Shannon playing authentic blues at Tugboat

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— In the summer of 1996, Mem Shannon decided his cab-driving career wasn't as stimulating as his passion for native New Orleans rhythm and blues.

"I've been attempting to play music since I was 9 years old," Shannon said.

After a stint with a clarinet, Shannon decided the guitar was where his talent resounded.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Shannon played funky solo tunes through the streets of the French Quarter while his cab meter was awaiting his return. His musical hobby grew as did his reputation and network of people in the Crescent City.

"I just stumbled on a record deal. A friend had a studio with no money and I had music with no money," Shannon said. "We said we'd go together and try to do a recording."

The friend who owned the studio knew someone at Hannibal Records and the rest, they say, is history.

Shannon said the album had a slow takeoff because the competition in New Orleans is just as savage as it is in other parts of the world.

"People pick off some of the vibe in New Orleans that makes it even more competitive," Shannon said of the emigration of people to New Orleans.

On a three-week Midwest tour, Mem Shannon and The Membership have headed west to Colorado for a show at the Tugboat Bar and Grill in Ski Time Square.

Shannon said a continuously revolving band lineup is typical for the music business, but he's happy with the guys that back him up today. The Membership includes Robert Dabon on keyboard, Julian Garcia on drums and Andy Villafarra on bass; Shannon is on guitar and vocals.

"That happens. You'll find people that don't always want to go where you do," Shannon said.

"They bring their own thing. Never expect two musicians to be alike."

Shannon said he'll deal with the trials and tribulations of traveling to various venues around the country because just being on stage is payment enough.

"You pay me for getting there, not performing," Shannon said.

Shannon recently paired with the Memphis Horns, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, to put out his May release "Memphis in the Morning."

Shannon also has shared the stage with Karl Denson, Galactic, Robert Cray and Walter "Wolfman" Washington.

Playing music festivals, bar and clubs all over the country, Shannon also has played for radio and syndicated shows and television.

Shannon's other groove-heavy blues albums include his debut, "A Cab Driver's Blues," "2nd Blues Album" and "Spend Some Time With Me."

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