Bassist Tommy Shannon played with Johnny Winter in the late `60s and has supported many of the blues greats including Albert Collins, BB King, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy as well as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. In 1981 Tommy became the bass player in Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble rhythm section alongside drummer Chris Layton. Tommy recorded and toured with Stevie until Stevie's tragic death on 27 August 1990. Tommy is currently playing in Storyville which which also features Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton.
UniVibes: When you started playing with Stevie Ray Vaughan you were using your `62 Fender Jazz bass. Was that the bass that was played by Jimi Hendrix?
Tommy Shannon: Right, yeah. That's the bass I've had all these years. I hardly ever play it anymore `cause it's too valuable. I keep it in my closet and I use it on recording sessions a lot.
UV: Could you explain how Jimi came to play it?
TS: Well, at the time I was playing with Johnny Winter and I was living in New York and there was this club called Steve Paul's Scene. And we'd go there every night and there would be a jam session - there would be all these people there like Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jerry Lee Lewis, just all kinds of people and there would be jamming going on. And I was playing one night and he came up and asked if he could play bass. I went, `Sure'. And he really surprised me `cause he just turned it upside down and just played the shit out of it! He played with a pick and played the bass like a bass player would, not like a guitar player who just picked up a bass. He was a really good bass player, funky and really solid.
UV: Was that the only time you met him?
TS: No, I met him a couple of times before that. I can't really say that I knew him well or anything but I met him and I got to talk to him. He's my favourite musician in the world of all time. Most stars, when you meet them you realise they're pretty normal people, but Jimi wasn't like that - there was something special about his music and something special about him as a person. He had a presence and you could almost feel it when he was in a room.
UV: Would Stevie Ray Vaughan ask you stuff about Jimi?
TS: Yeah, he would. But Stevie never wanted to rip anybody off. He wouldn't try and do that. He was so intrigued by Jimi Hendrix that he wanted to know all he could find out about him. He had a chance to go to the other great masters like BB King, Albert King and Albert Collins - he got to meet them and play with them. But Hendrix is the one he never really got to talk to.
UV: What did you tell him about Hendrix?
TS: Oh, just explained some of the past shows, you know, I'd seen him do and just how graceful he was. Just a lot of different things.
UV: Stevie played `The Star Spangled Banner' at the opening of the 1985 baseball season at the Houston Astrodome.
TS: I missed that. I heard about it - I heard it was real good but I wasn't there. I heard him practising it in the dressing room one night but we never played it.