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Dawn Shipley

Dawn Shipley - photography by Tonya Rodriguez
Dawn Shipley – photography by Tonya Rodriguez

Dawn Shipley

A french poet has once said that «the future belongs to women». I guess he was talking about the future of rockabilly?! Without Marti, Josie, Rosie, Cari, Dulcie that music will indisputably be like a body without some fresh and warm blood. Dawn Shipley is one of these rockin’ladies, a pretty texan gal leading a bunch of Californian fine musicians, some «sharp shooters» who turn her first album “Step it up” into a running fire of efficient rockabillies (a second one is comin’ very soon on ElToro Records and from what I’ve heard it will be brilliant too).
But let’s read how a girl can move from Winnie The Pooh to Patsy Cline?!

by Dave “Long Tall” Phisel and Fred “Virgil” Turgis
First published in 2007


The Rockabilly Chronicle So, how long have you been doing music ?
Dawn Shipley I started singing in church choir and playing piano before I can remember–when I was 3 or 4. Music was always a necessity in my life. This is my first band, though, which was started about 4 years ago.Do you still play piano today ?
I wish I did?! It’s difficult to have a piano when renting an apartment.

How did you get started ?
Dawn Shipley My family was always very musical. My grandmother plays piano by ear, so there was always music around, and we were always encouraged to make music. The piano became an outlet for me growing up, and I always enjoyed singing at the top of my lungs, making everyone around me look at me funny.

Do you remember the first record you bought and/or the one that made you think « Woahhh, that’s what I want to do ! «
Dawn Shipley Oh, I had tons of records when I was little?! I think I got my first little white and blue Fisher-Price record player for my 6th birthday. I had all kinds of records like the Grease soundtrack, My Sharona, Hey Mickey, etc, etc, along with all kinds of children’s records–Winnie the Pooh and so on. I was always playing (and scratching) them and singing along at the top of my lungs. And I always wanted to sing, but it wasn’t until I really listened to Patsy Cline in my early twenties that I knew exactly what I wanted to sing.

Its a long way from Winnie the Pooh to Patsy Cline. How did you discover her music ?
Dawn Shipley My mom listened to classic country (as well as many other things) when I was young, so it was part of my background. But I didn’t REALLY take notice of her until the mid-90’s when I was getting over my strictly new wave phase.

More generally, how did you become interested in rockabilly and all that rockin stuff ?
Dawn Shipley It was at the same time as I fell in love with Patsy’s style and strong voice. I kind of got bored with the new wave and was seeking something new and wanting to broaden my horizons. I started to go see some live bands (in Austin, TX–that’s where I lived at the time) that played a variety of early forms of music, and met people at those shows who got me into hillbilly, early country, swing and rockabilly stuff. Once I first was exposed to the stuff, I couldn’t get enough!

What are your influences as a singer and a songwriter ?
Dawn Shipley Patsy Cline has got to be the biggest influence on me. But there are so many others that have also influenced me–Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin, Goldie Hill, Charline Arthur, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzel, Carl Perkins, and the list can go on and on…

On your website, to the classic “desert island record” question, you answer Patsy Cline, Marti Brom and more surprising any Clash . Do you have a punk background ?
Dawn Shipley Ha ha… That’s more from my new wave days. I do love what little Clash I have, but I probably wouldn’t include them if I had to answer the question again. There’s too much wonderful music out there (all types) that I don’t know what I’d choose! Hopefully I’ll never get stranded on a desert island?!

What about your band, where do they come from, were they in other bands before ?
Dawn Shipley Joel Morin, my guitar player, is from Michigan, and has played with Pep Torres, 3-Day Monks, Rebel Train, Original Sinners, just to name a few. Tony Macias, my bass player, is from Los Angeles, and has played with Pep Torres, Annette Valdes and more, and is currently also playing with The Rocketz. Tony DeHerrera, my drummer, grew up in the LA area as well (though was born in Tacoma Washington), and was in a punk band that I don’t know the name of back in his high school days. Currently he plays with the Vaquetones as well.

Do you remember the first show you played ?
Dawn Shipley Yes, our first show was in September of 2001 at Crazy Jacks which was in
Burbank, CA (part of LA for all intensive purposes). We opened for the Paladins

Dawn Shipley - photo © Tonya Rodriguez
Dawn Shipley – photo © Tonya Rodriguez

Does it change something being a woman on the rockabilly scene, is it harder ?
Dawn Shipley People have asked me questions like this throughout my life. I’m also a software developer, something else that is less common for women to do. I guess in someways, in every aspect of life being a woman makes things different. Sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder. I think all in all, I’ve been lucky being a woman in the rockabilly scene, and for the most part, it’s been easier for me, though, of course, it’s always a challenge and a lot of hard work.

About your album, was it your first experience in the studio. Did you release anything before that ?
Dawn Shipley Yes, the debut album, Step It Up, was my first studio experience, and our first release.

Was it done live in the studio ?
Dawn Shipley Yes, for the most part it was done live in the studio. I lost my voice while recording and had to go back a couple weeks later to do the vocals for one song, but all the rest was done live.

What is the most memorable gigs you played and/or went to ?
Dawn Shipley We’ve had so many memorable gigs, it’s hard to pinpoint a few. It’s always a pleasure to get together with the Honeybees from Chicago and the Casey Sisters from Austin, TX to do our She Demons tours. We’ve only done one tour so far, but hope to get together again soon. We also have had especially good times playing the Rockabilly Ball in Seattle, Washington the last 2 years, and Viva Las Vegas 7.

