RIP: Shasta Bates, singer-songwriter

Shasta Bates

Sometimes, certain events seem to set you back, providing an unintended pause as you stop to reassess things before proceeding forward with your original plans

A death of a friend can certainly throw a monkey wrench into the grand scheme of things.

Such is the case over at this website home of the LOUIE documentary project, as it took me a few days to meditate on the loss of a friend before returning to the task of editing video and writing for this blog.

My friend Shasta Bates died of a heart attack at the age of 63 years old in Nashville, Tennessee.

Shasta never had a real connection to the song LOUIE LOUIE, but he was a supporter of the LOUIE project, and made a real difference in helping me with my goal of producing this ambitious film of mine.

I don’t remember exactly how long I’ve known Shasta, but it had to be at least 25 years. Shasta was a singer-songwriter that was the biggest Bob Dylan fan I’ve ever known. It seemed like Shasta owned every single recording of Dylan – legitimate or otherwise. Whenever there was a Dylan tour, it was a sure bet that Shasta would buy tickets for every local Dylan show, and probably a few outside of the area as well.

Shasta was the first person to tell me about Bob Dylan’s unofficial recording of LOUIE LOUIE, sharing a multi-generation VHS dub of Bob performing the song with Tom Petty at the Farm Aid rehearsal shows over fifteen years ago. Shasta was also quick to alert me to the 1990 “Under Red Sky” album that he believed had some specific musical references to the iconic Richard Berry song.

I had a lot of great times with my friend Shasta, including a big party at his itty-bitty little cabin in Mountain View to celebrate the special pay-per-view broadcast of the Dylan- 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in New York. I never saw so many people crammed in that little house of his, and a wonderful time was enjoyed by all!

One of the proudest moments I ever had with Shasta was the time I saw him perform on the main stage at the San Jose Tapestry ‘n’ Talent Festival. Shasta had just released his new album entitled “Modern Fixations,” and it was such a thrill to see him surrounded by new fans eager and anxious to buy his music immediately after the show!

Shasta had a lot of good friends in his social circle, including Paul Williams, founder of Crawdaddy magazine, who wrote an exhaustive three volume series of books analyzing the music and performances of Bob Dylan.

One of the things Shasta did for Paul was introduce him to the music of singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, who later became Paul’s wife.

By some unlikely synchronicity, I actually met both Paul and Cindy Lee at a book convention in Anaheim the very same week they met each other. Shasta wasn’t even at this event, but I’m pretty sure his name was mentioned in passing.

In 2003, Shasta lost his day job in California, and he decided he would move back to Connecticut to tend to his ailing parents. After both of his parents died, he did a little traveling around the country before settling in Nashville in 2007, where he would pursue his dreams of becoming a professional singer-songwriter.

Before he made the big move to Nashville, he made a little visit to back to the Bay Area, and we had a chance to catch up on stuff. He’d been playing at a place called Widow Brown’s Cafe in Danbury, CT, which inspired a whole bunch of new songs. One of those songs was something called “No More Smoking,” which was a catchy little number that expressed his feelings about the new anti-smoking laws that were popping up all over the country.

Anyone that knows me understands that I really hate smoking. My father was a heavy smoker that died of emphysema, and I was overjoyed when the anti-smoking regulations became law, as I no longer had to inhale toxic, putrid air whenever I wanted to go nightclubbing.

That being said, I really loved Shasta’s new song. I disagreed with him on the smoking laws, but I thought it was catchy little number. I knew he had no decent music videos, and no budget to produce any videos, but I figured I’d shoot a video for my old friend.

I shot some video of Shasta on the streets of San Jose, California, right in front of the Cinebar, the oldest divebar in town. I sat on the raw video footage for some time, as other things in my life took precedence over this project. Months turned into years, and there was a real possibility this could easily become an unfinished project if I didn’t take any type of action.

Last December, I finally finished the music video for Shasta. I edited my video footage with some old public domain film clips and was able to give Shasta a special Christmas present he could share with others.

And he loved it! That felt really wonderful!

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Shasta celebrating Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. Shasta had just recorded some Dylan songs and he was anxious to share them with his friends.

