The Reverend Shawn Amos
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The Reverend Shawn Amos

Los Angeles, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Blues Americana


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MEMPHIS — With the son of Bobby “Blue” Bland onstage behind the drum kit many of the members of the audience in the Purple Haze must have been surprised to learn the lead singer was the one whose father was “Famous.”
“The MC Googled me,” “the Reverend” Shawn Amos said afterward. “I don’t keep a secret who my father is by any stretch but I also don’t advertise it.”
A Google search for the son of chocolate chip cookie celebrity Famous Amos on Wikipedia says nothing about Shawn Amos’ foray as a bluesman, a relatively new endeavor in a multifaceted career.
I met Amos and guitarist Chris Roberts at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. We were on our way to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Amos and Roberts did not compete with the 250 bands and solo-duo artists at the 31st annual event. They played at a pair of promotion group Blind Raccoon showcases in Memphis, where industry people congregate during the IBC to scout new blues talent.
Amos was to be joined in Memphis with a rhythm section he had yet to meet, bassist Heine Andersen and drummer Rodd Bland. Andersen’s primary instrument is guitar, and he and wife Missy also performed together at the showcase.

The discovery of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1961 album “Two Steps From The Blues” was a musical game-changer for me, and I went to the Blind Raccoon showcase as much to see the son of an all-time great singer as I was to see the guys I met at the airport.
It was a mild and sunny winter day when I entered the Purple Haze just off Beale Street, and the reverend’s musical service was already in session. The band only had a chance to rehearse once, but it sounded tight. Roberts’ guitar tone was reminiscent of the one from the song the venue was named after. (Tip: if you want to befriend a guitarist, mention his musicianship and Jimi Hendrix in the same sentence.)
Dressed in a suit and fedora, Amos is a polished professional. He possesses a strong, clear voice and has good stage presence.
Rodd Bland at the drums clearly looks like his father, who died in 2013 and had a not-so-coincidental resemblance to the blues harpist James Cotton.
After the set I met Rodd Bland and he explained how he discovered Cotton to be his uncle. Cotton and Bland’s father had sat together after a show and Rodd Bland remarked how similar they appeared.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you?” the father said to his son. “James is my half-brother.”
Bland said he’s as much of a fan of rock music as he is of the blues. He plays Mondays and Thursdays with his band Mercury Boulevard on Beale Street’s 152 Club.
I asked him why he doesn’t sing?
“I left that to my old man,” he said.
And on this day he left the singing to the Reverend Shawn Amos, who said he was pensive about playing for the first time in Memphis with an unknown rhythm section, but the outcome was solid.
“Rodd is so inventive as a player,” Amos said. “It was lovely to hear more complexity than you might traditionally get from a blues player but at the same time obviously he’s the son of a blues player. He doesn’t stray so far from the script that it becomes something else like fusion.
“Heine was super prepared. They got it. There are a lot of people who have heard my recordings but they haven’t seen it live and when they do all the pieces come together.”
Amos grew up in Hollywood in the entertainment business. Before the “Famous” cookies, Wally Amos worked for the William Morris Agency.
“He was an agent for Motown acts and Simon and Garfunkel,” Amos said. “He was the first black agent in the business. Then he was a personal manger to actors and comedians, and then he started Famous Amos in ’75, and that became who he was, who he is.”
Amos’ mother was a singer whose stage name was Shirlee May. She toured the Eastern Seaboard, performed with Dinah Washington, Cab Calloway and Sammy Davis Jr. and had a deal with a record company.
“She was groomed by Mercury but never reached the finish line,” said Amos, who in 2005 made an album honoring his mother and then stopped making his own music.
Amos said his earlier music was in the singer-songwriter style, but he has done many things, including working as an A & R executive who oversaw Solomon Burke’s last three albums and founding the digital content company Freshwire. He continues to work as a motivational speaker. Amos would be easy to Google, even if his dad wasn’t famous.
But in 2013, Amos began to consider making music again.
“As fate would have it, and old band mate of mine called me,” Amos said. “He said, ‘A bunch of us are going to go to Italy to play blues for this wealthy guy who owns a castle. Put a song list together of whatever you want to sing and it will be fun.’ ”
Amos headed to Italy with a saxophone and came back with a harmonica and a nickname.
“That’s where ‘The Reverend’ was born,” he said. “People didn’t know me, and for all they knew I was some seasoned blues guy. I (experienced a) combination of falling in love with these songs and seeing myself through these people’s eyes and feeling Solomon and people my father worked with. It was a collision of past, present and future and allowing myself to let myself go in a way I maybe had been too self-conscious to do so otherwise. I just sort of snapped in the best of ways. By the end of a week, my guitar player said, ‘You’re are like a reverend. You’re the Reverend Shawn Amos. When I got back I found my calling. I put a band together and made a record.”
The six-song EP “The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It” has four classic blues songs and two originals, including “Sometimes I Wonder,” a heartfelt track which alerts the world the singer is no blues dilettante. An album full of originals is in the works.
Amos is a regular onstage at Mr. C Beverly Hills where blues is a novelty. His appearances in Memphis were his first in front of an exclusive group of blues fans.
“It was like a reconnaissance mission,” he said. “I had no expectations other than I just wanted to be a part of the community and see how they responded to me. I wanted to see where I sat with other people out there. All of that felt validated. People received it well and got it. It felt like taking the first step of making a relationship with those folks.”
Amen to that, Reverend Shawn “the already famous” Amos. - Tahoe Onstage

