Rob Shanahan is one of the world’s most published photographers in the music industry. His first book, Volume 1: Through the Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan, is a collection of rare and many never-before-seen photographs of the world’s biggest music icons. With the foreword penned by Ringo Starr, it was released in 2012 to rave reviews.
Shanahan also got himself into the niche market of taking photographs of musicians for musical instrument makers, including Paiste cymbals and drum manufacturers Yamaha and Drum Workshop.
Rob Shanahan’s story starts with a story
Shanahan drove to Los Angeles in 1988 to to explore his future through either drumming or photography — or both. He had a tough time finding work, but he eventually connected with Paul Spinelli, head of NFL Photos, who brought him into sports photography, taking pictures at NFL football games. This led to Shanahan meeting Rich Pilling, head of MLB Photos, and signing a contract to shoot major league baseball games on the West Coast.
Shanahan met drummer Scott Crago who played in a few bands including the Eagles and Venice, and worked as a session musician. Crago tapped Shanahan to shoot a promotional portrait of Crago for Paiste cymbals, and soon Paiste was hiring Shanahan directly, to shoot other drummers including Stewart Copeland, Abe Laboriel Jr., Alex Van Halen and Sheila E. In 2003, Shanahan became the photographer for Yamaha’s Musical Instruments division which publishes the in-house All Access magazine. Shanahan shot a photo of Tommy Lee in 2005, with Lee standing behind his drums, between pillars of fire, and Drum Workshop (DW) made a poster of it, which proved popular. In 2011, DW began using him as the photographer for their Edge magazine.
On June 24, 2006, Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band played the Universal Amphitheatre. Sheila E. was in the band, and she invited Shanahan backstage to meet ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Shanahan watched the concert, and, later that night, Shanahan was invited to shoot Starr on June 29, at Humphreys on Shelter Island, San Diego. There, Starr and Shanahan chatted about both being left-handed drummers, and they bonded. Starr took Shanahan on many photo shoots, including a meeting with Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts in 2006, which resulted in Shanahan capturing unusually relaxed and casual photographs. After this, Watts asked Shanahan to bring his camera to A Bigger Bang Tour. Starr pulled Shanahan on a 2008 tour of the UK, pointing out the sights of Liverpool, including his childhood residences, before playing the Liverpool Arena with the All Starr Band. In 2009 at USC’s Galen Center, during an event promoting the video game The Beatles: Rock Band, Shanahan captured an endearing photo of Paul McCartney leaning towards Starr to kiss him, an image that was not actually used by Apple, who was paying for the session. The shot was later used in Shanahan’s book.
Shanahan has been credited with photography on the artwork of many advertising campaigns, concert promotions, and albums, including ones for Starr, Sheila E, Joe Bonamassa, Yes, and ELO. In 2011, Shanahan published his book Volume 1, which contains images of some of the biggest names in music history, including Keith Richards, Elton John, Eddie Van Halen, Motley Crue, Christina Aguilera, Joe Walsh, Sarah McLachlan, Dave Grohl, Barry Manilow, Neil Peart, and many more.
Shanahan the Drummer
Shanahan is a left-handed rock drummer who plays on drum kits which are set up in the usual manner for a right-handed player. In 1994, he joined the Hollywood Stones as their drummer. The group is a Rolling Stones cover band, so Shanahan learned to emulate the style and manner of Charlie Watts.
When Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band stopped in Minnesota on May 10, 2008, to play at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel south of Minneapolis, Shanahan’s friends and family attended the concert. Starr brought Shanahan onstage to play his drum kit for a few songs at the end of the concert while Starr took center stage to sing. Shanahan said this experience, backing Starr on drums, and sharing the stage with bandmembers Billy Squier, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Colin Hay, Hamish Stuart and Gregg Bissonette, “was a dream come true!”