Shelley King: TX Music Royalty

 On tour last year, singing at a seaport near Ground Zero, Shelley King enlisted 8,000 New Yorkers to chant with her a phrase from one of her new songs,”All I Want Is A Brand New Day.”  In the shadows of the skyscrapers, The Texas ‘Ambassador of Song’ carried her message loud and clear…hope springs eternal, and the power of music is universal.

It certainly is a brand new day for Austin’s Shelley King. She was named the Texas State Musician of 2008, the first woman to receive the prestigious honor. It’s no doubt that King reigns high amongst the amazing talent Texas holds.  With songwriting skills and powerhouse vocals that each alone would single her out, she’s a double dose of the real thing. King was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and became a gypsy by default, having been moved twenty-four times between Amarillo, Houston and rural southwest Arkansas before she graduated high school. She found some semblance of stability in her childhood while living with her grandparents in a little A-frame house in the Quachita National Forest. Overlooking the river and mountains there, she found comfort in nature, a place she says she often goes to in her mind when she needs to relax. This inspired poetry writing  -except this poetry evolved quickly into verse/chorus/bridge form, leading her to find her destiny in songwriting. One can hear the reference to this time and influence in her songs, and her lyrics often carry the elements as a backdrop to a positive message….

I knew there’d come a day when all the clouds would go away

the sun would light my way,

and I believed it I knew there’d come a time

when I could find some peace of mind left my cares behind,

and I believed it

The breeze through the trees by my window call my name

so i left with a candle and i followed the flame

and I’m high on a mountain I’m riding free on the wind

and when the sun comes up in the morning, lord

I will drink from the fountain, drink from the fountain once again

—from “High On A Mountain,” Rockin’ The Dancehall 2004, Lemonade Records.

After college at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, TX, she started her first band in Houston in 1989. After making the rounds there in local clubs, King moved to Austin with her guitarist and drummer. She shared a home with her drummer, Perry Drake, whom she married in their backyard where they’ve now been for eleven years.  Over the years, King steadily established herself as a tremendous performer and respected songwriter. After racking up awards from The Austin Music Awards and Humbletime, she became a critic’s favorite. One by one, eveyone fell in love with Shelley King’s music. National and International Artists have covered her songs. Austin legend Toni Price recorded “Call of My Heart” (one of King’s signature songs) and featured it on PBS’ Austin City Limits, and Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood covered “Texas Blue Moon.” She has toured all over the USA, Canada and Europe with plans to tour Austrailia, Japan and China in the near future and is currently recording a new CD set for release later this year.

With so much recognition for her songwriting, the fact that King is an incredible vocalist often goes unmentioned. Melding blues, country, gospel, and twang, she personifies the Texas sound with the dominate factor of SOUL penetrating through every note. No doubt that the gospel days of her youth still influence her today. There’s an uplifting, fun element to her performances as well as a sultry confidence that is just plain good ol’ sass.

In addition to her solo career, King also performs with her female comprades Floramay Holliday, Carolyn Wonderland, Ann Marie Harrop and Lisa Pankratz in a female all-star southern rock lineup named Sis Deville. She has said some of her songs are “meant to be empowering to women in a bad relationship, to give them strength to help them leave, or change where they are mentally and physically, to believe that they deserve to be treated with respect. Women are powerful and I want them to know that. So many women have had their self-esteem taken away. I’m here to give it back!” And the first lady of Texas Music sets a true example of strength as a woman who has succeeded in a male-dominated industry, overcome hardships in her own life and will no doubt teach her son about the qualities of women, life and music.

Audiences are just as taken with her preschooler son, Clark Drake, who has become part of the Shelley King Band performing with his parents on stage and even writing his own songs- No doubt heir to the throne.

~Wade Phillips

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