What can you tell about the new album ?
Dawn Shipley The new album is almost done! We are currently mixing. There are 9 of my originals,1 instrumental (Joel gets credit for this one), a few covers, and maybe a bonus track. The cd is named «Baby If I…» and includes a wide range of songs, including a couple frantic rock ‘n roll tunes, a kind of jazzy number called «Crazy For Your Love,» some honky tonk tunes and more.

Will you have guests ?
Dawn Shipley There are no guests this time, just me and the ‘Shooters. It’ll be out on El Toro sometime soon–Winter, hopefully. You’ll just have to wait and find out on the rest of the details on your own, but I must say, I’m very excited about it?! I think we’ve grown tremendously since «Step It Up» and it shows.

A last word ?
Dawn Shipley I’d just like to say thanks, for doing the interview, and thanks to all the fans out there. I’m blessed to have all the support from everyone that allows me to continue doing what I love. It’s really what keeps us going?! And we hope to see you out there in France one of these days?!
Alright, enjoy, and take care?!

Dawn's albums are reviewed here.

Dawn Shipley & the Sharpshooters

Dawn Shipley & the Sharpshooters - Shoulda Known Better
Dawn Shipley & the Sharpshooters – Shoulda Known Better

Dawn Shipley & the Sharpshooters – Shoulda Known Better

Shot O Clock Records SOC-CD-003 [2015]
Mad About You – Don`t Want Your Lies – Shoulda Known Better –  Blood Suckin` Poppa –  Voodoo You –  That`s The Way I Feel –  Impossible – All I Can Do –  Little Too Late –  Your Only Gal – Forever Or Goodbye

After a vinyl single and a download only song, Dawn Shipley returns this time with a brand new lp recorded by Shorty Poole (of Dave and Deke Combo fame) with some of the finest musicians on the scene like Kevin Stewart (Big Sandy) and Carl Sonny Leyland.
With 10 originals and one cover (jimmy Pritchett’s That’s the Way I Feel), it’s a good and varied album with swingin’ stuff (Your Only Gal), Rock’n’roll, boogie and of course plenty of rockabilly.  Keeping it short is also a good point, it contains no filler and avoids the repetition. The best song is, for me, the hard to classify Voodoo You, that mixes gypsy acoustic guitar, piano, haunting mood and superb vocal.  Forget what I said about short album, she could (should!) have done 10 more songs like this one.
What I really like with Dawn Shipley is that she never tries to sound or to be what she’s not. How many female singers try to sound wild or to be the new Wanda Jackson with mannerisms that sounds totally artificial as if they learned it in a book called “Rockabilly for dummies”. Shipley sings with her own voice and heart and that’s why her albums are always enjoyable.

Buy it at

Dawn Shipley & the Sharpshooters – Mad About You b/w Sugar Mama.

Dawn Shipley is back! At last! Her latest record was Baby If I and  dates from 2006. One can say that this lady knows how to create the desire. Was it worth the wait? You bet!
The first part of her recording offensive comes in the form of a superb 45 rpm on red vinyl (downloads available too for you crazy nerds) recorded at Pot O’Gold Recording Studios in Orange County, CA. It features two self-penned songs: Mad About You b/w Sugar Mama.
A side is a rockaballad with a slight 60’s feel and a bit of Buddy Holly into it. The song is very well built with a nice latin variation in the chorus and a short but great guitar solo by Jose “Watts” Rodriguez (also worth mentioning are Tony “T-Mac” Macias on upright bass and Aaron Martinez on drums). It’s backed with Sugar Mama a fine rockabilly/rural bop with a Sun feel. Attention folks it’s a limited edition.
Then you have “Little Too Late” which is available only in mp3 format. This one is more rockin’, with a more agressive guitar, also played by Jose Rodriguez but this time backed by Jordi Hereu on bass and Jeff “Hobo” Gerow on drums.
Both are available at cdbaby but don’t forget to pay a visit to her homepage.
One can only hope that her next move will be the release of a long play (but if she comes with a 10″ mini album, I won’t complain!).

Dawn Shipley - Baby If I
Dawn Shipley – Baby If I

Dawn Shipley & the Sharpshooters – Baby If I…

El Toro Records
Bear With Me Baby – Sealed With A Kiss – Baby If I… -. Empty Stretch Of Highway – Make Believe – I’m Gonna Set My Foot Down – Anyone But You – Crazy Dreams – Sharp Shootin’ – Goin’ Crazy – One Cup Of Coffee – My Rockin’ Baby – Full Moon Keeps On Shining – You’re The Only One – Empty Stretch Of Highway Version 2
You’ll find a wide variety of genres on Dawn Shipley’s second album. The opening track “Bear With Me Baby” is a solid rocking song with an early 60’s beat. Of course, there’s a majority of Rockabilles like “Anyone But You” (nice guitar work with some Scotty Moore echoes in it), the frantic rhythm of “Baby If I”, the cover of Glen Glenn’s “One Cup Of Coffee” and on the rural edge “full Moon Keeps On Shining”. “Empty Stretch Of Highway” a haunting country song with echo on the guitar has some more modern vibes in it. It’s probably one of the best cut of the album and I suppose I’m not the only one to think that because you find an alternate take more acoustic and slower that ends the album. On the “traditional” country side “Make Believe” is a true and classic Honky Tonk with good steel throughout and Patsy Cline’s Crazy Dream is slightly played faster than the original, but is still a great country weeper. Warm voice, slight rhythm and jazz chords on the guitar are on the menu of “Goin’ Crazy” a love song a la “Fever”. “Sharp Shootin’” a fine hillbilly instrumental is another occasion for guitarist Joel Morin to shine on picking guitar and on steel. The rest of the band has to be credited too for their solid work on the album : Tony Macias on bass and Tony DeHerrera on drums. Good job.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis