Gary Shea: The Connecticut Native Who Went On To Rock Stardom
It's rare enough to find out someone from your home state made it big but when it turns out he's from your home town? Now that is worth talking about.
His name is Gary Shea. You may have seen Gary strumming and plucking away on his bass strings on MTV back in the day or maybe even on stage at some point over the last 40-or-so years. Shea was a member of the band New England who found themselves on the top 40 charts with the single "Don't Wanna Lose Ya" in the summer of 1979.
As a fan of KISS I regularly watch and listen to a podcast called "Three Sides Of The Coin" . Back in 2015 an episode featuring a member of a band called New England ran. The reason for Shea's appearance was due to his connections with KISS. Just over 15 minutes or so into the interview Shea mentioned he was originally from Connecticut. That got my attention for sure. I wondered where in Connecticut he was from and how close it is to where I'm from. I found Shea's official website, looked up his bio page and much to my surprise it turned out Gary Shea is from my hometown of Southington, CT.
Growing up in Southington Connecticut he switched from the guitar to the bass at the age of 15. "I realized that the bass was the thunder behind the music and what you shake your body to. From that time on I fell in love with the low end and set out to shake everywhere I played".
After graduating from Southington High School Shea soon after left town to follow his dream of being a professional musician and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. That was followed by a stint in London where he formed a band called TALK. After TALK ended Shea returned to Boston and that's where he, along with bandmates John Fannon (guitar), Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), and Hirsh Gardner (drums), formed a new band in the late 70s. They soon gained a following and found themselves at the center of a bidding war among record labels like Arista, Chrysalis, Infinity/MCA and Epic. The band, now called New England (to capitalize on the current success of Boston bands like Aerosmith and Boston), ultimately decided to sign with KISS manager Bill Aucoin which led to their connection to Paul Stanley of KISS.
Stanley ended up producing New England's 1979 debut album along with Mike Stone (Queen, Blue Öyster Cult, Foreigner, Journey, KISS, Asia, Lou Reed, Whitesnake, Joe Walsh and others). New England found themselves off to a hot start in the summer of '79 as their single "Don't Wanna Lose Ya" was picked up by radio stations around the country while the video was picking up some serious steam as well. Paul Stanley even contributed backing vocals on the hit single and New England was picked as the supporting act on KISS's 1979 tour which included a few appearances at the legendary Madison Square garden. Not bad.
NEW ENGLAND: "DON'T WANNA LOSE YA"
New England's run didn't last long, however. The band eventually broke up after recording 3 albums and touring North America for four years. New England reorganized after the departure of John Fannon and replaced him with a guitarist by the name of Vinnie Cusano (from Bridgeport, CT by the way). The band moved to Los Angeles and began rehearsing and recording under a new name Warrior. It turned out, however, that Vinnie was also co-writing with a band at the time called KISS and was asked to join. Vinnie Cusano would soon after become Vinnie Vincent, the newest guitarist in KISS after the departure of Ace Frehley.
After Warrior ended Shea went on to form the band Alcatrazz who featured a couple of big named guitarists during their run - Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. It was another successful run for Shea as Alcatrazz went on to earn gold records and become internationally known thanks to songs like "Island In The Sun" and "God Blessed Video".
ALCATRAZZ: "GOD BLESSED VIDEO"
Fast forward to the present and we find Shea is currently living in Florida. He is still playing live and recording with both New England and Alcatrazz while working on other various projects. You can check out his Facebook page HERE. Having sampled songs from his days with New England and Alcatrazz I'd definitely be up to checking out a show if he and his bands come to a venue near me. Who knows? Maybe I'll even run into Gary on the streets of Southington some day. It's a small world folks.