Jon Shain

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Jon Shain
Shain ws front.jpg
Jon Shain publicity photo from 2006
Background information
Birth nameJonathan Bruce Shain
Born (1967-11-18) November 18, 1967 (age 52)
Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States
GenresFolk, Americana, Piedmont blues
Occupation(s)Guitarist, Singer-songwriter
Years active1980-present
LabelsFlyin' Records
WebsiteOfficial website
MembersJon Shain Trio
FJ Ventre: upright bass
John Currie: dobro and guitar
Bill Newton: harmonica

Jon Shain (born Jonathan Bruce Shain, November 18, 1967 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States) is an American folk musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, producer, and recording artist based in Durham, North Carolina. Shain is the 2019 International Blues Challenge winner in the solo/duo category.

Shain has released ten solo albums, and has also recorded with the bands WAKE and Flyin' Mice. Since 1988, he has performed live with Jorma Kaukonen, David Grisman, Jackson Browne, John Hiatt, and others. Shain played electric guitar as part of Big Boy Henry's backing band in the 1980s.

Early life[edit]

Shain is Jewish, the eldest of three children to Steven and Carol Shain, who are also Haverhill, Massachusetts natives. His father and grandfather operated a small but successful textile dyehouse.

Shain got his first acoustic guitar after being influenced by watching childhood friend Fran Cleary play a cheap Univox electric model. Things went poorly, as within a short time, he accidentally broke the rented instrument in half. At age 12 he started up again with another borrowed model, this time showing more serious interest and taking lessons.

For high school, Shain attended The Governor's Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts, where he met up with other aspiring musicians among its small student body. Almost immediately, Shain joined a student rock band called Positive Feedback, where he played electric rhythm guitar and first performed live on stage. At age 14, he was the youngest member of the band. The following year, Shain and childhood friend Jim Barr, along with fellow students FJ Ventre and John Miller, formed another rock cover band called The Partisans (the band's name unknowingly matched an already established punk band from the UK). This experience further sharpened his skills and confidence as a live performer, as he was responsible for most of the arrangements performed by the band. The Partisans achieved minor notoriety throughout the region, playing dances and private parties during Shain's remaining years in high school. Eventually mixing in originals by Shain and Barr, The Partisans live set mainly consisted of classic rock staples from Chuck Berry, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, R.E.M., and U2.

Shain graduated from the academy in 1985.

College years[edit]

Shain attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he majored in history.[1] It was during this time that Shain was introduced to the folk music of the region. In addition to playing in a frat-rock cover band, The Blind Mice, Shain began to research and play Piedmont blues. Shain joined The Slewfoot Blues Band, led by Mickey "Slewfoot" McLaughlin and "Sleepy" Tom Forsythe. Through Slewfoot, Shain met North Carolina blues artists such as Big Boy Henry, John Dee Holeman, Lightnin' Wells, and jazz pianist Brother Yusef Salim. Shain has described his style of blues as being based on Piedmont blues and has said, "I'm interested in the kinds of songs that aren't necessarily in standard blues progressions."[2] Shain also took opportunity of Duke's jazz program, studying one semester with saxophonist Paul Jeffrey, a veteran of Thelonious Monk's group. Shain graduated from Duke in the summer of 1989, and immediately began pursuing a career in music.

Professional career[edit]

In 1989, Shain and bassist John Whitehead formed a blues-rock duo, Flyin' Mice. They began to play shows at local clubs and festivals in The Carolinas and Virginia. Catching the ear of soundman and recording engineer Charles Jones, Flyin' Mice was signed to Jones' fledgling independent label Dr. Lime Records. The Mice expanded to a trio with the addition of drummer Mark Simonsen. In 1992, John Whitehead left the band and was replaced by bassist Aaron Oliva and Ben Saffer on guitar and banjo. Flyin' Mice earned the tag "psychedelic bluegrass" due to its incorporation of vintage bluegrass influences into its jam-rock performance style. This incarnation of the band gigged steadily up and down the East Coast until the band's breakup in 1996.

In 1996, Shain and Simonsen started a new group called WAKE, with Kirsten O'Rourke Simonsen on vocals and Stu Cole on bass. In 1997, Cole left to join Squirrel Nut Zippers and he was replaced by Darrell Dixon on bass and John Currie on guitar. WAKE leaned more towards an alt-country sound. WAKE broke up in early 1998.

