Bill Shaw

Bill Shaw was two years ahead of me at Hinsdale Central High School, played drums in the school band, and was a mysterious guy. He was one of those people you knew more by reputation, rumor, and image rather than first hand knowledge. Bill rode motorcycles, wore tight jeans and sunglasses. He also played drums in local rock bands, "The Birds" and later in "The Shackles".

My childhood friend, Scot Robinson and I played in a band of our own called The Changing Tymes. We wanted desperately to be as good as the bands that inspired us. At 15 years old with unbridled teenage zeal, all the talent we were ever going to have, for as hard as we tried we just weren't very good. In the pride of our youthful innocence, we thought we were going to be the next "big thing".

I first heard The Shackles at the Hinsdale Youth Center in the Summer of 1965. They were set up on a two level riser platform. It was in the corner of a large room suited equally well for arts and crafts classes and scout troop pancake breakfasts as for a teen dance club. I was there by myself to check out "the competition". Not sure how I got there. I lived a couple of miles away so my mother probably gave me a ride. I vividly remember the walk home.

I arrived early while the band was setting up their equipment. As if to prove to myself that I wasn't going to be afraid of these guys, I walked right up to the edge of the stage. The riser they played on was about 2' feet high and 18' square with the drums on a smaller riser in the center. They had Super Beatle Vox amps just like The Beatles and a superb sound system for the vocals. That may have been the first time I'd ever seen a Vox Super Beatle amp.

The very sight of their equipment struck awe in my heart. Like most teenage musicians, having cool equipment was almost more important than the music it's to be used for. The Shackles had it all.  They were each handsome, cool, and smiled a lot. They seemed perfect and I was becoming very jealous.

Though I'd heard Bill play drums with The Birds, I had never heard the Shackles before and was completely unprepared for what I was about to hear.  Already intimidated simply by what I saw, the moment they began to sing and play, my heart was both thrilled and terrified. I was hearing and seeing excellence, precision, beauty, and confident authority.

These were brilliant musicians, perfectly supporting each other. They expertly played songs I loved by the The Byrds, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. And they played and sang masterfully! They were so good I was spellbound as if time were standing still. 

Something new was happening inside of me.  In just a few minutes, the bar against which I measured my own musical ability had been brutally raised so high and out of reach that I lost my bearings.

For as thrilling as it was to hear The Shackles, it was that much more painful realizing how far short of their perfection I was with my own band. I saw and heard in them everything I had ever wanted of my own band. We fell so far short of The Shackles quality it seemed futile to even try.

As I walked home under the lush green canopy of huge tree branches arched high over familiar streets, my mind raced in a flurry trying to sort through a tidal wave of discontented ambition. I was dizzy, defeated, and deflated. Probably one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time.

One of the first times I heard Bill play drums, he was with The Birds on stage in the old Hinsdale Junior High gymnasium auditorium. In those days, guitars were plugged into amps sitting on stage, vocal microphones were plugged into a P.A. system, and the drums simply were loud enough on their own requiring no amplification.

In the middle of "Not Fade Away" by the Rolling Stones, Bill broke into a drum solo. He's a powerful drummer uniquely full of surprises that come out of nowhere like a tornado swelling out of a brooding summer storm. Characteristic of his creativity, he put a microphone inside his cow bell and then used the microphone itself as a drum stick and played outrageous jungle-like beats with it on his floor tom tom. As he hammered that cow bell and pounded his tom tom, the amplified sound echoing through the auditorium was amazing!

We had never heard such sounds before. It was a magical moment.  As if it were yesterday, I'll never forget that sound. It was the harbinger of musical things to come.

On a local level and for me personally, Bill Shaw brought a foretaste of sounds that would shape our musical lives from the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Led Zeppelin. He was a creative incubator hearing and doing things ahead of his time.

Bill Shaw Part 2