had a shoot with Steely Dan’s drummer, Keith Carlock, as well as shoot Ringo’s various appearances there (The Jimmy Fallon Show, Jon Stewart, TV and print media interviews, and the like).

I asked Rob the same question that I asked Bob Gruen: Were there any photo gigs that “got away” that you regretted missing.  Again, his answer was revealing in ways that I wasn’t counting on.  He indicated that, while he hasn’t really missed any photo shoots that he regretted, he did miss the chance to do some drum session work for KISS’s Gene Simmons. 

However, what Rob DID get to do is play drums for Ringo Starr at his Eden Prairie, Minnesota, All-Starr stop during the 2008 tour. He played on the last two songs (All You Need Is Love and Give Peace A Chance) while Ringo was singing up front of the stage.  Shanahan says of the event, “This was near my hometown so there were approximately 50 family and friends in the audience, including my high school band director and his wife.  For all of them to see me play drums on stage with Ringo, Billy Squier, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Colin Hay, Hamish Stuart and Gregg Bissonette was a dream come true!”

Is this guy living the dream or what?

One of the more surreal moments of Shanahan’s career was when he got to meet one of his other drummer idols, Mitch Mitchell, of Jim Hendrix Experience fame.

I pick up the story as Rob tells of catching the Experience show at the Greek Theater.

“I went to their gig at the Greek Theater last fall.  I met up with Mitch during the sound check and had a photo shoot with him with his brand new DW drum kit that he was so excited about.  It was the day before his birthday and he was getting birthday cards and calls from family.  He was in really great spirits.

“We were talking about his new drum kit from DW and the photo shoot went great.  Then we had dinner with Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, who was playing guitar on the tour. I’m telling you, that was a trip!  It was really a great experience.

 “The show was fantastic.  Then, three or four days later, I’m driving home from the gym and I hear on the radio, ‘This just in: Mitch Mitchell was found dead in his hotel room.’   I couldn’t believe it!”

“After the initial shock and disbelief, my first thought was that I may have the last photos of him alive. And it turns out that I do – the last real photo shoot.  He had a show after the L.A. show in Seattle and there were a photographer from the local paper that had a few live shots that went around on the news wire.  But, my shots were the last one-on-one posed shots. I had a few on Getty Images’ website that went world-wide but I didn’t really want to exploit them, you know.  His wife, Dee, called me to see some photos.  I sent her a real beautiful print, and also sent one to Drum Workshop – the company that made his drum kit.  They got Mitch’s kit back after the tour was over, and have it displayed at their showroom up in Oxnard.  It’s really beautiful.  They have it under beautiful lights, on display, along with my picture of him sitting with that very kit. I wish I could tell his daughter how much the birthday card she sent had meant to him. He proudly carried it around and was showing everybody that night I was with him”

What hasn’t Shanahan done that he wants to do, photography-wise?

“I’m still dying to do some work with all of the Stones – the whole band.  I would love to be able to be their number one photographer – their go-to guy.  I think that would be fantastic!  Kind of like I do for Ringo.

“There was a rumor going around the internet a couple of months ago that Charlie Watts was retiring, was quitting the Stones.  He didn’t want to tour any more.  I immediately got on the phone and called five drummers, friends of mine who had worked with the Stones, Curt Biscara (Jagger’s solo records), Charlie Drayton (Keith Richard’s old band, Expensive Wino’s), and I called Jim and I said, ‘Man, if the Stones are going out on tour and they need a drummer, obviously, I would LOVE to do the gig!’ That would really be my all-time goal.

“Curt has seen my band play and he said, ‘Dude!  You have to do that!  Nobody else can do that but you.  You would have to do it!’ So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  It’s a far out dream but, you know, hey?”

As our chat progressed, Rob drops another gem into my ear canal.

“I should tell you about my working with Paul and Ringo together.  It was at the Love - Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas. I was hired by Apple Corps to do photos for the one year anniversary. Paul was there; Ringo, Olivia and Yoko; George Martin; all the Apple people; all the EMI people; all of the record execs.  It was a pretty big thing.

“So, all I did was follow Ringo and Paul around the whole day. Larry King was there and they taped a show. Just before we were going on to the Larry set I asked them, ‘So, when was the last time you guys danced?’  They looked at each other and started spinning around so I started shooting.  I have this really great photo sequence of the two of them having a dancing moment.”

 “So, fast forward to June of this year when the Beatles’ Rock Band was coming out.  They hired me to do the promo photos for the cover of USAToday.  It was downtown at the USC Galen Event Center.  It was the official press launch for Beatles Rock Band. CNN as there; USAToday, CBS, NBC, etc. – all the biggies.

“We’re waiting for Paul and he walks in.  He’s the last to arrive. He eventually walks over to where I had a studio set-up and says ‘Hey, Rob, how’s it going?’  I’m thinking, “Wow.  This is Paul McCartney and he just remembered my name!  He’s freaking me out!  He then asks, ‘How ya doin’?  How ya been?  I’m glad you’re on this!’

“I put him and Ringo in the white background and started shooting.  They started clowning around – their usual selves.  It was fun to shoot those two again.  I realized that, whenever those two get together, I get the call.  It’s a good feeling.  It’s something special.”

No doubt, this speaks volumes of Rob’s work and his respect for his clients who then become friends.

Still speaking about that particular photo shoot, Rob continues, “Paul actually wanted to go through and pick out the shots with me.  So, immediately after the photo shoot, while he went off to do interviews, I uploaded the pictures into my laptop.  I quickly edited the shots down to about 40 before he came back to view them.”

“Paul and I then went through them and picked out 10 shots – it was just me and Paul, working at my computer.  It was a trip, man!  It was funny because he was chewing gum during the photo shoot, which is a big no-no, and you could see it in the corner of his mouth on a few of the shots.  Of the ones we liked, you could see the gum!

“So, he asked me, ‘So, can you remove the chewy?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, of course!’ So, I retouched out the gum. Did my magic with PhotoShop. The photo ended up on the cover of USAToday.  I couldn’t have been prouder than getting a copy of USAToday and seeing my photo with my photo credit with Paul and Ringo on the cover.  I thought it was going to be on the cover of the music section but it was on the cover of the ‘A’ section, the front page, above the fold – like BIG!”

With Rob’s legacy in the business, he obviously has a vast collection of photos of a myriad of people playing a wide variety of instruments across all genres of music.  As has already been mentioned, Shanahan has been shooting all the top talent who endorse Drum Workshop drums.  It was during one of the calls with Rob that he mentioned that the company wants to publish a book of his photos of their artist.

While describing the book project, he says, “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the definitive collection of all of my drummer photos.  Since it’s a Drum Workshop book, they only want to use the drummers that play their drums, of course.  There won’t be any of my ‘Ringo’ or any of the non-DW drummers, although, some day, I’ll have THAT book out.

While it’s obvious that Rob’s formal education in photography has served him well, his business studies from his college days has come in handy, too.  In listening to him describe some of the agreements and licensing deals that he has negotiated, it caused my inner business geek to salivate with envy.  The guy is certainly no dummy, that’s for sure.  Case in point, while discussing the cover shots for Ringo’s latest album, Rob shares the following story:

“I was able to negotiate a licensing deal with Universal Music because they wanted to use the cover art for t-shirts.  So, that was in addition to what Ringo paid me for the album and the design.  Universal came out and said, ‘Hey, we really like the cover.  Ringo wanted us to contact you to find out about licensing the image and the art.’  That was actually a nice bonus surprise that I really wasn’t thinking about.

“So, as a result, I’m more keenly aware of licensing opportunities and doing stuff like t-shirts and merchandise and limited edition prints and stuff like that.”

As the old Ronco commercials used to say, “But wait!  There’s more!”  Rob shares this story about the events leading up to the retrospective/gallery show of Ringo’s career in the historic “Studio A” at Capitol records.

“Ringo, Barbara and I got together at his house, looking through a bunch of photos on my laptop.  We needed to pick some photos to display at the Walk of Fame event at Capitol Records. Ringo was getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and having a party in Studio A. We ended up picking ten, and of those ten, seven were mine and three were from a collection I got from Apple Corps in London. I had all ten of these photos printed 4x5 feet and hung on display for the party.

 “In dealing with Apple, they sent me their FTP site and password and all of that.  I got into the folder and I’m looking at these photos that I realized have never been released!  Old Beatles photographs that, through the years and for whatever reason, have been sitting in their archives.

“A lot of them have been digitized – probably just scanned and sitting in this folder at Apple.  It was amazing going through these because I’d never seen 80% of them.  It was their own private collection - pretty amazing stuff.

 “I showed them a ‘before and after’ of what I did with one of the photos.  They go, ‘Wow, we really need to have you do that (the restoration).  It would be great to have you restore them for historical purposes.’”

Later in the conversation he shares this story about the iconic, “Abbey Road” photo and its restoration.

“I zoomed in really close and started looking around in that photo, which is kind of eerie because I know that the license plate means something to a bunch of people.  Paul’s barefoot.  There’s a guy standing on the right side of the frame, looking at them.  There’s all these little things going on in that photo that, through the years, the total Beatles freaks have claimed to be some iconic meaning.

“So, I’m diving into that photo in super high res, seeing that picture big on my 30” monitor.  I zoomed in on that thing at 400% or 500%.  I noticed that there was trash on the right side of the frame in the gutter – like wrappers or an empty cup or something. 

“I realized that I could clean up trash on the curb and I could clean up the photo a little bit. But do I really want to alter the historical significance?  So I decided not to and left that one pretty much alone.  But the other ones – there’s a photo of Ringo playing drums – an old black and white photo that Ringo really liked.  But it was a scan from a black and white print that was made in an old dark room.  You can see a bunch of dust specs and little hairs.”

The story begged the question:  Was there a particular photo that he saw and restored that had a particular impact on him?

“Let’s see.  There’s one shot of Ringo sitting on his drum riser, like it might be between takes on a TV set or something.  He’s got the classic black oyster pearl drum kit up on the drum riser.  The drum riser looks like it’s about five feet tall.  Ringo’s sitting on the drum riser – on the high hat side. He’s got a cigarette in his hand, just kind of leaning down, looking at the floor. 

“It’s a moment that the photographer captured, in the middle of the mayhem and the screaming and the Beatlemania.  This looked like this is one of the only places that Ringo felt truly safe – on his drum riser - his place of Zen. I had a good time studying that photo.  It was good to see my friend, Ringo, enjoy a little peacefulness in the middle of the madness that was his life at that time.”

How does Ringo compare to the other drummers Rob knows?

“To compare Ringo to other drummers is really hard for me because, of all the drummers that I’ve met over the years – and I’ve met a lot of them – I don’t think any of them can relate to what Ringo has gone through.  To be a member of the Beatles, the British Invasion and all of that stuff, I don’t think anyone can relate, except, maybe, Charlie Watts.

“I would say that Charlie is really quite different than Ringo.  Ringo has a real outgoing personality.  Very funny and witty.  He likes talking to people and interacting with people.  What he doesn’t like is people coming up to him and asking for a photo or to sign stuff. 

“Charlie, on the other hand, is really quiet – in his own little space.  He doesn’t like all the adulation.  He would rather be playing in a jazz band in Harlem somewhere with 50 people in the audience.  He’d be happy with that.”

It’s clear that Rob knows it photographic subjects from a perspective that I would dare say no other rock photographer does:  From their place on the stage whether it be the microphone, the keyboards, guitar or drum riser.  When you couple that with the profession respect and awe that Shanahan brings to the photo shoot, one understands why he connects with his subjects in a rare and refreshing way. 

Rob will, no doubt, continue to make his incredible mark in the realm of Rock photography.  You can keep up with his work by visiting  As hinted at previously, keep your eyes open for books that showcase his incredible work.