Shannon Hoon, his life, his music, and the people whose lives he has touched
Richard Shannon Hoon (09/26/1967 – 10/21/1995)
Shannon Hoon is a singer/songwriter/musician who has touched the lives of many people around the world. He is most widely-known as the lead singer of Blind Melon. He was born on September 26th, 1967 in Lafayette, Indiana and sadly he passed away on October 21st, 1995 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Richard Shannon Hoon was born in Lafayette, Indiana. Shannon’s father, Richard L. Hoon, is also from Indiana, and his mother, Vernell H. Hoon is from Alabama. Though he shared a first name with his father, he was always known by his middle name, Shannon.
Shannon grew up in a small-town just outside Lafayette Indiana where he attended Dayton Elementary school. He later attended Wainwright Junior High which is also located in Tippecanoe County Indiana. Shannon was very athletic as a kid. He was involved in karate and achieved the rank of black belt. There are multiple high schools in Lafayette but Shannon attended McCutcheon High School which is a county school unlike the more urban city school system within Lafayette. Shannon excelled on the football and track team and won many awards and trophies. He graduated with the class of 1985.
After high school, Shannon spent the next four years in Lafayette. It was a turbulent time for Shannon as he had a few run-ins with the police. But it was also an amazing time where he discovered his talent for singing. Shannon soon joined the band Styff Kytten and they became very popular in the area, often playing at the local venue, “Nick’s.” Styff Kytten played a catalog of cover tunes and was just a good, fun rock n’ roll group.
At some point during this time, Shannon wrote the song ‘Change’ which most fans agree is his most powerful song. Shannon placed this gem in his pocket and set his sights on larger horizons.
At the young age of 22, Shannon decided to leave Lafayette and start his journey in a new direction. That direction ended up being west, more specifically Los Angeles, California. Shannon’s arrival was no coincidence however. Shannon’s older sister Anna attended high school with Axl Rose, then known as William Bailey, at Lafayette Jefferson High School. Anna asked Axl to look after Shannon and take him under his wing upon arrival to L.A. Obviously, Axl was one amazing connection to have at the time. Guns n’ Roses was one of the biggest bands on the planet and Shannon had well more than his foot in the door. Shannon worked for Riki Rachtman at his venue, The Cathouse for a short time.
One night at a party, Shannon met future band mates, Rogers Stevens and Brad Smith. He played the song ‘Change’ on an acoustic guitar and blew everyone’s mind. That meeting was the conception of Blind Melon. Not all of the players were in place just yet and they didn’t even have a band name, but the seeds of Blind Melon were sown by Shannon performing his song for Brad and Rogers. Christopher Thorn soon joined the mix and eventually Brad and Rogers called upon a friend from Mississippi (Glen Graham) to come out and play drums. Glen’s arrival to the band represented the birth of Blind Melon. As stated by Glen, the band was signed in just a few months after he arrived to L.A. Things began to move very fast for the young Blind Melon in a very short time.
After the band put together a four-track demo it was shipped around to the various record labels. A bidding war quickly began for the rights to market Blind Melon to the world. Blind Melon eventually decided to sign with Capitol Records. Shortly after signing they recorded an album with Producer David Briggs. This was known as the Sippin’ Time Sessions, but the EP album was shelved because they did not feel that it represented them well (you can hear these tracks at the end of Blind Melon’s recently re-released self-titled album).
The members of Blind Melon decided that they needed to leave Los Angeles and ended up settling in Durham, North Carolina where they rented a house for several months. They started referring to their residence as ‘The Sleepyhouse’. This time spent in the Sleepyhouse allowed them to live, write, and practice together. Blind Melon quickly matured and became a better band as a result of their unity, creativity and sheer talent.
After the creative rush that was the Sleepyhouse Blind Melon traveled to Seattle to record what would become their self-titled debut album. They recorded about half of the material at Rick Parashar’s ‘London Bridge Studio’ where many of the now famous grunge albums were recorded (Pearl Jam’s Ten, Temple of the Dog, etc.). Before finishing the album, Blind Melon went out on their first tour, opening for Soundgarden on MTV’s 120 Minutes tour. Shannon became great friends with Chris Cornell during this tour and quickly formed a tight bond. Shannon bent up fork and created a necklace which he gave to Chris. You can see Chris Cornell wearing his fork necklace in many photos.
