William Mitchell Shannon was born in Kentucky and he can surely be called a chip off the old block as he became both a bass singer and trumpeter, like his father before him. He was primarily a performer of gospel music and also spent most of his life in pursuit of music as pure pleasure or a social contribution, disdainful of both the professional music world and the recording process. Bill Shannon did cut some records, nonetheless, and they were pretty important ones. He got in on the tail end of the influential recording career of Frank Welling, a versatile early country recording artist whose order of three-way musical chili combined country, gospel, and protest songs from the labor moment. The recordings and broadcasts of Welling in the '20s and '30s were embraced by a large listening public and strongly influenced the next generation of country performers such as Red Sovine andRoy Acuff, both of whose music was drenched with the sheer sentimentality of the rural gospel sound. When Welling lost a longtime collaborative partner, John McGhee, he went looking for another bass singer and found Shannon, whose name was sometimes mangled into "Schannen" on the labels of crusty old 78s. Shannon's father was not the only musical talent in the family, his mother played organ and also sang. When the young Shannon began singing in a barbershop quartet, it was only appropriate, as his father earned a living as a barber and there were plenty of singing practices held in the shop, the participants tromping on piles of snipped hair. Shannon recorded a selection of pure gospel numbers, including "I'm a Child of the King," "Brighten the Corner Where You Are," and "S.O.S. Vestris." Following this recording experience, Shannon moved to Ohio where he earned a living as a painter, despite the efforts of several businessmen to sponsor him as a barbershop quartet singer. He continued to sing basically only for his own pleasure after this, donating his services from time to time. He collapsed and died on-stage singing at just such an event, an Elks' charity minstrel show in the early '60s.
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