The John Shinnick Web Site

Shin the Musician (Prior)

Last update: November 3, 2021

So What Am I?


It was in July that I returned to Colorado for 4 reunion gigs with my old band, Void Where Prohibited. I played guitar, keys, some harmonica, and even flute on one song. When I joined the band, however, I did so as a bass player. I became the guitarist when the existing guitarist moved to Colorado, hence the reunion gigs in the Rocky Mountain State.

But the switch wasn't really a no-brainer. I liked playing bass, and thought myself better on it (relative to the market) than on guitar. Also, I simply had always been fascinated by bass lines. In my early teens, I often found myself playing along with records, playing bass lines on my regular electric guitar. I couldn't yet afford both, especially since a bass amp would also be required.

Eventually I bought what I think now was a Fender Jazz Bass knock-off. I was now in college, though the other three were still in high school, but looking back, we were really a good band, and I came away from it feeling that my future lay with bass guitar.

But through the years, I learned a couple of hard truths. First, I often found that I'd be in situations where I was needed as a guitarist, not as a bassist. I also learned that I truly hated playing bass in a band in which I was a better guitarist than the lead guitarist. As a result, I found myself vacillating back and forth. With the departure of Larry Carver from Void, Eric (Void's de facto leader) and I decided that I would become the new lead guitarist.

But Void was not particularly successful back then, as we went through several bass players (not to mention drummers!) while attempting to secure elusive gigs. Is at the same time, I found "work" as a bass player in other groups, two of which featured guitarists far better than I.

I eventually left all my musical collaborations in a disastrous attempt at going solo. This was several years ago and marked the end of my last regular bass gig. I returned to Void as their lead player until three years ago, when I decided that I was simply tired of schlepping gear all over the place once a week or so, and disrupting my sleep habits beyond repair.

But I left on good terms. I stayed on until a new guitarist was found (Rob Cunningham, who is outstanding) and let it be known that if they needed someone to "fill in", hey, give me a call. Which they did, once, within a couple of months.

It was about two years ago that Rickenbacker, a top guitar manufacturer, announced that they were issuing a 5-string bass. I'd always wanted one, but they hadn't been making them for ages, and none were to be found. I got one ASAP, but suddenly COVID-19 hit and I could do nothing with it.

That is, until Void's bass player Sean, near the end of our Colorado reunion this July, told me he had to back out of a gig the band had committed to and could I fill in for him. I reminded both he and Eric that I hadn't played bass in public more than 2 or 3 times over the last several years. They expressed full confidence in me.

I went through enough practice to get my bass-playing calluses back, and I had a rehearsal with just Eric, then another with the whole band. The gig went surprisingly well. My bass-playing was

My once and future first instrument?

"dumbed down" but still decent, and I was able to sing most of the harmonies and lead vocals needed. Further, the tone I got from the Rickenbacker was exactly what I'd hoped for, the sound for which I bought it.

Sean had to back out of that gig out of a desire to see his granddaughter. Her mom doesn't want him visiting within 10 days of a gig. It's a COVID thing. And now the holiday season is upon us, and Sean wants to make more visits. In addition, Sean wanted to back out of a mid-November gig at the Presidio Yacht Club in Sausalito. Yeah sure.


Then I was called in to sub Halloween night up in Petaluma. I answered the call. We played well enough that we were asked back for a mid-December gig. I'd be playing that one, too.

So the age-old question comes back. Am I a guitarist or a bass player? Either way, I'm not looking to join a band full time, nor am I looking to make another attempt at going solo. But I somehow keep volunteering to play when asked. Perhaps it's somehow in my blood or DNA or whatever. Like Pavlov's dog I salivate at the sound of a gig, no matter what I'm playing.