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The Story of Buckethead & Shawn Lane

Good evening everybody, in today’s video we’ll take a closer look at the history between guitar hero Buckethead and guitar legend, Shawn Lane.

For those who don’t know, Shawn Lane was a child prodigy already playing lead guitar and classical piano in clubs at the age of 14 in the late 1970’s.

In the early 1980’s bootlegs of Shawn’s playing was distributed among guitar enthusiasts by Mike Varney, the founder of shred guitar music label, Shrapnel records.

(Shawn Lane)
What Mike Varney does is get people on the phone and starts playing them tapes. And he had bootlegs tapes of me, so whenever he talked to Paul Gilbert he’d subject him to these tapes. So they all knew about me.

(Paul Gilbert interview)
Shawn Lane, the most terrifying guy of all time. A lot of the Shawn Lane stuff almost sounds like he’s doing it two-handed, but it’s all done with his left hand. Completely crazy stuff but he’s somehow doing it with one hand.
When I’m up at Mike Varney’s house, he’s got some video tapes of him and he’s doing these old Hendrix songs and stuff and doing them just perfectly.

So, whilst he was teaching a teenage pre-bucket Buckethead, Paul Gilbert gave him a bootleg cassette of Shawn Lane. And just like every other guitarist who’d heard the bootleg at the time, Young Buckethead’s mind was blown.
The bootleg of Shawn Lane and his style of playing would highly influence Buckethead, and is the origins of some of Bucketheads more complex playing, such as the 8 finger tapping technique.

(Shawn Lane)
There was a tape I made a while ago that was influenced by the modern classical composer Conlon Nancarrow. He composes by punching holes in piano rolls. So he sits there for years punching holes in these roll mechanisms. And I liked what he was doing so I tried to copy it on a guitar. Using this editing technique where I would string together things on guitar by playing something, and then editing another thing right behind it, and then another thing, and it just sounded insane.
And Buckethead got a bootleg of that song and had no idea that was a construction from editing, he thought I was really playing it. So he tried to figure out a way it could be done by using two hands on the neck and he got pretty close. And that’s the origin of some of the crazy stuff he does.

Yep, Shawn Lane had composed a song that was physically impossible to play and Buckethead almost did it. What an Alien.
That bootleg song would eventually be reworked and released on Shawn’s album the Tri-Tone Fascination called Kaiser Nancarrow.

Shawn Lane and Buckethead would eventually become friends in the early 1990’s and even shared the stage together on April 30th 1997 in New York City.

On two separate occasions, Shawn Lane and Buckethead had planned on making an album together. The first time in 1993

(Shawn Lane)
We’re trying to do a recording with him and’ll be something really psycho.

The second time in mid-2003 whilst Buckethead was on hiatus from Guns n Roses, along with musician Henry Kaiser. Who famously gave Buckethead his custom GS guitar mentioned in our video ‘Unsolved Buckethead mysteries’.
Unfortunately, the planned album, which no doubt would have been the ultimate guitar albums, never happened.
Because on September 26th 2003, Shawn Lane passed away at the age 0f 40.

Shawn had battled an autoimmune disease he’d had since the age of 12. A disease that caused arthritis, weight gain, weak joints and lung problems.
A few days later Buckethead’s website posted an image of Shawn along with the words
“I feel very lucky for the few moments I got to spend with him and they are very special memories. He was by far the greatest guitar player that ever lived. More importantly, he was a great man.”

Buckethead would further pay tribute to Shawn Lane at a live show in Shawn’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, holding up a sign that read “Long live Shawn Lane, the greatest of all time”.

He’d also mention Shawn in the 2017 Coming Alive podcast interview.

(Buckethead Interview)
He was from outer space. He was probably the most incredible musician I’ve ever seen or heard. It’s beyond what I can understand. I got to hang around with him a few times and he took in so much information, like he could just read many books in a day. And he had a memory here he could remember everything.
He’s an insane inspiration. It’s sad he’s gone but he’s not gone in a lot of way.
I think people like that, their energy is way beyond their physical self. He’ll be around forever, just like Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix, their energy is bigger than their physical.

As you can tell, Shawn Lane was a huge influence on Buckethead aswell as other guitar greats such as Paul Gilbert, Guthrie Govan and more.
Despite spending his life fighting constant pain and illness, Shawn Lane released some of the most beautiful musical compositions ever created.
And, whilst there’s so many words you can call the late Shawn lane, the words inscribed at his final resting place might say it best
Unforgettable. Irreplaceable. Immortal. 


Shawn Lane Top 40 Songs
Buckethead Unmasked - Who is Buckethead.
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