Reader Spotlight: John Shaughnessy

John ShaughnessyMeet John Shaughnessy, a bassist living in Charlotte, NC who covers just about every form of bass he can. John makes his living in music, teaching and gigging.

John has penned his own method book, on slap bass concepts, and he’s even had a Spinal Tap-like gig, opening for a puppet show. Cool!

John is our player in the spotlight for June 5, 2012.


I’m an electric/upright/piccolo bassist originally from Buffalo, NY, living and working in Charlotte, NC since 1997. By my own count, I’ve played around 3,000 gigs in every style you can think of, in the worst dive bars, the poshest private gigs, cruise ships, road gigs, the Charlotte Symphony, backed Elvis impersonators… and opened for a puppet show a la Spinal Tap.

I’ve also led my own original groups, composed and arranged music taught lots of lessons, and I’m the author of the “Extreme Slap Bass” method book. That’s all I can think of right now.


Charlotte, NC, USA

Day gig:

I teach bass and piano privately, but I haven’t had an actual day job since 1999. Every time I think it’s time to get a day job, a new gig comes up and I’m off and running.

Years experience:

Almost 30 years now. Started in 1983.

Bands & Gigs:

I led my own two bass (piccolo and upright) funk-jazz trio called JS:3 for several years, and a smooth jazz trio for several years after that. Currently, I’m a freelance bassist, so I play with anyone and everyone – jazz, blues, rock, funk, musicals, church gigs, you name it. I do anywhere between 150-250+ gigs a year.

My steady gig lately has been as a pit bassist/arranger at Children’s Theater of Charlotte which is a lot of fun. We do a lot of morning and early afternoon musical shows for schools and young audiences.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording lately as well. I have a wild piccolo bass free jazz trio album which is in the final stages of completion, and I’m currently mixing a Steve Swallow/Gary Burton tribute album that I recorded with guitarist Chris Jones. Sessions for my first solo bass album are planned for this summer.


  • Lehtella Guitar Craft 6 string fan fret bass w/Ghost MIDI interface
  • Carvin LB70 fretless piccolo bass w/Roland GK2 synth pickup
  • ’75 Fender Jazz bass customized fretless w/EMGs
  • ’57 kay Upright
  • Ibanez BTB custom 6 string fretless
  • Fender Mexi P Bass w/Duncan actives
  • Ashbory Bass
  • Bajo Sexto
  • I’ve also built a couple instruments: an EUB and an 8 string fretted/4 string fretless doubleneck
  • Markbass CMD 121P bass amp
  • Fender Champ 12 guitar amp (for piccolo)
  • Roland GR20 guitar synthesizer

Why I play the bass:

I wanted to play guitar as a kid, but then Billy Sheehan played a dance at my high school with his band Talas. After I heard him shake the walls with his bass, I knew that I wanted to be a bass player. When I formed my first band, I knew this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Much later, I studied bass with former Spyro Gyra bassist Jim Kurzdorfer, who really set me on the path to being a pro.

My bass superpower/claim to fame

I’m a synesthete – which means I “see” music as colors and shapes. It’s good and bad…

I’d also say that because I grew up playing with my brother who is a drummer, I relate well to drummers and am able to lock in pretty quickly.

My influences

As a young kid I grew up listening to Motown, ’70s soul and disco, and AM Gold on the radio. So all the session musicians who created those hits.

Later, in no particular order: Billy Sheehan, Geezer Butler, Steve Harris, Ray Brown, James Jamerson, Sam Jones, Rick Laird, Duck Dunn, Jim Kurzdorfer, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Steve Swallow, Charles Mingus, Lemmy, Charlie Haden, Geoff Perry, Foley, Lee Sklar…

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