This EP is dedicated to Amos’ friend Solomon Burke for whom he did backing vocals and in fact it was recorded in Studio ‘D’ of the Village recording studio in LA where Burke’s last album was recorded and the studio that has been favoured by the likes of B.B. King and Eric Clapton.
It is a raw and howling kind of Blues, loaded with edge and punctuated by Amos hard vocals. First time through it had me thinking “is this all?” but after a few listens it definitely grabs you and insinuates itself under your skin. On I’m The Face the repetitive drum riff has you tapping out patterns while the harp blows a mean tune and then on Something Inside Of Me the opening guitar lines are so sweet and fulsome you get to feeling all warm inside. Opening number Hoodoo Man Blues ties up all the strands of what The Reverend claims “My whole DNA is wrapped up in these tunes. It’s like tracing your family tree.” – the raw Blues riff and the thudding bass line aligned with his impassioned vocal and that harp: wow! 6 tracks and a total of 20 minutes but it’s well worth checking it out.

If the current President of the Council was aware of someone like Shawn Amos and its activities, will mention it in its many declarations and would invite the "Leopolda". Why? Why is a ... forty enterprising! Musician / author, was the Artistic Director of the Rhino before, and the subsidiary Shout then, working with the likes of musician sti Solomon Burke, John Lee Hooker, Quincy Jones, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, has served on the Board of "Rock and Roll of Fame and Museum ", in 2007 he founded" Freshwire "which deals with the Digi- Marketing for companies (and has about a space television Bloomberg TV), is vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of" Didi Hirsch -Services of Mental Health ", is Minister of the church" Universal Life Church ", and is the son of Wally Amos, formerly known music agent and then the creator of the brand of biscuits Americans" Amos ". Among his many occupations, the role of the musician is not marginal, not a cutout or a recreation, is a commitment certificate for three discs, between roots music and varied black music, and is a continuous search of roots that led him to dig in the earth mother, and the blues, co- me he said: "VO- Council preserve and honor the roots of the great classical form American region! And 'how to trace my family tree, "and again:" It is extraordinary, the freedom that I found in the blues changed my voice, the sound of my harmonic and my writing. "From words to deeds, enclosed in this his CD of only six pieces, where it is accompanied by guitar, bass and drums, plus a hammond and two voices. The result is an intriguing matter of blues, played on the contemporary sounds with traits of originality and personality. From the choice of two of the three covers, one senses that the Rev. Shawn Amos is an admirer of Junior Wells and that its parent job that is "Hoodoo Man Blues", from which he extracted, in addition to the above piece, put in the opening, also "Good Morning School Girl" versions that do not have the anxiety itself to recreate the pathos unattainable that Wells and company have externalized. Reverend ago riviere first cover giving it a more substantial basis, helped by a vibrato guitar riffs, while the second from wanders a little 'more in the "zone" Junior Wells. The third case is "Something Inside Of Me" by Elmore James, changes in the slow and revisited with a polite use of vocal effects and guitar. Moving on to the pieces au- chromatographs, we point "(The Girl Is) Heavy", from the original amalgam of blues and gospel and "Sometimes I Wonder," a ballad where Tornabuoni not to be felt with discretion, the voices and the accompanying 'hammond. Without falling into easy enthusiasm, we listened to the blues pleasantly modern and not in line with that which imposes the market today. - Il Blues

