Shannon first gained notice in the 1980s as a member of local group Amnesty while still working as a hardware salesman. His big break came after being discovered by soul singer Shirley Brown. Shannon’s distinctive vocals, often described as “a cross between Bobby Womack and Otis Redding” and supple guitar playing, set him on the path professionally.
In the early-’90s, Shannon stepped out on his own, launching a long run as one of the featured acts on Beale Street. Over the next three decades, Shannon would cut a familiar figure in the clubs on Beale, serving as a kind of musical ambassador to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who would visit each year. His efforts would earn Shannon the nickname “The King of Beale Street.”
In the ’90s, Shannon also began his solo recording career. Signing with indie label Rounder Records in 1994, he released his critically acclaimed debut, “Break the Ice,” featuring contributions from the Memphis Horns.
In 1993, his own Preston Shannon Band played at the Long Beach Blues Festival in Long Beach, California. After being spotted leading his own band in Memphis’ Beale Street clubs, he signed to Rounder Records subsidiary, Bullseye Blues, and released his debut solo effort, Break the Ice in 1994.
After this followed the Willie Mitchell produced efforts, Midnight in Memphis (1996) and All in Time (1999). However, with no immediate follow-up available, Preston lost momentum.Shannon’s next effort, 1996’s “Midnight in Memphis,” was produced by Hi Records legend Willie Mitchell, who would prove a frequent collaborator. The pair reunited for Shannon’s 1999’s record “All in Time.” Shannon would release a number of lauded albums over the years, including his 2014 tribute to Chicago bluesman Elmore James, titled “Dust My Broom.”
Among the songs he wrote are “Beale Street Boogaloo” and “Midnight in Memphis“.He was born in Olive Branch, Mississippi and relocated with his family to nearby Memphis, Tennessee at the age of eight.
After moving to Title Tunes, he released Be with Me Tonight (2006).
Shannon played at Memphis in May in both 2008 and 2011. In February 2012, Shannon appeared on season two of The Voice, singing “In the Midnight Hour”.
He was a regular performer at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis. Shannon’s most recent album release was Dust My Broom (2014).
Preston died of cancer on January 22, 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 70.