I didn’t get around to downloading the songs until a few days later. After I finally downloaded all the tracks, I decided I’d drop by and visit Shasta’s Facebook page, and share the love, so to speak.

It was at Shasta’s Facebook page where I discovered that Shasta has passed away on May 27th, which ironically happens to be the birthday of some very close friends of mine.

I have to admit, it’s been a challenging couple of months for me.

Kent Morrill of the Wailers passed away in April. He was a major part of the LOUIE universe, and one of key people that’ll be featured in the final documentary that I hope to release in near future.

A week later, one of my friends, T.A.. Garsva, a fellow freelance video camera operator died in Petaluma, CA. Unlike Kent or Shasta, I don’t have any photographs of T.A.

Other friends lost friends and loved ones in the past few months

And life goes on somehow or another… as we live with dying every single day, with people all over the world ceasing to exist. We forge forward, one step at a time.

Me, I’m just trying to finish a film without more key people dying on me.

As I’d heard it said before – celebrate every day as it may be your last, because someday you will be correct!

Today, It’s a celebration of my friend Shasta Bates!

Visit his webpage and maybe buy some of his music at

View some photos of Shasta by visiting a special Flickr collection I’ve assembled over at

You can hear Shasta’s recordings of Bob Dylan songs by clicking on these links:

Too Much of Nothin 3:12
Sooner or Later 4:31
Tell Me Mama 3:56
Tombstone Blues 6:30
Queen Jane 6:34
Idiot Wind 10:19
She’s Your Lover Now 8:28
Need A Woman 6:29
Where Are You Tonight? 4:34
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue 4:01

If you happen to be in Brookfield, CT on July 10th, you can visit Widow Browns Cafe for a special memorial for Shasta.

I’m gonna miss you my friend.

14 comments to RIP: Shasta Bates, singer-songwriter

  • I once recorded three versions of “Louie, Louie” in a Palo Alto garage in 1983 and quickly drove them up to Foothill College and the KFJC studios. As we arrived to deliver our tapes, Richard Berry was actually there – as was the lead singer of Kingsmen.

    A few years later, I met Shasta in the Mountain View residents ticket line at Shoreline Amphitheater. We had a mutual love of Bob Dylan and Shasta had ALL the coolest (and best quality) bootlegs any fan could want. We are both singer-songwriters and soon formed a band that went by a couple of names… “Guitars and Beer” – Anne, Dan, Shasta & Tom. We played together for 10 years.

    This tribute post to Shasta is one of the most touching and accurate accounts of our friend. Thank you for the photographs, the music and the video! Shasta will always live on in our hearts, our memories and his music! and we’ll think of him whenever we hear Bob Dylan!

  • Shasta, sad to see you gone.

  • Jeff Tracy

    Hello Eric,

    This is Jeff Tracy writing to you from Austin, TX. I was the original owner/audio engineer at Astral Sounds Recording in San Jose. I knew Shasta well, and worked with him as his recording career began to take shape. I brought in musicians to work on his Album/CD projects, and besides engineering and mixing projects with him I played on a number of his tracks myself. — Always a great time.

    Shasta was literally my best client over the 5 years I owned Astral Sounds (I sold the studio in ’83 and continued on as head audio engineer for another 2 years). There were times I might not have eaten had Shasta not been such a regular customer. — Shasta quickly became much more than a client to me, he was a friend who had the same passionate desire about music that I had (I was infected by the Beatles as a kid, and Shasta was inspired by Dylan).

    Shasta had a wonderful, hearty laugh, a great sense of humor, and a huge genuine smile. He was a pleasure to spend time with in, and out of, the studio. It’s hard to imagine he’s left us. …He invited me to come visit with he and Tom in Nashville a number of times, and I almost did so last year – now I’m saddened I didn’t…

    Shasta was a prolific song writer & poet. He preferred the title of bard. It was fun being a part of his musical growth over the years I worked with him in the studio – to me, his greatest strength as a song writer was lyric writing. The words to his music were always interesting, well thought out, often unique, and benefited from his interest in politics, history, distrust of government & big business, human nature, calling a spade a spade – all while filtering it through his own special lens/way of looking at life and this world we share.

    I spent many days, nights, early morning hours, and weekends in the studio with Shasta. He was one of my favorite people – this world will spin a little colder without his presence. …He will be missed.

