In The Spotlight – Billy Sheehan

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BILLY SHEEHAN

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By Steph Bodkin

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Born in 1952, and the muse behind the first of HEAVY’s ‘in the spotlight’ is Billy Sheehan. He has made a name for himself and is widely recognised for his work with Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Niacin, and The Winery Dogs. It all started when Billy Sheehan began his musical career in Talas.

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TALAS

1979

Talas released their debut album aptly named Talas in 1979, with Dave Constantino on guitar and Paul Varga on drums, the three of them all took turns on lead vocals. Talas had a cult following in the 70’s which catapulted Sheehan’s reputation throughout the years and made him a five-time winner of the “Best Rock Bass Player” readers’ poll from Guitar Magazine.  In the late 1970s, Sheehan also played in a band called Light Years with drummer Ron Rocco, who had previously played in a band called Black Sheep with Foreigners singer Lou Gramm.

Sheehan also did a brief stint with UFO.

 

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DAVID LEE ROTH & STEVE VAI

1985–1988

David Lee Roth left Van Halen and Sheehan and Steve Vai recorded and went on tour with the flamboyant singer.

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MR. BIG – “Mr. Big”

1989

Forming Mr. Big, the band quickly signed with Atlantic Records and released their first album.

The group went on tour around America in June 1990, opening for Rush. Soon after the tour Mr.Big released their second album in 1991 called ‘Lean into it’. Included on this album is the great ballad ‘Just take my Heart’.

 

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MR. BIG – “LEAN INTO IT”

1991

Lean Into It saw Billy and Mr. Big rise to stellar charts levels with the hit song “To Be With You” which is still on high-rotation on radio stations the globe over.

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Naicin – “NIACIN”

1991

Named after the B3 vitamin, Sheehan created a neo-fusion instrumental trio with drummer Dennis Chambers and keyboardist John Novello. Niacin are still performing and recording to this day.

 

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SOLO – “Bleed Along THe Way”

2001

Fast forward to 2001, Sheehan released his first solo record called Compression. Sheehan, not only wrote the album, he sang, played guitar and bass. Track five called “Chameleon” included a guest guitarist appearance by Steve Vai. The 11 track album is impressive, the unique sound of Sheehan is apparent. If you haven’t listened to this album,  I recommend it.

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SOLO – “COSMIC TROUBADOUR”

2005

Sheehan’s Second album, Cosmic Troubadour. I love a specific track on this album and it is called “The Suspense Is KillingMe” It has a progressive sound that makes your hair stand on end. This is a 14 track album and again, it’s Sheehan who handles the vocals and bass duties.

 

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SOLO – “PRIME CUTS”

2006

The next solo album was Prime Cuts, which was released in 2006. This album may not be one of Sheehan’s best-known works, but it is still an album that Sheehan fans should listen to. The album-closing “Bass Solo (Buffalo 1994)” certainly doesn’t disappoint.

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SOLO – “Holy COW!”

2009

Released in 2009, Holy Cow!, Sheehan continues to push the boundaries of his bass guitar while showcasing his incredible talent as a guitarist in “A Week Or Two (I’ll Give It Back To You)”.

 

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THE WINERY DOGS

2009

Mr.Big reunite and they performed a sold-out world tour, excluding Australia…

Later Billy joined forces with Mike Portnoy and Richie Kotzen to form The Winery Dogs. Their first release followed in July of 2013.

 

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MR BIG

Present Time

This year sees the release of the new Mr. Big album “Defying Gravity”

 

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Billy Sheehan’s talent is phenomenal. Not only does he play the bass, he also plays guitar and sings and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry.

 

One could call Billy Sheehan a pioneer of rock music. With his history of live performances and recordings with Talas, UFO, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Steve Vai and now The Winery Dogs, he has had a great influence on modern bass playing and will no doubt continue to do so for many years.

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Defying Gravity is out today, July 7th via Frontiers Records

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Written by Carl Neumann

Carl is the owner and the director of HEAVY Magazine. Carl is a music journalist and photographer for HEAVY, Rolling Stone, scenestr, Planet Rock and Kerrang!

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