George Shelby Bio
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My Dad Louis played Violin, and was always a fan of big bands from the forties. At the age of eight, my parents signed me up for 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 $4,000 for the Professional Accordion, my Dad switched me to the Alto Sax. Not really into it at the time, practice time was always a struggle between me and the folks. That all changed when I entered middle school. My music teacher was Chalemagne Payne, and he first started my passion for music. He would also scare me into practicing during the summer by suggesting that a new hot sax player would be coming to the school the next year. I fell for that two summers in a row...
During High School, I was living in the San Fernando Valley, which was home to many of the great musicians in the Los Angeles area. I studied with Claude Lakey, Ernie Watts, Bill Greene, and Peter Christlieb for Saxophone development. I also studied with Charlie Shoemake, Jon Nagourney, and Gary Pratt specifically for Jazz. At nights, I'd head out to hear Tom Scott, Super Sax, or see the great big bands of Buddy Rich, Count Basie, and Maynard Ferguson. I competed in many jazz festivals with my James Monroe high school band, including at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and I performed at the Battle of the Bands at the Hollywood Bowl. As my passion for music continued to grow, I decided to attend California State University, Northridge. I studied and played in the band of Ladd McIntosh, who is now one of the foremost arrangers in film music. I had always been a be-bop player, studying Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Stitt, and many others. But walking down the CSUN music hallway one day, I heard a recording of David Sanborn. While I would always continue to play and study traditional jazz, after hearing Sanborn, I felt the need to find a more emotional, soulful style to my playing. David was saying more with two notes than I could with two choruses.
Playing in local “casual” bands for weddings was a good source of networking. I continued to study, and attended any and all jam sessions. I got my first break recording with Phil Cacayoran at Capitol Records. I always enjoyed a live performance, but I started to also focus on the time and intonation perfection that’s expected in the studios. I moved to Hollywood, because usually the first guy that could get to the studio would get the recording session.
Now I usually get called because the producer and/or artist is looking for my particular sound. You can see videos of me playing live with Phil Collins, on my 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.
Although I've been in studios more, (most recently for The Addams Family film), I love performing live. I've 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 &, well, you know, a bunch of places…
The recording sessions have been pretty diverse as well, from 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 my own. Along with movies like The Longest Ride, Robots, Garfield, the Mask, Zoolah Patrol, the Frank Sinatra Story, Fortune Hunters, and many others.
I purchased my Yamaha Soprano Sax in 1984. That would eventually lead to an endorsement deal with the Yamaha corporation, which continues to this day. I proudly play all Yamaha horns, including all my Saxophones, Flutes, and Clarinets, in addition to my WX5 Wind Controller and Vocoder. You can see more detailed info on all of that on the Gear List page.
I've also toured the world as a clinician, sharing my experiences and ideas with other professionals looking for insights, the semi-pro player looking for some help on getting to the next level, or for the casual beginner. The documentary I hosted on making Saxophone’s at the Yamaha factory continues to be one of the most viewed around the world,(It's really old and dated now, good for a laugh). I did an interview with Saxophone Journal, they said I retain both my love and passion for music, along with an easygoing laid back attitude. So, there.
I continue to work on my own recordings, with a new album coming soon,(what are they called nowadays? Albums? CD's, Projects? Group of Songs?). I'm always trying for my music to be honest, chops with soul, and always looking to take the listener on a journey they will enjoy over and over again.
Did you really read this whole thing? Hey, thanks!! :-)