Reverend Shawn Amos
Origin: Los Angeles, California
Share This Artist
The Reverend Shawn Amos has a story to tell and it’s worth listening to get it. It’s how one black man from the suburbs of Los Angeles, came of age and how discovering the blues changed his life.
In his mid-teens, Shawn’s show folk genes took hold. He left the turmoil of home–physically, at least–and headed into the ‘80s landscape, first to NYU film school, then back to LA, bound for any stage that would have him.
Amos started out in a folk-rock mode, but lately he’s been a vessel for the blues. His newest album, The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You, was released in October, 2015. His father, Wally Amos, was a former Hollywood talent agent who had become a celebrity by creating Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies.
His mother, Shirlee Ellis, was a former nightclub singer who performed as Shirl-ee May. She was a great beauty, but she also suffered from schizoaffective disorder.
“My mother committed suicide in 2003,” Amos says. “She was severely mentally ill all of my life–she’d given up her career before I was born–and so I never knew her as the Shirl-ee May of the clubs.”
Amos tried to work his way through the hole his mother left by writing a tribute album to her, Thank You Shirl-ee May, which was released in 2005. Some songs were upbeat; others had agony and a little anger. Critics praised Amos’ maiden effort, but it didn’t sell–which crushed him. After a couple more albums suffered the same fate, he withdrew from performing.
“Being a blues singer means having a journey of pain and loss,” says Shawn Amos. “But the music itself is all about joy, about finding your way out of the darkness.”
The work garnered positive attention, but no income. Eventually, Shawn’s family man responsibilities took hold. He’d inherited from his agent father the skill for helping others hone and present their stories.
In 1995, Amos’ song “Angel in Black” was placed in the Miramax film The Prophecy. While at Rhino Entertainment’s A&R department in 1997, Amos produced the Grammy-nominated historical box set Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words from the Harlem Renaissance.
In 2001, Amos produced Quincy Jones’ career overview Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones. Jones subsequently asked Amos to run his Listen Up Foundation as Executive Director. Amos released the album In Between in 2002. In 2003, he was recruited by Rhino co-founders Richard Foos, Garson Foos and Bob Emmer to oversee the A&R department of their newly formed entertainment company, Shout! Factory.
The Shout! Factory gig connected Shawn with R & B/ gospel legend Solomon Burke. The men developed a deep bond.
Shawn made many mental notes, watching the mountainous man tap into and spread joy through performance. “Solomon quickly became very much a father to me,” Shawn says. “He was a mentor in every sense. To have an artist of that stature give me responsibility over his work was an amazing act of trust. He legitimized me, showed me the value of being an entertainer. To make people smile and boogie is important work. And aside from the music, he was there at some important crossroads of my life.”
Solomon Burke invited Amos’ estranged wife to Burke’s next concert. This selfless act helped bridge the gap in Amos’ troubled marriage and contributed to healing the Amos’s rift. A few years later, Amos was invited by guitarist Jeremy Parzen, an old bandmate, to a show in Italy and performed on stage. It was a blessing and a revelation.
Amos realized it was time to go forth and spread the happiness gospel through the blues standards and interpretations of modern songs for music lovers today. His friend nicknamed him “Reverend” at the show. For the Reverend Shawn Amos it was his moment of induction into the priesthood of good cheer through music.
Since that time, the Reverend Amos has recorded two albums, The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It (2014) and The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You (2015). A forthcoming album is in the works set for release soon.
You can hear what the Reverend Shawn Amos new song, “2017” sounds like when K-ZAP 93.3 FM spins this song and online at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/. In the meantime, enjoy the video below, “Ain’t Gonna Name Names” from his 2015 album, “The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You.”
In Between (2002)
Thank You Shirlee May (2005)
The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It (2014)
The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You (2015)