Stevie and Double Trouble were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2015; this photo of Double Trouble was taken on the red carpet. Left to right: Chris Layton (drums), Tommy Shannon (bass), Reese Wynans (keyboards) Photo credit: Paul Thomas Photography
There are rhythm sections and then there RHYTHM sections. Double Trouble, the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing duo, were in my opinion THE RHYTHM section. Consisting of drummer Chris Layton and the incomparable Tommy Shannon on bass, these men laid the foundation for some of the greatest blues music of our generation…hell, any generation for that matter. Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Shannon was kind enough to answer a few questions for Korea Guitar.
1. You played at the original Woodstock with Johnny Winter. Can you describe the experience?
Well, we didn’t know how big it was going to be until we got there. We came in these little bubble helicopters and from the sky it looked like an ocean of people. It was the biggest crowd I ever played for. It was like half a million people there. It was a great experience. We played real good and had a good time.
2. You’ve played with an incredible list of phenomenal blues players. But in my humble opinion, you played with the two greatest. Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. How difficult is it to play with players who tend to improvise a lot on stage?
It’s real easy because it gives me a chance to improvise too. That’s the thing about Blues. You don’t have any set pattern that’s put down. You can just improvise and do what you want to do.
3. So Stevie gave you a lot of room to improvise?
Right. Stevie gave me a lot of room.
4. From the live videos I’ve seen, you and Stevie had some kind of magical connection. You played like you could read his mind. How long did it take for that chemistry to evolve?
It was there at the very beginning ‘cuz Stevie and I were friends back when he was 15 or 16 years old. We played together back then and then we got back together in Double Trouble in 1980. It was just natural. We knew each other so well that it was an intuitive thing. You couldn’t make it happen. It just happened on its own.
5. How much involvement did you have in writing and arranging?
6. Can you remember the best gig you ever played?
I can’t remember the bests because there were so many the bests. The whole 10 years I played with Stevie were the best years of my life.
How about the worst?
I can’t the of the worst either ‘cuz we didn’t have any horrible nights or anything like that.
7. Aside from his guitar playing, what is your fondest memory of Stevie?
His friendship. We were really great friends. We actually became blood brothers one night on the bus. We cut our hands and became blood brothers. He was my best friend. I loved him. We both had the same spiritual goals in life.
8. Arc Angels was an incredible band. Why did that project stop?
Everybody’s ego got in the way. Doyle (Bramhall Jr.) started using heroin and that had a lot to do with the breakup. It was a band that was doomed from the very beginning because of too many ego clashes and I had to just sit back and watch it happen. It was real sad but that’s why the band broke up and that’s why we got together too.
9. Tell me about the Rolling Stones audition?
It was great. I was real nervous going into it, but once I went in I felt totally at ease around those guys. They were real cool. We played several of their hits and I did real good. I nailed them all and I remember leaving there thinking “I have this gig.”, so I was surprised when I found out I didn’t have it. But I made it in the top 3 so it was a great experience playing all those hits with the Rolling Stones. Few people get to do that
10. On your website biography, you’re very open about your alcohol and drug abuse in the 70s and again with SRV. What is it about the music industry that you think leads to these addictions?
Musicians are artists and artists by nature are screw ups (laughs). I don’t know why that is but musicians, not all of them but a large number tend to get strung out on drugs and alcohol because they’re artists and there have always been problems with that. I’m not sure why.
11. My brother is a bass player. He needs lots of help. What are the most important things a bass player needs to know?
That he supports the band. That he’s the foundation of the band. He should play for the band and not himself. He has to play the right parts for the song. And again, don’t play just for yourself, but play as a solid foundation for the band.
12. Which song do you feel is the definitive SRV and Double Trouble song?
I would have to say Texas Flood.
Official Website: http://www.tommyshannon.com
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Official website: http://www.srvofficial.com/