Shannon Hoon Remembered

by Greg Prato

In 2008, I issued my first-ever book, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, which as its title states, retraced the life and career of the late/great Shannon Hoon.

In the ensuing years, I crossed paths with several key figures who were not interviewed for Devil/Angel, including the actress that played the Bee Girl in the "No Rain" video, Heather DeLoach; radio personality Matt Pinfield; Live guitarist Chad Taylor; former Guns N' Roses manager Alan Niven; and Coheed and Cambria guitarist/major Blind Melon fan Travis Stever. These conversations now serve as the basis of a follow-up book, Shannon.

Also included is a roundtable discussion with Blind Melon guitarists Rogers Stevens and Christopher Thorn, who examine various topics that were not included in the earlier book, as well as an interviews with the directors of the 2019 film All I Can Say (Danny Clinch, Taryn Gould, and Colleen Hennessy), and an expert of Blind Melon bootleg recordings selecting and analyzing the 15 best.

If there were any questions still remaining after A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other, they are most certainly answered in Shannon. Here are several excerpts from the book for you to enjoy.

Something that I learned is that Chris Cornell didn't finish high school, but I thought he was an incredibly gifted lyricist. And I believe Shannon finished high school but didn't attend college, and he was an incredibly gifted lyricist, as well. Which goes to show – some people are just born with this talent.

Christopher Thorn [Blind Melon guitarist]: They were born with it. Although I have to say this – it developed into something much more special than when I first met Shannon. I would say his lyrics were more literal, more on the nose, and then as time went on and once we started making that first record, he immediately developed into writing exceptional lyrics that were filled with amazing imagery and words that you wouldn't normally hear in songs, and thoughts.

Many times, we would know what he was talking about, but he also purposely wrote so that you could read into them and have your own meanings for them – as opposed to spelling it out. He didn't like to talk about his lyrics.

Rogers, what do you recall about coming up with the "No Rain" guitar solo?

Rogers Stevens [Blind Melon guitarist]: I think I did not very many takes. There was a demo – but it wasn't really worked out. I think I had done it a few ways – but not a lot, because we didn't play a lot of live shows when we were doing that track. So, I probably had played it in front of people maybe 10-15 times by the time we did a half-way demo. I think that was one take all the way through, actually. I knew the arrangement of the song. Once you know how the song goes, you kind of know where you are. There's a lot of stuff that's winging it in there. There might be like three different versions of that solo – if you were able to ever locate those tapes.

Were you caught off guard by the "No Rain" video's popularity?

Heather DeLoach [Bee Girl in the "No Rain" video]: Y'know, I don't even think I was. I think I was just enjoying the ride. I was having so much fun. I kept getting to wear the costume over and over again. I got to do the VMAs, I got to do Jay Leno. I really had a great family foundation and my mom was amazing. There was talk at one point about going on tour with them. And my parents made the decision not to. I didn't even know until later on that that's what they were approached to do.

But for me, no – I just had so much fun. It was amazing. I became her – I loved being the Bee Girl. I look back on some of the interviews, and I'm like, "Wow, my confidence is a little too much there." My family calls me "H," and they're like, "Whoa, H!" "I know, I don't know what got into me there!"

Did you get to know Shannon on that tour [when the Meat Puppets opened for Blind Melon in early 1994]?

Shannon Hoon. Photo by Danny Clinch.Shannon Hoon. Photo by Danny Clinch.
Cris Kirkwood [Meat Puppets bassist]: Yeah, definitely. The guy was definitely a very free spirit. It's fucking art, and yet, at a point it becomes a business – and you don't want to hamstring yourself, which, as it turns out, what do you know? The both of us were really getting hammered, as well [Cris later suffered from a horrible drug addiction, which led to the Meat Puppets' late '90s split and a stint in prison]. But he was a very fuckin' free-wheelin' dude. As it turned out, out of the band, he was the guy that I became friendliest with – in a way. The guitar player, Christopher, I wound up reconnecting with him, and I saw him a few years ago [Christopher appeared on The Cris Kirkwood Podcast in 2016].

But Shannon was actually somebody that we became buddies with. What I got off of him was he was from Indiana and had a very "Midwest" sort of a vibe. It seemed like, "Wow, you're from Indiana, and I'm from Phoenix. From nowhere." It allowed you to have a touch of the "local vibe" in you. Indiana – to me – is always "Vonnegut country." I could relate to the guy – he seemed like somebody who stumbled into doing rock n' roll, out of just teenaged, like, "Hey. Can you get me some beer?"

Live played Woodstock '94 on the first night, and Blind Melon played the following day. Did you happen to stick around and catch Blind Melon's set?

Chad Taylor [Live guitarist]: We were in and out so fast, that I don't think we watched any other acts or artists in '94. That was in the midst of... I think the Throwing Copper tour lasted two-and-a-half years. Non-stop. Any shows that we did, there was no delay to get to the next town or the next city. So, unfortunately, I never saw the show.

We have a mutual friend in Danny Clinch – I know Danny was there and photographed. And I know Shannon killed it at that show – he was spectacular. I obviously wish I would have stayed. I wish I would have been there. '94 was really cool, and then we did the later one ['99], and that was horrible.

Why do you think an album like Soup has taken the public so long to catch on to and appreciate it?

