Although he’s often closely associated with the Lone Star State since originally taking up residence in Dallas, Texas in the early ‘90s, vocalist/guitarist Shawn Pittman is actually an Oklahoma native. Pittman was born in the small town of Talihina at the Choctaw Nation Indian Hospital and raised in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. At eight years old he began taking piano lessons under the encouragement of his mother, but later began sneaking into his older brother’s room to play on his drum kit. By the age of fourteen he had switched to guitar and was soon introduced to the mysterious sounds of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters by Bracken Hale, a good friend and member of his middle school football team. Their friendship would prove significant as Hale would later collaborate with Pittman on writing material for several of his albums. A friend he met while playing basketball at the local ‘Y’; Ben Bigby, introduced teenage Pittman to his father Bernard in Little Axe, Oklahoma. Pittman recalls: “Bernard showed me Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, and Albert King. He also told me I need to learn to sing. I took his advice.”
At Seventeen, he moved to Dallas, Texas where he attended the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He later dropped out, but picked up his music education courtesy of his uncle who would take him over to the Schooner’s jam in Dallas. As he became immersed in that scene, the aspiring guitarist crossed paths with a number of local luminaries who became teachers and mentors. Amongst those characters were Brian ‘Hash brown’ Calway, Sam Myers, Mike Morgan, Jim Suhler,Tutu Jones, Paul Size (of the Red Devils), the Moeller Bros., the Bramhall Bros., Pat Boyak, and Holland K. Smith alongside many others. His first album, Blues From Dallas, was recorded in 1996, and later picked up and retooled for his national debut in ’97 as Burnin’ Up on the Cannonball Records label. His second album, Something’s Gotta Give, was produced by Jim Gaines and followed in ’98. Pittman toured with for Susan Tedeschi briefly in ’99, just long enough to make a television appearance with her on the Conan O’Brian Show.
The following year he relocated to Austin and recorded his third album Full Circle, backed by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section Double Trouble. He had a band with former Fabulous Thunderbirds bassist Preston Hubbard called Killer Instinct. “Preston was like a brother to me, I learned a lot from him.” Pittman received tutelage from Clifford Antone as well. “ I was able to learn from even more guitarists in my Austin Days, players like Derek O’brien, Mike Keller, Dave Biller, and Red Volkart. Even a young Gary Clark Jr. would from time to time show up with his parents.” Pittman also got to play with musicians like Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, and Pinetop Perkins. In 2004, a more experimental and adventurous album titled Stay was released. After a much-needed break from the music business, as well as some serious soul-searching from 2005-2008, Pittman returned to performing and made a plan to record one album per year. By mid-2010 he already had five independently released recordings under his belt. This flurry of activity eventually led to a new record contract with Delta Groove, and plans were immediately set in motion to record another album.
Edge Of The World marked Shawn Pittman’s tenth release, and contains an inspired program of original material by an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist, recalling all the vintage tones and ambiance of the great blues recordings of the 1950’s and ’60’s. Pittman plays virtually every instrument on the CD, handling vocals and guitar, to bass, drums and piano, on top of doubling as the album’s producer and engineer. Special guest Jonathan Doyle (Mighty Blue Kings, Jimmy Sutton’s Four Charms, White Ghost Shivers) represents the album’s only other personnel by contributing tenor & baritone saxophone on four songs. When asked to comment about the inspiration behind his latest and most ambitious project Pittman simply states “I’m just playing the music I want to hear.”
Tulsa and Back to Dallas
After seven years in Dallas (1993-1999) and fourteen years in Austin (2000-2013), Pittman moved to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma closer to family and took time off to finish a degree in Information Technology. During which time he also released his 11th album ‘Backslidin’ Again’ (2015). In January, 2018 Pittman recorded his 12th album ‘Everybody Wants to Know’ with longtime friend and drummer Jay Moeller, which was released on the European label CrossCut Records in the fall of 2018. In the Spring of 2020, Pittman returned with‘Make It Right’, in partnership with Netherlands-based Continental Record Services (CRS). As he looks past and forward, the guitarist and vocalist shares, “I have had many obstacles on my road just like anybody that has embarked on this lifestyle, some self inflicted, but through my failures I have learned invaluable lessons about life and people, and my strengths as well as my weaknesses. As an artist I feel like I am just beginning. The one constant I have had is the desire to be great at what I do. The late Clifford Antone told me “It’s all about making friends.” I combine that piece of advice with something B.B. King told me when I asked him his secret for longevity: “Treat people how you want to be treated, and remember everybody has a boss.”
Pittman moved back to Dallas in 2021, and as an adaptation to the pandemic, has expanded his repertoire to include acoustic/solo music. His latest release ‘Stompin’ Solo’ is his first all acoustic album on the CRS subsidiary Must Have Music.
-Jeff Scott Fleener