Shawn Ellis Amos (born September 13, 1967) is an American songwriter, singer, record producer, web personality and founder and CEO of Freshwire, a digital content creation company. Amos was born in New York, New York. He is the youngest son of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookie founder Wally Amos and the only son of Shirlee Ellis (professionally known as Shirl-ee May in the early 1960s). Throughout Amos' childhood and adulthood, his mother suffered from schizoaffective disorder and ultimately committed suicide in 2003. The trauma of the event and his subsequent discovery of her early singing career were the inspiration behind his 2005 album release ‘Thank You Shirl-ee May’. Amos sits on the Board of Trustees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Board of Directors. More recently, he has turned his attention to blues and has made a strikingly good EP, ‘Rev Shawn Amos Tells It All’, on which he sings and
plays some outstanding blues harp. Latst month he visited the UK and Ian McKenzie spoke to him in his hotel in London.
I started by making the suggestion that the list of
accomplishments above was a clear indicator of a
polymath. “Well,” he told me, “I’ve never been
called that before, but I’ll take it!. I guess I’m a bit
restless and I’ve got my hands in a few sticky pots
Shawn is an ordained minister in the Universal
Life Church “... which accepted me in short order!
The Reverend appellation came about because
“last year, in April 2013, I was playing some
shows in Italy {with a band called Americani) and by the end of the shows, the folks were calling me the
Reverend Shawn Amos as a response to my ‘presence’, I just tapped into a part of myself I didn’t know existed. When I got back to the US, . I wanted to keep on using the name, but I thought I can’t really call myself the Reverend Shawn Amos if I’m not actually going to be a reverend, so did what people do in America, I did Google search to find an online ministry and I found the Universal Life Church (ULC) and for a nominal fee, you can become a reverend, Now I am waiting to perform my first marriage I hope that’s on the cards some day.
Shawn is making a name for himself as a blues man and was recently performing at a blues club in Chicago. His very f first gig in that home of the blues,
the Windy City. “That actually started as a private performance and an interview for ‘The Onion’, the satirical web site. They invited me to come and play some songs and speak and afterwards the great Lonnie Brocks and his son Ronnie ... Ronnie actually accompanied be at the little private show I did ... and afterwards he and his father agreed to ferry me around Chicago for the evening. They toured ma around town and told me some wonderful stories about Chicago in the fifties and sixties. We ended up at Kingston Mines where we performed. Lonnie didn’t get on stage but Ronnie and I did and we were joined by local legend DW Williams and it was absolutely fabulous man. I loved it.”
Shawn’s previous albums are mostly not blues but are more like Americana/ Country Music. “Yep, they actually are. I did the Americana thing for a while and that was a result of my interest in American music forms. I’ve always been a student of American music and the Americana things was my way of dragging people into that idiom and I enjoyed that. That genre matched the state of mind I was in. I got to do a lot with it ... I started producing, I produced Solomon Burke and a Dirty Dozens Brass Band album. I produced a lot of compilations and retrospective collections and some blues artist too; John Lee Hooker, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson. I actually gave up playing music for a number of years after the 2005 record dedicated to my mother. It was quite a difficult record to make. I think it kinda took it out of me. I stopped playing music for a wile. I started a company and got involved in other pursuits. Then I got a call from an old band mate of mine who had been invited to play some blues and he called me up and asked me “Do you wanna play some blues?” I thought that would be fun and he suggested that I put together a set of stuff that I would be
comfortable singing and they would learn it. So I did that and we went to this castle in northern Italy about twenty five minutes northwest of Venice. And I played blues in this castle and it was like the heavens opened - I felt my mother’s spirit and I felt all the generations of folks that came before me and I felt a real connection to and a pride in being associated with that music. I had, quite frankly, been a little ashamed of that music for a while and any complications I had with race in my own head had made me, mistakenly, distance myself from that music as a performer it was too stereotypical or not high minded
enough or something . It was all my own bullshit, my own hang ups, but in that moment, literally, I was seeing myself though these peoples eyes and feeling all these performers who I’d work with or just been admirers of ‘em and I just felt like I’d found my calling!