Travis Stever [Coheed and Cambria guitarist]: It's the "hit single curse." They had something that overtook the world and gave them what people would assume is their sound – through and through. When people bought the self-titled record, some people were probably disappointed. Somebody like me was beyond pleasantly surprised at the layers and the difference in sound. But there were people that were looking for a lot of "No Rain." And on the next album when they don't get a bunch of "No Rains," they're like, "Fuck it."

Why do you think so many of these great and talented rock singers/musicians of the '90s wound up turning to drugs, and for lack of a better term, "the dark side"?

Lonn Friend [Rip magazine editor]: Well, then you get into the whole discussion of the burden an artist carries – which opens up the Chris Cornell/Chester Bennington can of worms. And, "Wait a minute, they have so much. They have families and millions of dollars. What's wrong with these people?"

This is the story of mental health. This is the story of nobody walks in your shoes. I've always had a philosophy, because I suffer from a lot of the things... shadowy internal leanings that these artists had. If you're creating art, in whatever form it is – music, writing, painting – you're bearing the burden of expression. And it's up to you to get it out. And if you can't get it out – or even if you get it out – you're never complete. It never feels right.

Did Shannon's passing come as a surprise?

Alan Niven [Former Guns N' Roses manager]: Yeah, it did come as a surprise, actually. Another impression I had of Shannon was he was not long off the farm. There was an innocence about him. Especially in LA, you get musicians who strut into a room and their ambition maybe exceeds their talent somewhat – but they sure like to walk into a room like they're a big cheese.

I thought Shannon was shy and innocent. And G n' R's reputation is well-known, as is Jack Russell's... I mean, those were people who I expended a lot of effort into keeping alive. If one of them had woken up one morning and found that they were dead, that would have been less surprising than Shannon passing.

What has the feedback been like thus far from fans and the public [concerning the All I Can Say film, which collects video footage Shannon shot]?

Danny Clinch [photographer, co-director of All I Can Say]: The feedback has been great. One of our early supporters was Judd Apatow, who in the DVD does the interview between all of us [including the film's other directors, Taryn Gould and Colleen Hennessy] – we have a little round table. He requested to see the film – I had met him through Pearl Jam – and when he said that he loved it, he felt like we nailed it, and it was astounding and unique, I think it gave us all a little bit of confidence to be like, "This is someone who we admire, who makes films on the regular all the time."

But I think the biggest thing for all of us – and we all have individual stories about it – going to the film festivals, and afterwards, we would go out to the lobby, and everybody that was in the film festival screenings, which were all sold out at Tribeca, they all stayed for the Q&A. And the Q&A's went as long as they could go, and then they'd be like, "OK... you guys have to clear out!" We'd go out into the lobby, and people were very emotional. Crying, hugging us. It was really moving. People had lost loved ones – whether it's brothers, sons, daughters, wives – to addiction. And how it really resonated with people.

And I think the one thing that I really noticed – it was a conversation starter. Some people would come up and they would talk about the band. Some people would come up and talk about addiction. Some people would come up and say, "What an incredible piece of filmmaking. The editing was astounding." There was a lot to talk about in the lobby of these screenings.

Would you agree that Shannon is one of the all-time greats?

Matt Pinfield [Host of MTV's 120 Minutes, radio personality]: I do. I would agree that Shannon was one of the all-time greats. I feel Shannon is such a great, unique singer, I think that the thing that's beautiful about great singers – whether it's classic guys like Mick Jagger – there's something about what they do, what they're born with, their limitation, which doesn't become a limitation. It becomes their point of expression and who they are, their sound, and what they do with it. So, I do think Shannon is one of the greats.

November 2, 2021

Here is the ordering info for the book Shannon.

Further reading:

Christopher Thorn interview
Brad Smith interview
Danny Clinch: The Art of Rock Photography
Matt Pinfield Picks the 10 Greatest Alt-Rock Videos of the '90s
Fact or Fiction: Blink Melon Edition

More Song Writing

Comments: 1

  • Sherlock Holmes from 221 B Baker Street LondonTo me, Hoon was indeed one of the most talented mystical singers, songwriters and one of the best leads to take the stage. So I’m so grateful that even today, the interest in him today seems to keep growing as time goes by. Otherwise, they still wouldn’t be putting out documentaries, books, and just about any other kind of memorabilia one could even conceive, and all for a good reason. The true fans want to know more about the man, and anything new about him that comes outsells. It’s funny I was born in 1967, just around the time all the great grunge band members were born; even though they weren’t grunge, in my opinion, he holds a spot on the stage with the other greats of that time. Cornell, Staley, Cobain, and of Course Hoon and all four of the greats I’m still more in liking Hoon. He was so mysterious and enigmatic, and there hasn’t been a week that’s gone by where I still get a good dose of the band's music either thru YouTube or Spotify, and it never gets old and only better like fine wine. So I highly salute those most talented four men I put on my stage of favorite musicians, and I’m genuinely grateful to all of them for enriching my life and giving me some of the best music I’ve ever heard. Whether my day is going good or bad, all their music helps me get thru life and honestly makes me happy and just pleased to enjoy all their work still. God Bless them all. Your faithful fan for who was, and to me that means a lot, and also to introduce my son who turns 31 tomorrow 1/24/91 means even more to me as they have captivated his life and now loves and listens to them as much as me.
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