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William "Billy" Sheehan (born March 19, 1953),[1] is an American bassist known for his work with Talas, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Niacin, and The Winery Dogs. Sheehan has won the "Best Rock Bass Player" readers' poll from Guitar Player magazine five times for his "lead bass" playing style.[2] Sheehan's repertoire includes the use of chording, two-handed tapping, right-hand "three-finger picking" technique and controlled feedback.

Billy Sheehan
Mr. Big - Wacken Open Air 2018 07.jpg
Sheehan at Wacken Open Air 2018
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Sheehan
Born (1953-03-19) March 19, 1953 (age 65) [1]
Buffalo, New York, United States
GenresHard rock, heavy metal, progressive metal, instrumental rock, progressive rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsBass guitar, guitar, vocals
Years active1970–present
Associated actsUFO, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Richie Kotzen, Marty Friedman, Tim "Ripper" Owens, Talas, B'z, Steve Vai, G3, Niacin, Glenn Tipton, The Winery Dogs, Gus G, Philip Anselmo, Kerry King, Dave Lombardo, Scott Ian, Frank Bello, Gary Holt, Charlie Benante, Sons of Apollo



Early yearsEdit

Billy Sheehan's first electric bass was a Hagström FB[lw 1], which was soon joined by a Precision bass similar to Tim Bogert's. After acquiring the Precision bass, he removed the frets from the Hagström.[lw 2] Over the years, he heavily modified the Precision bass as well, scalloping the five highest frets, adding a neck pickup and additional support for the bolt-on neck, which Sheehan considers its greatest weakness. The neck pickup was added for what Sheehan referred to as "super deep low end" modelled after Paul Samwell-Smith of the Yardbirds and Mel Schacher of Grand Funk Railroad. The Gibson EB-0 type pickup in the neck and the original split Precision bass pickup each have their own separate output jacks on the bass itself, allowing for control of the tone via the bass. The Precision bass has since been retired, but Sheehan still affectionately refers to it as "The Wife".[4] Sheehan's signature Yamaha Attitude bass is patterned after this instrument. Sheehan also uses two amps to achieve his signature tone, one with full distortion and high pass filtering to sound more guitar-like, and one super-clean for the low end of the neck pickup.


Sheehan's first full-time band was Talas, a power trio with Dave Constantino on guitar and Paul Varga on drums. The band played a mixture of cover songs and original material, and all three instrumentalists alternated on lead vocals.

Talas was a popular local band in Buffalo for over a decade, attaining a cult status which spread into the northeast US and into Canada. In 1978, Talas released their eponymous debut album, which generated the regional hit single, "See Saw". It was during this time that Sheehan wrote "Shy Boy" (later re-recorded with David Lee Roth), and "Addicted to that Rush" (later re-recorded with Mr Big).

Sheehan in a concert with Steve Vai, 2005

In the late 1970s, Sheehan also played in a band called Light Years with drummer Ron Rocco who had earlier played in a band called Black Sheep with Foreigner singer Lou Gramm in Rochester, NY. After Sheehan returned to Talas they opened a show for UFO in Buffalo. This led Sheehan to an association with guitarist Michael Schenker and also helped land him the job touring with UFO in 1983.

Talas' first national exposure happened in 1980, when they opened thirty shows for Van Halen. However, success was elusive, and even as their brand of what came to be known as "glam metal" gained popularity over the next few years, Talas remained an unsigned act, partly due to poor management.[lw 3] They independently released their debut eponymous "Talas" LP on Evenfall Records (reissued by Metal Blade) and then "Sink Your Teeth into That" on Relativity Records.

Seeking to take Talas further than just regional success, Sheehan reformed Talas with another drummer (Mark Miller), guitarist (Mitch Perry, also later of Heaven), and a dedicated vocalist, Phil Naro, with whom in the late 1970s Sheehan had previously worked in his side project (the Billy Sheehan Band). Talas would release only one more album, Live Speed on Ice. After Mitch Perry left the band, he was replaced by Johnny Angel, who played guitar with them for their 1985/86 US tour opening for Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force. There was a fourth Talas record, tentatively titled "Lights, Camera, Action" to be issued on Gold Mountain/A&M, but it never got past the demo stage due to Sheehan leaving to join David Lee Roth's solo band. Talas did briefly continue on under Phil Naro sans Sheehan, enlisting Jimmy Degrasso on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitar, Bruno Ravel on bass and Gary Bivona on keyboards but by this time Talas was dead and Ravel formed Danger Danger. Sheehan also auditioned for Toronto based rock band Max Webster, Sheehan being a long time friend of Max Webster singer guitarist Kim Mitchell who fronted Max Webster from 1973- 1981

In the early 1980s, Sheehan became involved with the proto-thrash metal band Thrasher, during this time he shared the stage with future Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz. His involvement with Thrasher did not last long but he did play on 2 songs from the self-titled LP, which has not been released on CD to date. EDIT: The Thrasher cd that Billy appeared on was released on cd in 2008, per this link at Discogs

David Lee Roth bandEdit

Sheehan performing with Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian and Tony MacAlpine at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands (October 21, 2012)

See David Lee Roth.

