Billy Sheehan coming home to Buffalo with Mr. Big

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — To just say Billy Sheehan made it big would not be enough.

From humble Buffalo roots cutting his teeth with local legends Talas, to touring with David Lee Roth, to becoming a worldwide star in his own right, the Western New York native’s impact and influence on music match his top-tier virtuosity as a bassist.

With a roster of colleagues that would make any musician jealous, Sheehan is getting ready to bring one of his most successful bands, Mr. Big, back to Buffalo next month.

In fact, Buffalo will be Mr. Big’s last stop in the U.S. before they head overseas for the rest of The BIG Finish Tour.

And then, that’ll be it. Sheehan says he’d rather go out on a high note than go on too long.

“Rather than limping over the finish line, we’d like to run across it,” Sheehan said.

Mr. Big came to fruition in the late 80s, scoring their biggest hit, “To Be With You,” on their sophomore album “Lean Into It” — a record they’ll be playing from front to back when they take the stage at Buffalo’s Electric City on June 6.

More than three decades later, Mr. Big is touring with three of its four original members after drummer Pat Torpey’s death in 2018.

Best of Jacquie Walker: Remembering her 40 incredible years at News 4

“Mr. Big was, kind of, my band,” Sheehan said. “When I put it together though, I wanted it to be equal partners. I was lucky to find three guys that were just really great.”

AGOURA HILLS, CA – MAY 23: Musician Billy Sheehan of the rock supergroup Mr. Big perform onstage at The Canyon Club on May 23, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

But before Mr. Big, Sheehan’s name was well-established here in his hometown. Playing as part of Talas, Sheehan built up the musical muscles that eventually got him a call from David Lee Roth as the Van Halen frontman left the band to pursue a solo career.

Joking that he never got to watch “Saturday Night Live”, Sheehan says Talas played around Western New York every week, traversing out of the area at times, too. Barrel Head in West Seneca even had the band secured every seven days for Talas Tuesdays.

Talas’ schedule saw them do 21 shows in a row once, and at least one instance of three shows in a single day. And with this kind of schedule, Sheehan says the band played in every type of condition — something he says served him well as he got more experience under his belt.

“That’s why Buffalo’s such a great town,” Sheehan said. “It was an amazing live music city. We had bands every night of the week. The weekends were just jammed. You could see 10 bands play at any given time back in the day.”

Sheehan stood out. Bass solos might not be the first thing a concertgoer expects at a rock show, but for Sheehan, they helped craft his sound. He kept his solos interesting and tried new ideas, knowing he would have to in order to keep the audience’s attention. Extended solos also gave his bandmates a chance to grab a beer and chat with folks at the gig.

There really wasn’t anywhere in Western New York that Sheehan said he wanted to play but didn’t. His resume includes Kleinhans, Shea’s and the now-demolished Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.

4 takeaways: Bills practice harmony in opening OTAs

His days in Talas earned him a fan and future bandmate in the form of guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert, too. But Mr. Big was yet to be born; Sheehan’s gig with David Lee Roth came first in the summer of 1985.

“It was like getting a Ph.D in show business,” Sheehan said of working with Roth, a man known for his flamboyance in front of the mic. The bassist called it an “incredible experience.”

After that, now bearing an even stronger set of skills, Sheehan formed Mr. Big, which released their first album in 1989, with “Lean Into It” following two years later.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 19: Billy Sheehan of Mr Big performs on stage at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on November 19, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by C Brandon/Redferns)

“We ended up doing a whole tour and then had our hit at the end of that tour. So, we had to go out and tour again,” Sheehan laughed.

The decades that followed saw the bassist team up with other standout musicians like Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, forming the groups Sons of Apollo and The Winery Dogs.

Sheehan handles it all well, noting that he’s “pretty much all business when it comes down to doing a show,” while still having fun and enjoying the time with his bandmates.

Hamburg, West Seneca teachers to be laid off after school budgets pass

At age 71, he continues to love what he does, embracing live music’s sense of unity among fans and the connection he builds with the audience during shows.

“There’s something about live people in a hot, sweaty room playing music and everybody singing along that’s pretty hard to duplicate with technology, I believe,” he said.

When Sheehan comes home with Mr. Big on June 6, he says he plans to “do the best possible show that I have in me for my friends in Buffalo.”

“The urgency to play a great show live still lives on within the bands in Buffalo today, and I’m very, very happy to see that,” he said.

Sheehan will be back in Buffalo with another group of local legends for a Christmas show this December, but to see him first with Mr. Big at Electric City, tickets can be purchased here.

Latest Local News

1 killed, 1 injured in shooting on Buffalo’s East Side

Billy Sheehan coming home to Buffalo with Mr. Big

2 plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter for fatal crash

Driver indicted for causing crash that killed 2

UB student arraigned for threatening social media post

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *