George Shelby Bio
George was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. His Father Louis played Violin, and was always a fan of big bands from the forties. At the age of eight, George took an eight week course on Accordion at the Milton Mann Academy. Afraid that the only available employment would be with Lawrence Welk, and not wanting to spend the $5,000 for the Professional Accordion, George switched to the Alto Sax. Not really into it at the time, practice time was always a struggle between George and his parents. That all changed when George entered middle school. His music teacher was Chalemagne Payne, and he first started George’s passion for music. He would also scare George into practicing during the summer by suggesting that a new hot sax player would be coming to the school the next year.
During High School, George was living in the San Fernando Valley, which was home to many of the great musicians in the Los Angeles area. George studied with Claude Lakey, Ernie Watts, Bill Greene, and Peter Christlieb for Saxophone development. He also studied with Charlie Shoemake, Jon Nagourney, and Gary Pratt for Jazz. At nights, George would head out to hear the likes of Tom Scott, Super Sax, or see the great big bands of Buddy Rich, Count Basie, and Maynard Ferguson. He competed in many jazz festivals with his high school band, including the Monterey Jazz Festival, and performed at the Battle of the Bands at the Hollywood Bowl. As his passion and dedication for music continued to grow, George decided to attend California State University, Northridge. He continued to study with Ladd McIntosh, who is now one of the foremost arrangers in film music. George had always been a be-bop player, studying Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderly, amongst many others. But walking down the hall one day, George heard a recording of David Sanborn. While he would always continue to play and study Traditional jazz, after hearing Sanborn, George felt the need to find a more emotional, soulful style to his playing.
Playing in local “casual” bands for weddings was a good source of networking for George. He continued to study, and attend any and all jam sessions. As his reputation began to grow, George got his first break recording with Phil Cacayoran at Capitol Records. While always enjoying a live performance, George started to work on the time and intonation perfection that’s expected in the studios. George moved to Hollywood, because usually the first guy that could get to the studio would get the session.
Now George gets called specifically because the producer and/or artist is looking for his trademark soulful sound. His playing can be heard live with Phil Collins, on his feature commercial for Entertainment Tonight. On Dancing With The Stars, The Voice, American Idol, (Star Academy in France). America’s Got Talent, Good Morning America. Promos for the ABC network. With Barry Manilow. On the Academy Awards, Judging Amy, Late Night with David Letterman, the Ellen Show, Real Sex, Malcom in the Middle, the Enquirer TV show, Bill Curtis Reports, Maria Shriver presents, Everbody Loves Raymond, and a host of others.
As his recording career has taken off, he has never lost his love of performing live. He has been on stage with Smokey Robinson, Bobby Caldwell, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Hallyday, Johnny Mathis, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Brian Culbertson, Keb' Mo, Boz Scaggs, Jim Brickman, Michael McDonald, Sheena Easton, Melissa Manchester, Larry Carlton, CeCe Winans, Fred Hammond, Daniel Ho, Frankie Avalon, Shirley Bassey, Cybill Sheppard, Ann Jillian, and Brian Setzer. At the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Amiens Festival du Musique in France & the grand hall in Amsterdam, London, Liverpool, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Blue Note Jazz Clubs in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Nagoya Japan. the Joint at the Hardrock Hotel in Las Vegas, the MGM, Caesars Palace, the Venetian, Mandalay Bay, the Idyllwild Jazz Festival, Madison Square Garden, the Anaheim Pond, the Catalina Jazz Festival, the Astrodome in Houston, the grand stadium in Mexico City, the University of Puerto Rico, the House of Blues & many others…
His recording contributions include styles as diverse as Michael McDonald's "Wide Open", Hilary Duff's "Metamorphosis" to Bette Midler's "Peggy Lee Tribute", and Chicago's "Now". Kirk Covington and the Devil Horns, Jacksoul, Lucy Pearl, Barry Manilow’s “Greatest Songs of the Fifties”, The West Side Story Tribute, Garden Party, three CD’s with Mike Sims, five with Russ Miller, four with Wah, three with Brian Setzer, Lifescapes, three of his own. Along with movies like The Longest Ride, Robots, Garfield, the Mask, Zoolah Patrol, the Frank Sinatra Story, Fortune Hunters, and many others.
George’s first recording project at Capitol Records led to an endorsement deal with the Yamaha corporation, which continues to this day. George proudly plays all Yamaha horns, including all his Saxophones, Flutes, and Clarinets, in addition to his WX5 Wind Controller and Vocoder. George has toured the world as a clinician. sharing his experiences and ideas with those looking to a career in music, and the casual player looking for some helpful hints. His documentary on making Saxophone’s at the Yamaha factory continues to be one of the most viewed around the world. As stated in his cover interview from Saxophone Journal, he retains both his love and passion for music, along with an easygoing laidback attitude.
No matter how busy the recording and touring schedule becomes, George continues to focus on his own jazz recordings. Currently working on his next CD, it will continue to encapsulate the many things George has been working on through the years. Playing jazz with heart, chops with soul, and always looking to take the listener on a journey they will enjoy over and over again.