There have of course been many blues singers in the past who were conflicted by the clash between the sacred and the (perceived) profane. “Yeah, that’s right.” Said Shawn “but it is funny how in the twenty-first century in a castle in the middle of Italy how you can find yourself.”
Shawn, while in the UK, played a gig at the Blues Kitchen with
Ian Siegal. I suggested to him that Ian Siegal is the nearest we
have in the UK to a blues Superstar. “I agree,“ Shawn said, “he is a nice guy and has got an amazing voice. The place was packed and I am always amazed at how much more the Europeans have protected and preserved our musical culture than we have ourselves.”

Shawn had not known that his mother was an entertainer and only discovered it after her death. “Well,” Shawn told me, “I knew she sang but I thought she just ‘sang’ and had a
vocation. I didn’t know she had a career. She committed suicide in 2003 after years and years of mental illness [schizophrenia]. After her death, I went to Raleigh, North Carolina where she was born and where she returned to. I was clearing up her place, and I found these acetates, and recording contracts and LP records and these beautiful head shots and a story about her in ‘Life’ magazine. She had a career! It was unbelievable to me not only in the revelation of the career, but also the gift of having this evidence of her as a healthy woman, ‘cause I never knew her as that. And it also it spoke to my own pursuits and interests. And, also I have a daughter who sings. It was a wonderful posthumous gift to us.
I made the record, one, just to grieve, but second, I wanted a document of her as ‘that’ person, Shirlee May – as a real person. So many people just knew her as that broken woman, and I didn’t want that to be the only [recollection] that existed of her. It was a tough record to make, but
I’m glad I made it..
It’s funny, going to the blues now, that despite what the word conjures, I had never ever performed or written music, until now that comes from such a place of joy. All the stuff I had done before it came from a place of pain or sadness or self exploration or uncertainty or what have you. In playing the blues now I am just having fun! Entertaining people. It’s interesting to come to it [the music] with an entertainer’s mind set versus a kind of ‘confessional’ mind-set.
In an interview recently, Shawn told his interviewer, “The blues has no forms and stages and places to live” What does that mean? “Well,“ Shawn told me, “It’s coming from a very American perspective. The blues in America is not part of current American popular culture in any meaningful way. If you were to look at all the publications, listen to all the radio stations or if you go to clubs or if you just listen to ‘what’s in the air’, blues is on no-one’s radar. Recently BB King cancelled a tour when he got sick and maybe he’ll get a little mention. If you ask people to name a blues artist, they’ll probably name BB, or maybe Buddy Guy, and there are a couple of younger exceptions; Gary Clarke Jr and David Booker [who is a Brit ED] who are coming along. But it [blues] occupies little to no space in the pop culture of the USA. That was what I meant. It has been like that for while, with the advent of social media and the way people buy music these days, it has become more marginalised than ever.
Ronnie Brooks and I were talking about this in Chicago, and I touched on it with Ian Siegal too. You know, blues musicians have a hard time packaging themselves. All musicians in every genre have had to become a lot more savvy these days with the advent of social media and what not. So people have had to use public relations people and be their own self-marketers and learn how to package themselves. The great artists, like The Stones or Bowie have always done that but it’s not a skill set that people just have in general. But the more savvy ones adopt those skills. Blues is universally a challenge to do that. There’s a lot of great blues music out there, but if you look at the way it is packaged it is difficult for the uninitiated to come to it because it doesn’t look or feel right. It doesn’t play by the rules that people are playing by these days.