    I send my sincere condolences to Shasta’s sister and hope she will find peace in knowing her brother lived his life the way he wanted to, devoting it to the music he loved, and that he touched the hearts of many in a very special way.

    Shasta my friend – Hope to catch up with you again on another plane of existence when the timing is right.

    Musically yours,

  • Steve Bates

    Thanks for all those kind words about my brother. I miss him so much. Sure glad for the years I had with him and all the music he leaves for all of us.

  • Steve Bates

    Oops I mean Eric. Sorry

  • Steve Bates

    Eric I thought I put Tom’s name in there thanking him instead of you. lol

  • Debbie (Shasta's sister) Berrill

    Thank you for your love and friedship to Shasta. Jeff, I believe I met you in the years Shasta lived in San Jose. He was a great brother! Just a little correction we also have a sister Judie and my brother Steve just previously commented. I believe that Shasta is on a new adventure!

  • This is Rob Buscher from Bethel, CT. I met Shasta through our mutual friend Jason Lee Glatzel, who has also passed away. I remember fondly the many nights at Widow Brown’s where Jay and I shared the bill with Shasta. He was an incredibly talented musician and a genuinely good-hearted person whose passion for music was inspiring to all he encountered.

    Although I did not know him well, he was of great comfort to me when Jay passed away in 2007, since he took the unfortunate responsibility of informing his far-flung friends, as Tom and Eric, I see you have both taken it upon yourselves to do so in Shasta’s case.

    I thank you both for doing this.

    Shasta – Until we meet again at that great big jam session in the sky, may you rest in peace brother.

  • Jerry Coover

    I also had the pleasure of spending many hours practicing,recording and performing shastas music.I played Bass on the modern fixations album.I was taken by supprise of the news of his passing as well.I was just informed about it today by John Driscoll.Shasta gave me my first chance at recording in a studio(thanks to Jeff Tracy as well,good to hear your doing well)he will be missed by many,as he always ended his E mails “yours in song”,we will always have those indeed.I’m glad that our lives crossed paths,rest in peace Shasta.
    Your friend Jerry Coover

  • Sue FIscher

    Just heard about Shasta. He was the nicest guy. Met him at a Dylan Convention in the 80s near Chicago and went to many concerts with him after that. Very sorry to hear of his passing….

  • Kevin Bowers

    I just heard about Shasta’s death. I only knew him briefly in the early 90’s. We had a mutual singer songwriter we liked, Maria McKee from the 80’s Los Angeles band Lone Justice. Shasta and I traded tapes and videos from her concerts. He even taped many of them himself. He would take every opportunity to see her perform on the west coast.
    I knew he had a passion for Bob Dylan but at the time he was really passionate about Maria’s songwriting skills and performances. I am sure he had tapes from hundreds of her performances.
    He sent me a couple of his own early CD’s, I still have the signed copies of them. To me he really sounded like Dylan. We attended a couple of east coast Maria McKee concerts around 2006. He was in visiting his parents in Connecticut and was happy to drive and meet-up at any concert location.
    He was a friendly and interesting person. It was nice to know him. So sorry to hear of his passing.

  • Ron Davidson

    I just found out about Shasta’s death today from this site. I guess I’m a few years behind the times. The last time I talked to him was soon after he moved to Nashville.

    Of course I knew Jeff Tracy and recorded at his studio with Shasta many times. I also played with Jerry Coover. I was the keyboard player.

    I remember his sister Debbie from the few times she came out to visit Shasta in San Jose.

    RIP Shasta…

  • Susan Schumacher Smith

    I was researching my Uncle Larry Durr and found out that Shasta and Larry or “chicken Larry” were good friends back in 77-78. He mentioned Larry in a blog and how he became friends and Larry worked for Bob Dylan. Larry is also mentioned on the back of his album but name spelled Larry Dur at which he referred to as well in the blog.. I was looking for Shasta to see if he could give me any stories of Larry back in the day. and now just found out he had passed away .Did he ever mentions “Larry Durr” or “chicken Larry” who played the mandolin? Any pictures?

  • C. Liver

    Livin’ in the Endtimes?!!!!!!!!!!

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