In 1998, Shain and Simonsen began work on what would become Jon Shain's first solo album, Brand New Lifetime, which ranged from the alt-country of WAKE to a more stripped down re-discovery of Shain's acoustic blues background. Shain began to play shows solo and with his new group, The Jon Shain Trio - composed of FJ Ventre on bass, John Currie on dobro and guitar, and Bill Newton on harmonica. This group stayed together the longest of any of shain's musical associations. Shain has recorded several albums on his own Flyin' Records and continues to tour and record regularly with FJ Ventre.


Solo albums[edit]

1999 Brand New Lifetime Flyin' Records CD
2001 Fools and Fine Ladies Flyin' Records CD
2003 No Tag, No Tail Light Flyin' Records CD
2005 Home Before Long Flyin' Records CD
2007 Army Jacket Winter Flyin' Records CD
2009 Times Right Now Flyin' Records CD
2011 The Kress Sessions Flyin' Records CD
2013 Ordinary Cats Flyin' Records CD
2014 Reupholstered Flyin' Records CD
2018 Gettin' Handy with the Blues - a Tribute to the Legacy of W.C. Handy Flyin' Records CD

Other albums[edit]

1988 Big Boy Henry & The
Slewfoot Blues Band
Big Boy Henry & The
Slewfoot Blues Band
Self-released Cassette
1991 Flyin' Mice So Hi Drive Dr. Lime Records CD and Cassette
1992 Flyin' Mice "Paranoia Drugstore Blues" b/w "Running Free" Dr. Lime Records 7" single
1994 Flyin' Mice Brighter Day Dr. Lime Records CD and Cassette
1996 Flyin' Mice So Long Self-released Cassette
1997 WAKE WAKE Flyin' Records CD
2016 Jon Shain and Joe Newberry Crow the Dawn Flyin' Records CD
2018 Jon Shain and FJ Ventre Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday Soon Flyin' Records CD

Other recording appearances[edit]

1999 David Scott Kepford Steps DSK Records CD
2000 Phil Cohen and Patricia Ford Caution to the Wind Hard Miles Music CD
2001 Judy Woodall's Muletrain Black Pony Back Home Music CD
2003 Phil Cohen and Patricia Ford Long Road 'til Sunrise Hard Miles Music CD
2003 Judy Woodall and Muletrain Monkey Goat Sinnerman Back Home Music CD
2004 Dana Kletter Mrs. Moon CD
2008 Jefferson Pepper American Evolution American Fallout Records CD
2010 Jim Avett Tribes Ramseur Records CD
2010 Greg Humphreys Realign Your Mind Phrex Records CD
2010 Danny Gotham Guitarheel Nuffsaid Records CD
2010 Jon Shain Song for Isabella in the film Generation Exile DVD
2010 Jon Shain Winter Waits Hudson Harding Holiday Sampler vol. 5 CD
2011 Jim Avett Second Chances Ramseur Records CD
2014 Danny Gotham Repast Nuffsaid Records CD
2016 Phil Cohen and Patricia Ford Threads of Gold Hard Miles Music CD
2016 Isabel Taylor Awake Again Self-released CD
2016 Suzanne Schmid The Field Hand Self-released CD
2016 Penny Pierce self-titled Self-released CD
2017 And Dan For Better and for Worse Self-released CD
2017 Rick Drost Turning the World Self-released CD
2017 Leah Kaufman On to Something Fine Self-released CD
2018 Wes Collins Welcome to the Ether Self-released CD
2018 Karyn Oliver A List of Names Self-released CD
2018 Barry Gray Footsteps Self-released CD

Family life[edit]

In 1997, Shain married graphic designer Maria Bilinski. The couple have one daughter, Johanna, born in 2002. Shain has written a song for each of them, both of which can be found on Army Jacket Winter.


  1. ^ "Duke Magazine-Jon Shain '89, Hitting the road with the circus-Mini-Profiles-January/February 2008". Retrieved 2014-05-29.
  2. ^ "Jon Shain - Ordinary Cats - Americana Music Show Podcast". 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2014-05-29.

External links[edit]