Perhaps too many young people have it in mind that blues is all miserable and sad music. But of course it isn’t. “Absolutely! “ Shawn agrees. “Muddy Waters delivered some of the most boisterous, joyous, upbeat, rollicking songs ever but it is difficult for people to get the notion that showmanship and packaging is an important vehicle to carry the music. I just wish that more musicians would get that.”
Much of the music on ‘Rev Shawn Amos Tells It All’ is boosted and supported by some outstanding blues harp playing undertaken by Shawn himself. “Actually,” he told me, “I haven’t been playing blues harp for long. I’ve played first position, folk harp, forever. I did the singer/songwriter thing, you know, the classic Bob Dylan, Neil Young thing and I developed a bit of a style in that regard. I played in that vein for a long time - may be twenty years or so - but I never played blues harp and also I never owned any gear. I was the typical acoustic player - acoustic guitar and a harmonica. The notion of playing blues harp was intimidating to me because of one, having to go to second position and two, of having to buy an amp and all of that electronics, which befuddled me. But just like everything else in this world, I just dove in and I removed all other musical distractions. I got rid of my guitars. I play sax a little bit and I got rid of the saxophone. I just put everything into focusing on playing the harmonica, Thing about the harmonica is that it’s so portable you can play it all the time. In the last year and a half, we’ve played a hundred and thirty gigs and in between those gigs I just had my harmonica on me all the time. I played in airports. I played in the car. I played in cloakrooms. I’d play all the time. My learning curve increased pretty quickly. I consider myself an ‘intermediate’ player. I ve got a ways to go to get to the level of Junior Wells but I am really pleased at how quickly I progressed and at how naturally the instrument has come to me. I can see myself mastering it in time.”
One of the outstanding covers on the CD is a version of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl which has a scintillating arrangement. “Well,” Shawn told me, “ the basic arrangement comes from the Junior Wells version done with Buddy Guy in 1965. By the time we went into the studio, we’d play that number a lot and it began to morph into our own arrangement. It’s funny because in my head, I thought that arrangement is exactly like Junior Wells’, and then I heard the recording and it’s ‘Oh my God, it’s nothing like it! The Elmore James cover ‘Something Inside Of Me, is “...another one, that in my head it thought was the original arrangement” but Shawn agrees it doesn’t really follow the original, “[It’s] just in my imagination!”

‘What about Shawn’s own material. “Sometimes I Wonder’ is the first song I wrote after becoming the reverend. We started off doing covers and I didn’t have any new material to contribute to the project and my old material didn’t suit at all. That song came to me in a burst on a hike in Los Angeles one Sunday morning. I started the hike with that one line and by the time I’d finished the hike, I had the whole song. I travel a lot. Both with the music and other stuff I do. It’s hard leaving the family and that is where that song is based, what if I were not travelling. I’m proud of that song because it’s the first thing of my own that I’ve done in that genre
Shawn Amos is highly motivated, hugely talented and filled with enthusiasm. I for one expect him to be around for many, many years. Check out The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It All on Itunes right now! - Blues in the South


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Reverend Shawn Amos, son of Wally Amos (Famous Amos cookie brand), attributes his diverse background to growing up in the colorful Hollywood landscape.

Prior to becoming a blues preacher — and ordained minister with the Universal Life Church — Amos was an A&R executive at Rhino Entertainment and vice president of A&R at Shout! Factory, where he produced and recorded multiple Grammy- nominated projects. He produced broadcast, DVD and audio titles for legacy artists ranging from Heart to Quincy Jones, for whom Amos later ran the Listen Up Foundation. 

Throughout Amos’ childhood and adulthood, his mother suffered from schizoaffective disorder and ultimately committed suicide in 2003. The trauma of the event and his subsequent discovery of her early singing career were the inspiration behind his 2005 album release, Thank You Shirl-ee May. Amos has released five albums of music, including his 2014 release, “The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It,” a collection of blues originals and covers that received much acclaim from the blues & roots world, and the sophomore blues album The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You.

Amos discovered blues through Peter Guralnick’s Feel Like Going Home trilogy. He was at NYU film school and spent his summers driving south exploring the places in Peter’s book. “I fell in love with the stories and history, then I got hooked on the music. Howlin’ Wolf was first, Willie Dixon followed, then Junior Wells, Muddy Waters. It was virtually all I played during my college career,” says Amos. “My entire DNA is wrapped up in these songs. They have given me a sense of self and a home I never had.”

When not playing blues clubs, Amos hosts a weekly YouTube series, Kitchen Table Blues.  As an ongoing tribute to his mother, he also serves as Vice Chair of the board of directors of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.