Sheehan has won Guitar Player Magazine's "Best Rock Bass Player" readers' poll five times for his "lead bass" playing style. Guitar Player has likened his soloing on the four-string instrument to Eddie Van Halen's on the six-string guitar. Sheehan's repertoire includes the use of chording, two-handed tapping and controlled feedback. However, Sheehan is also noted as a steady "true" bassist, fulfilling the traditional supportive role of the electric bass in the rock idiom.
Billy became a Scientologist in 1971 when somebody knocked on his door and sold him a Dianetics book. After he had read it, he became a member of the Church of Scientology and now holds a level of OT III (Operating Thetan Level 3).
Sheehan regularly played "The Wife" until the late 1980s when he began using self-designed Yamaha Attitude basses. These instruments are modelled on his Precision, but feature, in Sheehan's estimation, a number of improvements, including multi bolt-on neck construction style and an aftermarket device called the Hipshot D-tuner on the E-string, which allows him to quickly drop the pitch of the string to D and raise it again.
Talas was one of Buffalo's most popular local bands for over a decade, arguably attaining cult status which spread into the northeast US and into Canada. In 1978, Talas released their eponymous debut album, which generated the regional hit single, "See Saw". It was during this time that Sheehan wrote some of his most famous songs, namely "Shy Boy" (later re-recorded with David Lee Roth), and the complex and frenetic "Addicted to that Rush" (later re-recorded with Mr Big).
In the late 1970s, Sheehan also played in a band called Light Years with drummer Ron Rocco who had earlier played in a band called Black Sheep with Foreigner singer Lou Gramm in Rochester, NY. After Sheehan returned to Talas they opened a show for UFO in Buffalo. This led Sheehan to an association with guitarist Michael Schenker and also helped land him the job touring with UFO in 1983.
Talas' first national exposure happened in 1980, when they opened thirty shows for Van Halen. However, success was elusive, and even as their brand of what came to be known as "glam metal" gained popularity over the next few years, Talas remained an unsigned act, due largely to poor management. They independently released their debut eponymous "Talas" LP on Evenfall Records (reissued by Metal Blade) and then "Sink Your Teeth Into That" on Relativity Records.
Seeking to take Talas further than just regional success, Sheehan reformed Talas with another drummer (Mark Miller), guitarist (Mitch Perry, also later of Heaven), and a dedicated vocalist, Phil Naro, with whom in the late 1970s Sheehan had previously worked in his side project (the Billy Sheehan Band). Talas would release only one more album, Live Speed on Ice. After Mitch Perry left the band, he was replaced by Johnny Angel, who played guitar with them for their 1985/86 US tour opening for Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force. There was a fourth Talas record, tentatively titled "Lights, Camera, Action" to be issued on Gold Mountain/A&M, but it never got past the demo stage due to Sheehan leaving to join David Lee Roth's solo band. Talas did briefly continue on under Phil Naro sans Sheehan, enlisting Jimmy Degrasso on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitar and Bruno Ravel on bass, but by this time Talas was dead.
In the early 1980s, Sheehan became involved with the proto-thrash metal band Thrasher, during this time he shared the stage with future Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz. His involvement with Thrasher did not last long but he did play on 2 songs from the self titled LP, which has not been released on cd to date.
On February 10th, Billy Sheehan attended an Anti-Scientology picket answering questions regarding his allegiance to Scientology.
In 1988, Sheehan, along with singer Eric Martin, guitarist Paul Gilbert, and drummer Pat Torpey formed Mr Big. Mr Big had two American hits with "Addicted to That Rush" from their eponymous first album and the ballad, "To Be With You" (from their second album, Lean Into It,) but were unable to duplicate it with later releases. However, the band had a dedicated following in Japan. Internal tensions led to Gilbert quitting the band in 1997. Richie Kotzen replaced him, and was with Mr Big until the group's breakup in 2002.
Sheehan has performed on many of Steve Vai's solo albums and was the bassist for Vai's touring band from 2001 until early 2007, an incarnation which Vai dubbed "The Breed". The Breed was noted by Vai as having "worked beyond his expectations" and has expressed that he hopes to will work with Sheehan and The Breed in the future as schedules permit.
In 1999, he helped to record the widely acclaimed album "Brotherhood", with the multi-platinum Japanese band, B'z, and subsequently played with the band live for their 2002 "Green" Tour in front of total 750,000 audience.
Sheehan is also the author of a popular series of instructional books and videos, and, even though he has little formal training on the electric bass guitar, gives bass clinics and has hosted seminars at the famous Berklee College of Music.
Sheehan recently joined up with bassists Jeff Berlin and Stu Hamm, along with guitarist Jude Gold and drummer John Mader for the bx3 tour; a spin off of the G3 tour focusing on bass instead of guitar. They recently completed a short Southeast Asian tour, stopping in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Taipei.
IT TAKES ALL KINDS ; ECLECTIC TASTE AND VERSATILITY HAVE SERVED GUITARIST BILLY SHEEHAN WELL ECLECTIC TASTE AND VERSATILITY HAVE SERVED GUITARIST BILLY SHEEHAN WELL ECLECTIC TASTE AND VERSATILITY HAVE SERVED GUITARIST BILLY SHEEHAN WELL ECLECTIC TASTE AND VERSATILITY HAVE SERVED GUITARIST BILLY SHEEHAN WELL
Mar 31, 2000; Some guitarists display the hard rock tag like a badge of honor. It's easy for them to get stuck into a niche that may not...