THUS FAR, EVERY PLAYER in Spotlight Then & Now has chimed in on what it meant to be in the column. Sadly, the late, great Shawn Lane can’t do that. So we asked Mike Varney himself, the guy who first introduced us to Lane’s amazing chops, to pen a few words about the guitarist who Paul Gilbert once described as “the most terrifying guy of all time.”
“Shawn Lane’s talent was brought to my attention in 1981,” says Varney. “Randall Moore, Shawn’s friend from a Little Rock, Arkansas radio station, sent me an amazing tape of Shawn playing with Jim Dandy. The first time Paul Gilbert and I spoke on the phone in 1982, I played him solos over the phone of Shawn and Yngwie, both relatively unknown at the time. Paul got off the phone and started practicing harder.
“Shawn was a brilliant musician and an avid reader of any and all things of interest to him. He knew facts about things that even experts in their respective fields might have missed. Not only a phenomenal guitarist, Shawn was also a classical pianist, and his knowledge of the history of classical music was very impressive, to say the least. Even though a lot of Shawn’s recordings flew under the radar for many guitar fans, a number of them did reach a wider audience. Shawn signed with Warner Brothers and released his Powers of Ten record in 1992. Even though it was a brilliant record, showcased different sides of his musical genius, and received much critical acclaim, it still failed to bring Shawn the notoriety his talent warranted.
“After his feature in Spotlight, Shawn recorded four solo records, three instructional videos, eight CDs, a DVD with Jonas Hellborg, and over 20 appearances on other records, both compilations and guest spots. Shawn’s untimely death came on September 26, 2003. There are not many serious students of high-performance guitar chops who are unaware of Shawn’s incredible talent. One can only speculate what he might have achieved were he alive today, but even so, he left behind a large, impressive body of work.”