After the 120 Minutes tour wrapped up, they returned to London Bridge Studios to finish recording their album. The self-titled debut album was released on September 22nd, 1992. This represented Blind Melon’s graduation into the music industry. The first single released from the album was ‘Tones of Home’. After the album’s release Blind Melon embarked on the ‘Crammed in a Van’ tour. Eventually they scored the opening slot on a short tour with Guns n’ Roses. Blind Melon quickly went from traveling in a van to flying in a jet like the big time rock starts that they are.
The second release from their debut album was the ‘No Rain’ single and video. The video’s image of a dancing bee-girl who finds people like her was played frequently on MTV, and the results were profound. Shannon and Blind Melon started receiving more attention than they had ever experienced. The bee-girl image would propel Blind Melon to new levels. The response was enormous and the video was a huge shot-in-the-arm for the band’s career. All of the touring and the hard work started to pay-off as their exposure increased through the visibility of the video. Blind Melon was a full-fledged ‘adult’ in the music industry.
The remainder of 1993 was a whirlwind. All of the members of Blind Melon were very excited to be able to open up for Neil Young on an entire leg of his tour. Shannon was a huge Neil Young fan and to be on tour with him was a dream come true. Later that year Blind Melon opened for Lenny Kravitz on his “Let Love Rule” tour. On Halloween, Shannon got in trouble for public intoxication/indecent exposure at a show in Vancouver. A little over a week later, Rolling Stone releases an issue with Blind Melon on the cover (naked). By the end of 1993 Blind Melon was on top of the world.
1994 began with an appearance of Blind Melon on Saturday Night Live where they perform ‘Deserted’ and ‘No Rain’. They also embarked on a short tour in Japan followed by a tour in the United States with the Meat Puppets and Alice Donut, the latter band being one of Shannon’s favorites.
Shannon would eventually submit to rehab in 1994. His alcohol and drug use had spun out of control during his explosion into fame. After completing this rehabilitation program Shannon rejoins the members of Blind Melon embark on a European tour. Roughly ten days into the tour it is cancelled because Shannon is not feeling well enough to be on the road. Shannon and the band head home and spend some time recuperating.
In August of 1994, Blind Melon played the largest show of their career – Woodstock ’94 in Saugerties, NY. Shannon wore a white dress from his girlfriend Lisa’s wardrobe and had barrettes in his hair. Shannon and the guys in Blind Melon performed to a huge crowd and indelibly wrote one of the most memorable performances ever in the history books of rock n’ roll. It was indeed a performance that will be remembered by all in attendance as Shannon gave every bit of energy he had and directly connected with his audience. Shortly after Woodstock, they went on tour with the Rolling Stones. It is quite an accomplishment in the world of rock n’ roll when you can say that your band has been on the cover of Rolling Stone and has also opened shows for the Rolling Stones!
After the tour with the Rolling Stones, the band headed to New Orleans to write and record the ‘Soup’ album. They lived in the famous house/recording studios called Kingway Studio (at the time owned by producer Daniel Lanois). New Orleans is a place with an intensely vibrant music and arts scene, so in those regards it was a great place for the band to be to write and record a new album. However, New Orleans offered far too many of the temptations that Shannon did not need in his life. His drug use escalated and it directly affected his health and his relationships with people around him.
Shannon and his girlfriend Lisa Crouse discovered Lisa was expecting a baby some time in 1995. This may have been the catalyst that made Shannon decide to re-enter a drug rehab program in California. He successfully completed the program and left sober to begin his life again and rejoin his family. On July 11th, 1995, Shannon and Lisa welcomed Nico Blue Hoon into the world. Shannon was overjoyed by the birth of Nico.
Blind Melons second album ‘Soup’ was released August 15th, 1995. The band, subsequently, embarked on a tour to support their new album. Initially, a handler is assigned to watch Shannon on tour. That arrangement only worked out for so long. Shannon relapsed in Los Angeles, and continued using drugs for the remainder of the Soup tour. Shannon’s last performance ended up being in Houston at a Club called ‘Numbers.’
The next gig was a scheduled show at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. The day of the show, Shannon was found ‘unresponsive’ on the tourbus. The coroner ruled that the cause of death was a cocaine overdose. He was 28 years old.
While Shannon’s life ended in a tragic & heartbreaking situation, his life itself was an amazing example of what a person can achieve when they believe in themselves. His big dream of going out to California and becoming a singer that would inspire the world became a reality because he followed his dreams and worked hard to make it all happen. Shannon’s legacy lives on. Nico represents Shannon’s most personal legacy, his voice and music has forever carved his place in music history and all of Shannon’s fans have his words and music absorbed into their very existence. Shannon’s spirit is forever in the lives he has touched.
Shannon Hoon, you will be missed. You will not be forgotten.