Mr. BigEdit

See Mr. Big.


In January 2009 Billy Sheehan reunited with his old Mr Big band members: Eric Martin, Paul Gilbert and Pat Torpey for a reunion tour in Japan. In April 2009 Sheehan's third solo album, Holy Cow!, produced by Simone Sello, was released by Mascot Records. The album features guest appearances from Paul Gilbert, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and King's X bassist Doug Pinnick. Gilbert has stated in an interview that his amicable collaboration with Sheehan on Holy Cow!, recorded prior to January, was likely a factor in the decision to reunite Mr Big.[5] Mr. Big is still together- their reunion album What If... produced by Kevin Shirley[6] was released December 15, 2010 in Japan, and January 21, 2011 in Europe. It was released February 8, 2011 in the U.S. A follow-up album, "...The Stories We Could Tell", was released in September 2014.

Sheehan reunited with his fellow Talas bandmates for a reunion concert at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, New York on July 28, 2012.[7]

Sheehan toured with PSMS (Portnoy/Sheehan/MacAlpine/Sherinian), an instrumental supergroup, in the second half of 2012.[8][9][10]

Sheehan, along with Portnoy and Richie Kotzen, recorded the debut album for their new band The Winery Dogs in August 2012. The self-titled album was released on May 5, 2013 in Japan, and July 23, 2013 worldwide.[11][12][13] Their second album Hot Streak (album) was released in 2015.[14]

In August 2017, he joined another band with Portnoy, a progressive metal supergroup named Sons of Apollo and also featuring keyboardist Derek Sherinian, vocalist Jeff Scott Soto and guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Sheehan has been an active member of the Church of Scientology since 1971.[16]

Partial discographyEdit

Billy Sheehan, playing with The Winery Dogs at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands (2013/09/06)

With TalasEdit

With ThrasherEdit

Daniel PiquêEdit

Tony MacAlpineEdit


David Lee RothEdit

Greg HoweEdit

Mr. BigEdit


With Explorer's ClubEdit


Terry Bozzio and Billy SheehanEdit

Richie KotzenEdit

The Winery DogsEdit

With Michael KocábEdit

  • 2014: Aftershocks

With Sons of ApolloEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "...your 00:31 first electric bass was a Hagstrom FB 00:33 true true"[3]
  2. ^ "...after acquiring your first 00:57 fender precision bass you removed the 00:59 frets from the Hagstrom. I did."[3]
  3. ^ "02:04 [...] I'm sure was a contributing 02:06 factor [...] but [our manager] it wasn't 02:08 horrible"[3]


  1. ^ a b ""Billy Sheehan - Biography & History - AllMusic"". Archived from the original on 2018-03-27. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Sheehan's Bio on his Official Site". Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  3. ^ a b c Graham 'Gruhamed' Hartmann (Interviewer), Billy Sheehan (Interviewee) (14 Oct 2015). Billy Sheehan - Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction? - YouTube (Video). Youtube: Loudwire. See notes, group "lw", for auto-generated transcripts and time. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Gear article". Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  5. ^ "Paul Gilbert: 'People Really Didn't Think That You Could Be A Musician'". Archived from the original on September 23, 2011. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  6. ^ "MR. BIG Begins Recording New Album". Retrieved 2011-08-09.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Gallivan, Seamus (July 29, 2012). Reunited Talas, The Road push it into stratosphere in double bill. The Buffalo News. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
  8. ^ Prokofiev, Dane (October 6, 2012). An Interview with Tony MacAlpine (6th October, 2012)" on YouTube. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  9. ^ "Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine, Sherinian To Tour Europe and Asia, Fall 2012". 2012-07-27. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  10. ^ Cavuoto, Rob (December 2013). "Tony MacAlpine Interview: New DVD Release Live In Tokyo" Archived March 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.. Guitar International. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  11. ^ Portnoy, Mike. "MP Studio Diary for Portnoy/Sheehan/Kotzen sessions – Day 1". Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  12. ^ Portnoy, Mike. "MP Studio Diary for Portnoy/Sheehan/Koten sessions – Day 14". Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  13. ^ "THE WINERY DOGS: Official Logo, Band Photo Unveiled". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  14. ^ "Hot Streak - The Winery Dogs | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  15. ^ Munro, Scott (1 August 2017). "Supergroup Sons Of Apollo announce debut album". Future Publishing. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  16. ^ "~The Complete Package~". Global Bass online. Retrieved 2008-02-28.

External linksEdit