Interview with “Shake!” magazine publisher Chris James–Part I

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


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Interview with “Shake!” (Rock) Magazine Publisher and
Lost Sideshow Frontman Chris James

by Dave Carew

One of most under-appreciated rock magazines in the U.S. is the Nashville-area-based Shake!, edited and published by session and performing singer/keyboardist Chris James. (Some of you may know Chris as “the Jim Morrison guy” in the outstanding Doors tribute, The Lost Sideshow.) Recently, Underground Nashville caught up with Chris for this interview.

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: In what ways is Shake! distinct from other music magazines?

CHRIS JAMES: First off, it’s small. I put it together with layout man Warren Ells. It’s a two-man operation. Also, Shake! has a slant towards classic rock that most magazines don’t have. We have an editorial [perspective] that most of the big-selling, popular music of today is artistically weak. It’s just product for video and sales. Real bands with real musicians interacting is what we’re interested in with Shake! There aren’t enough of them on the charts these days.

UN: Which of your stories so far have had the greatest impact on your readership? What impact did they have?

CJ: The stories we did about Jimi Hendrix: The Nashville Years had the greatest impact by far. Shake! featured the first true in-depth coverage of what Hendrix was up to from 1963-65. That story really rocked. Our coverage of Eva Cassidy and Danny Whitten had good impact, too. I like the idea of turning people onto something or someone in music whom they didn’t really know about before. Gram Parsons was a real good story too.

UN: I notice letters to the editor in Shake! from places far removed from Nashville. How widely circulated is your magazine?

CJ: The magazine is just circulated for free all around Nashville. We’ve got a small mailing list of subscriptions too. The reason we get letters from far and wide is because Nashville has visitors from all over the world. So we receive correspondence from people far away, who picked up a copy when they were in Music City. I love whenever that happens.

Coming in the next “Underground Nashville” post:

The conclusion of our two-art interview with Chris James. Chris discusses the hard realities of publishing a rock magazine “when you’re not interested in being a high-powered salesman” . . . and reveals why he recently started Nashville’s best (in our never-humble opinion) Gram Parsons tribute band.


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