Saturday, December 03, 2005

Shake Russell, Saturday January 14, 2006

From Bar Harbor, Maine to Santa Fe, New Mexico; from Los Angeles, California to Nashville, Tennessee, one can mention among Texas songwriters, the name “Shake Russell” and be virtually assured of interest, pleasure and joyful recognition.

Shake and his still frequent partner on the legendary duo “Shake Russell and Dana Cooper” continue to perform over 200 dates a year. Shake also pursues a strong solo career as well.
Shake’s songs have been covered by artists ranging from Waylon Jennings; “Deep in the West”, to Ricky Skaggs; “You’ve Got a Lover”, and his co-written compositions with Clint Black; “Put Yourself in My Shoes”. These songs are known in households, not only all over Texas, but also across America and around the world. Shake Russell is a two-time recipient of the BMI “Million Air” award for Clint Black’s recording of “Put Yourself in My Shoes” and “One More Payment”.

Shake plays for audiences of 2,000 or more, as well. This was the case in recent shows Shake has done with Dana Cooper in Conroe, Texas; opening for Ricky Skaggs; the LaPorte BayDay Fest, as well as headlining the Memorial Day weekend show at the Kerrville Folk Festival. When Shake and Dana play the old quarter in Galveston, or Mulligan’s in Houston, every seat in the club is reserved or sold out for weeks. Whether he is donating his performance at a benefit concert, or packing them in at festivals for thousands of dollars, Shake writes and works hard. He pays his sidemen. He shows up on time. He gives a great show. He drives home, often hundreds of miles to the gig and back, then goes out a night or two later and does it again.
Shake, who is from Blue Springs, Missouri, got his first instrument, a Sears trombone at the age of eight. He then got a bass guitar and copied rock and roll for five years. Then the plug was pulled and that upside down guitar began to play Elizabeth Cotton, Woody Guthrie and, most importantly Shake Russell’s own songs.

Stops in Chicago, San Francisco and New York figure in somewhere before his migration south to Texas.An apprenticeship with the legendary John Vandiver (who later partnered in later years on duo dates with Shake) evolved from John’s hiring the young and untested Shake as a bass player (and high school contemporary of Dana Cooper in Kansas City in the mid 1970’s). Shake joined John’s band, the Ewing Street Times, based out of Austin. They later emerged on to the Houston scene, where Dana joined him to a multitude of sold out shows in every venue. A fruitful association with the “Ewing St. Times Band” with John Vandiver and Michaels Mashkes helped the Shake Russell music take full form, performing at coffee houses, college concerts, clubs and festivals throughout the United States. Shake first lived in Austin for several years in the 70’s before moving to the Montrose area of Houston and forming the Shake Russell band.
The Montrose scene in Houston was a strong confluence of talent in it’s own right. This provided a forum for many musical artists later and more strongly associated with Austin than Houston, including Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, Townes Van Zandt, David Rodriguez and Vince Bell. It was and remains a definite “satellite” of the Austin scene, which provided gigs for Austin acts like Uncle Walt’s Band, and performers from Dallas like Ray Wylie Hubbard and others of the “Golden Age” of singer-songwriters. These performers focused in clubs in Austin such as Emmajoe’s, the Alamo Lounge and later the still present Cactus Café and Waterloo Ice House. Houston then had it’s own mojo, where clubs like Fitzgerald’s, Rockefeller’s, Corky’s and the still going Anderson Faire, and now, the Mucky Duck provide the listening audiences and a livelihood for those who ply their trade over the highways of Texas. The songwriters in their wit and in their work celebrate those same highways.


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