"(Shake) Russell''s songs bring up the images of driving down a narrow country road, carving it''s way through a calm countryside into the heart of the Texas Hill Country." - Clarissa Marcee, New Texas Magazine
For more than three decades, Texas singer-songwriter Shake Russell has been enchanting audiences throughout the region with his unique, Americana style of folk-rock. A prolific songwriter, Shake has written or co-written hundreds of melodies and sold over 20 million songs. Through the years, Shake’s songs and albums have frequented the Billboard charts, with many, including “Deep in the West,” “You’ve Got a Lover,” “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” “One More Payment,” and “Our Kind of Love” being recorded by such distinguished artists as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Ricky Skagg’s hit recording of “You’ve Got a Lover” has appeared on three of Ricky’s albums. So loved is this gifted musician that in 1995 he was asked by Houston television station KTRK to compose a theme song commemorating the Texas sesquicentennial. Shake obliged and wrote the regional favorite, “Traveling Texas.”
Shake is a two-time recipient of the BMI “Million Air” award for Clint Black’s recordings of “Put Yourself in My Shoes” and “One More Payment,” both of which he co-wrote with Clint, and a four-time recipient of the BMI Writer’s Award. More recently, Shake was named the “2004 MyTexasMusic Entertainer of the Year.”
Weaving sophisticated harmonies through his songs and drawing from various genres, Shake created a style of folk-rock that is uniquely his own. His repertoire consists of the perfect blend of love songs, ballads, and waltzes, which are skillfully balanced with an ample number of lively rockabilly tunes and soulful rhythm and blues pieces. The practiced craftsmanship of Shake’s compositions has earned him broad recognition and admiration as a songwriter. His lyrics are imbued with beautiful imagery, catchy phrases, and inventive similes and metaphors. But it is the rich, melodious voice of Shake Russell that breathes life and spirit into the lyrics, leaving audiences spellbound.
As a left-handed player, Shake taught himself to play a right-handed guitar upside down in the same left-handed manner as the legendary folk artist Elizabeth Cotton. Later in his career, Shake would have an opportunity to meet this amazing lady at a performance in Chicago. Before settling in Texas in the mid-70s, Shake’s musical career took him from his hometown of Independence, Missouri, to Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Nashville, and Coconut Grove, a renowned mecca for artists that is often described as the Greenwich Village of the southeast. Other notables who significantly impacted Shake’s development as a singer-songwriter were Woody Guthrie, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, and John Vandiver.
By the mid-70s, Shake had moved to Austin and was hired as a bass player for John Vandiver''s Ewing Street Times Band. An apprenticeship under John and tutelage from fellow band member, Michael Mashkes, afforded Shake an opportunity to hone his guitar skills and to cultivate a musical style that would define his Texas-style brand of folk-rock. During this period, the band played at the Cactus Café, Emmajoe’s, the Alamo Lounge, the Waterloo Ice House, and various other clubs in the Austin vicinity. After relocating to Houston, the Ewing Street Times emerged onto the vibrant music scene of the Montrose area, where they promptly garnered an enthusiastic following.
In the late 70s, Shake formed his own band and was joined by hometown friend and fellow musician, Dana Cooper. Based in Houston, the duo enjoyed immense success throughout the state and were given extensive airplay on local radio stations such as KLOL. Many of the melodies on Shake’s “Songs on the Radio” album were recorded at KLOL, including the hit “You’ve Got a Lover.” During this segment of Shake’s career, he played regularly at Fitzgerald’s, Gilley’s, Rockefeller’s, Corky’s, Anderson Fair; and later, the Mucky Duck. Although their respective careers have since diverged to different regions of the country, Shake and Dana have reunited on several occasions over the years for packed-house performances and CD collaborations. One of their most recent shows was captured on the “Island Nights” CD, which was recorded live at the Third Coast Theater in Port Aransas, Texas.
Shake’s latest CD, “Love is Why,” is a delightful array of original compositions that beautifully showcase the extraordinary talents of this singer-songwriter. But to fully appreciate and understand the magnitude of Shake’s contributions to music, one need only listen to his life’s work. From “Songs on the Radio” to “Love is Why,” Shake’s music is a testament to the reasons why he is so widely celebrated as a Texas folk music legend.
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