Bill Shaw was two years ahead of me at Hinsdale Central High School,
played drums in the school band, and was a mysterious guy. He was one
of those people you knew more by reputation, rumor, and image rather
than first hand knowledge. Bill rode motorcycles, wore tight jeans
and sunglasses. He also played drums in local rock
bands, "The Birds" and later in "The Shackles".
My childhood friend, Scot Robinson and I played in a band of our own
called The Changing Tymes. We wanted desperately to be as good as
the bands that inspired us. At 15 years old with unbridled teenage
zeal, all the talent we were ever going to have, for as hard as we
tried we just weren't very good. In the pride of our youthful innocence, we
thought we were going to be the next "big thing".
I first heard The Shackles at the Hinsdale Youth Center in the
Summer of 1965. They were set up on a two level riser platform. It
was in the corner of a large room suited equally well for
arts and crafts classes and scout troop pancake breakfasts as for a
teen dance club. I was there by myself to check out "the
competition". Not sure how I got there. I lived a couple of miles
away so my mother probably gave me a ride. I vividly remember
the walk home.
I arrived early while the
band was setting up their equipment. As if
to prove to myself that I wasn't going to be afraid of these guys, I
walked right up to the edge of the stage. The riser they played on
was about 2' feet high and 18' square with the drums on a smaller
riser in the center. They had Super Beatle Vox amps just like The
Beatles and a superb
sound system for the vocals. That may have been the first time I'd
ever seen a Vox Super Beatle amp.
The very sight of their equipment
struck awe in my heart. Like most teenage musicians, having
cool equipment was almost more important than the music it's to be
used for. The Shackles had it all. They were each handsome,
cool, and smiled a lot. They seemed perfect and I was
becoming very jealous.
Though I'd heard Bill
play drums with The Birds, I had never heard the Shackles before
and was completely unprepared for what I was about to hear. Already intimidated simply by what I saw,
they began to sing and play, my heart was both thrilled and
terrified. I was hearing and seeing excellence, precision, beauty,
and confident authority.
These were brilliant musicians, perfectly
supporting each other. They expertly played songs I loved by the The Byrds, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. And they played and sang
masterfully! They were so good I was spellbound as if time were standing
Something new was happening inside of me. In just a few minutes, the
bar against which I measured my own musical ability had been
brutally raised so high and out of reach that I lost my bearings.
as thrilling as it was to hear The Shackles, it was that much more
painful realizing how far short of their perfection I was with my
own band. I saw and heard in them everything I had ever wanted of my
own band. We fell so far short of The Shackles quality it seemed
futile to even try.
As I walked home under the lush green canopy of huge tree branches
arched high over familiar streets, my mind raced in a flurry trying
to sort through a tidal wave of discontented ambition. I was dizzy,
defeated, and deflated. Probably one of the best things that could
have happened to me at the time.
One of the first times I
heard Bill play drums, he was with The Birds on stage in the old
Hinsdale Junior High gymnasium auditorium. In those days, guitars
were plugged into amps sitting on stage, vocal microphones were
plugged into a P.A. system, and the drums simply were loud enough on
their own requiring no amplification.
In the middle of "Not
Fade Away" by the Rolling Stones,
Bill broke into a drum solo. He's a powerful drummer uniquely full
of surprises that come out of nowhere like a tornado swelling
out of a brooding summer storm. Characteristic of his creativity, he
put a microphone inside his cow bell and then used the microphone
itself as a drum stick and played outrageous jungle-like beats with
it on his floor tom tom. As he hammered that cow bell and pounded
his tom tom, the amplified sound echoing through the auditorium was
We had never heard such sounds before. It was
a magical moment.
As if it were yesterday, I'll never forget that sound. It was the
harbinger of musical things to come.
On a local level and for me
personally, Bill Shaw brought a foretaste of sounds that would shape
our musical lives from the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix,
Cream, and Led Zeppelin. He was a creative incubator hearing and
doing things ahead of his time.
Bill Shaw Part 2