"Like so many around the world, I'm at a loss for words following the sudden death of Charlie Daniels. Charlie was a light that we all thought would never dim. There will never be another like him."
Shannon was the keyboardist for the legendary fiddler and his band of outstanding musicians for nearly 9 years. Shannon joined the band near the end of 2011 following the sudden death of Charlie's long time friend and keyboardist, Joel "Taz" DiGregorio.
"I always knew of Charlie Daniels and the CDB but the full scope and magnitude of the situation I was entering into didn't fully dawn on me until a few short months being in the band. I knew I had big shoes to fill but had no idea the fan base I would inherit from Taz. The entire CDB fan base welcomed me with open arms. I really didn't know what kinds of reactions to expect from the fans and from Taz's family but everyone couldn't have been more warm and welcoming. It was truly something special. I definitely knew Charlie was a big deal but I didn't realize just how big of a deal he was until joining the band. The first year I was in the band, we played a show in I believe Georgia oddly enough and there were fans there who traveled all the way from Germany to see him and have him sign their fiddle. Once I began to witness professional athletes and other celebrities getting star struck by Charlie, I quickly realized just how large his legendary status actually was. One night at The Grand Ole Opry, I looked over and saw Dan Rather holding a fiddle bow Charlie had given him and he was like a kid seeing his hero for the first time! It was unbelievable!
Prior to becoming the keyboardist for the legendary CDB, Shannon toured and worked with other house hold names in the music industry. Shannon has worked with The Marshall Tucker Band, James Otto, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers, Kenny Rogers, John Rich, Kid Rock, Collin Raye and many others.
Best known for his abilities on the piano, keyboards and Hammond B3 organ, being a multi-instrumentalist has kept Shannon quite busy in recording studios since the mid 90's. He's been "the band" for countless artists and song writers since he was a child. His understanding and knowledge of every instrument he plays has come from a life long journey that began when he was 4 years old.
"I learned to play the drums before I learned to read or write. I played in a Pentecostal church for most of my childhood so I learned very early on how to interact with other musicians, song structure, dynamics and just how powerful music really is."
Shannon recalls his first ever experience with a piano. "We had a piano in our home and I was always curious about it. I sat down one day to try to make some sense of it but initially I hated it. Nothing about it made sense and it was very intimidating. I just left it alone for a while but I just couldn't shake the overwhelming curiosity for it. I stuck with it and began to understand it as I learned chords and chord structure. My grandmother who was also our next door neighbor had an organ. It wasn't a Hammond but it had a rhythm section and stickers on the keys that identified each note so that helped a lot! I found a basic chord book in the bench so learning major and minor triads, major 7ths, domination 7ths and inversions quickly started to make sense and I was instantly hooked!"
It wasn't long before Shannon began writing, composing and recording music. As he progressed, he began to venture out on other instruments. Once he began composing more and more, he quickly became dissatisfied with some of the onboard sounds on his keyboard.
"I just couldn't get right with the simulated guitar sounds on the keyboard. I learned to play the guitar to give my compositions and productions a more realistic sound. I would record the basic rhythm tracks using the sequencer on the keyboard and then go back to overdub the guitar parts. Before I had the ability to multitrack, I had to record all the parts on the keyboard and then play the guitar live to tape. When I made a mistake I had to stop and go back from the beginning until I got it right. Thank God for technology! Finally having the ability to isolate multiple tracks and overdub was a game changer and a tremendous time saver for me!"
Shannon made the move to Nashville in the late 90's with the hope of becoming a studio musician. Although he did frequent studios over the years, he ultimately found his niche as a sideman for many artists and some of the biggest names in the business. Shannon also worked as a studio and touring musician in Atlanta and credits his time in Atlanta as some of his most font memories as well as an informal music education.
"The musicians I worked with in Virginia were excellent but when I wasn't ready for the level of players in Atlanta and Nashville. I occurred to me very early on that I had to either step up or step aside! It was a bit intimidating but I just tried to soak it all in and learn from as many different players as I possibly could. I was playing mostly country, blues & rock music in Nashville. It wasn't uncommon for me to play 4 - 5 nights a week in Atlanta playing just about every style of music you could imagine. I was playing country, blues, rock, jazz, soul, r&b and gospel music both in the studio and live! Having access to so many versatile players who were so well versed in many music styles was the best music education I could've ever imagined! I loved every single minute of it and made some dear friends along the way!"
Shannon ultimately made Nashville his home but would still frequent Atlanta from time to time when his hectic touring schedule would allow.
In 2015, Shannon began to try his hand at composing and scoring music for film & tv. He was starting to gain some momentum when his father fell ill and passed away in April of 2016. He focused on composing while out on the road with Charlie and the CDB performing upwards of 110 - 120 shows each year.
In 2020 Shannon and the CDB were prepared for yet another busy year of touring when the Covid pandemic struck and put the tour on hold.
"We had just went back out in March after the winter break and only got to do about 3 or 4 shows before the pandemic put the brakes on everything. We were scheduled to do more shows with The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Travis Tritt, The Scooter Brown Band and others but much to our surprise, it wouldn't happen this time."
The morning of July 6th, Shannon would receive the devastating news of the sudden death of Charlie Daniels. He remembers,
"Charlie's manager called me to say Charlie had a massive stroke, was in the hospital and wasn't expected to survive. I heard the words but wasn't able to fully digest and process what I was hearing. Especially considering I just spoke to Charlie a few days prior. He called me after we learned we had lost more dates due to the pandemic. We were still laughing and joking around like we always did. He sounded great and was just as anxious and eager to get back out on the road as the rest of us. Charlie absolutely loved touring! Even in the worst of circumstances he was always ready and never gave less than 150% each and every show! His sudden death was such a gut punch for us all. We just knew that Charlie would die out on the road with us somewhere. I knew it would happen one day, I just didn't expect it to be THAT day. It's just terrible to think he had a lot left in him. He wasn't done. Not by a long shot! He had a lot of gas left in the tank and that's what made his death so sad to me."
Following the tragic, untimely loss of his friend and fellow band mate, Shannon has committed to focusing most of his time on working with song writers, film composing and videography. While he truly and deeply loves touring and performing live, his passion for creating, writing, composing and recording music has never wavered.
"I've learned in life and in this crazy business you never say 'never'. I love traveling and playing live but my heart and soul has always been in the creative process, working in the studio and seeing where the music takes me when I set down to compose some music. Musically speaking, I have many personalities. I love so many different styles of music so it's hard to categorize 'my' sound. Some days I'll compose a full orchestral piece while others may inspire me to crank out a blues shuffle, an acoustic, melancholy music bed, a piano driven ballad or a bluegrass piece. I just never know from one day to the next what I'll be inspired to write or compose. It find it easier to work with song writers because they usually have a direction they want to go and I just try to accommodate that for them."