ALTHOUGH MIKE VARNEY’S Spotlight didn’t just feature burning rock players who would go on to record on Shrapnel Records—Scott Henderson, Rez Abbasi, Rusty Anderson, Brett Garsed, and many others certainly didn’t fit that description— some of the most prominent Spotlighted guitarists were indeed future Shrapnel shredders. Chief among them was an astonishingly talented musician who not only had ungodly guitar chops but could also play amazing classical piano— a guy named Tony MacAlpine. He would become an instant favorite with fans of high-energy guitar and go on to release many albums under his own name as well as collaborations with tons of world-class musicians, including Steve Vai, Mike Portnoy, Vinnie Moore, and many others.
“I remember well the events that unfolded after being featured in the Spotlight column,” says MacAlpine. “Mike Varney, of the famed Shrapnel Records, called me after he made the decision to include me in that month’s issue and I really didn’t believe it was him calling. He was unfortunately the recipient of repeated hang-ups on the other end!
“After that I was introduced to bassist Billy Sheehan, who at the time was in David Lee Roth’s band with Steve Vai, and drum legend Steve Smith, at that time with Journey. That meeting led rapidly to the recording of my first record, Edge of Insanity. That led to a connection with Bernie Rico and the Rico family of BC Rich Guitars to work on some models that would be included on my next instrumental, Maximum Security, which featured drummers Dean Castronovo and Atma Anur, along with some great guest guitar players, George Lynch and Jeff Watson.
“The Spotlight feature was very important for me as a starting point in my professional career. It gave me the chance to be seen by many readers and professional music personalities who have, over the years, been instrumental in shaping my direction and path. Since then I’ve released 11 solo albums and many band projects, including a Grammy-nominated release with drummer Dennis Chambers, bassist Bunny Brunel, and keyboardists Brian Auger and Patrice Rushen in the band CAB.