At 16, Tyler Bryant Was Declared a Guitar Prodigy. Today, He Plays with the World's Biggest Stars.
From left: Noah Denney, Tyler Bryant, Graham Whitford and Caleb Crosby of Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown released their debut album in 2012.
Tyler Bryant has come a long way from his humble Northeast Texas beginnings. At 26 years old, he is widely considered to be a guitar prodigy.
“I always knew this is what I wanted to do,” says Bryant, who grew up in the tiny town of Honey Grove.
In 2006, when Bryant was 16, he received the Robert Johnson Gibson New Generation Award for being an aspiring young guitar player.
A year later, Eric Clapton selected him to perform at the 2007 Crossroads Music Festival in Chicago with Buddy Guy, John Mayer and Clapton, among many others. After the festival, County Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill called him a “future guitar god.”
In 2009, Bryant was thrust into the national spotlight when he was featured in rock photographer Robert M. Knight’s award-winning documentary, Rock Prophecies.
The documentary featured guitar legends Carlos Santana, Steve Vai, Slash and Beck. In the film, Knight chronicled his brush with rock and roll history and helped launch the careers of Bryant and Australian rockers Sick Puppies.
When Bryant was growing up in Honey Grove, he found a second home in an underground music venue, the Camp Shagbark Texas Blues Research Center, in neighboring Lamar County.
It was known for its Saturday night blues jams, and renowned guitarists like Lance Lopez and Wes Jeans performed there alongside locals on a weekly basis.
“You’d never know about it unless you were there, I guess,” Bryant says. “There is no doubt that Camp Shagbark and the Lamar County blues scene helped shape the person I am today.”
Horace and Billie Penn operated the venue, nestled in the woods near Paris, for more than a decade. It was essentially a giant party barn complete with a loft, stage and dance floor.
It was at Shagbark where the late local bluesman Roosevelt Twitty Sr., who was in his 60s at the time, honed young Bryant's licks into the bluesy riffs he churns out today.
“I was 11 years old when I first met Mr. Twitty in what was then Holly Bond Music and Recording Studio,” Bryant says. “I had never heard a guitar played like that before.”
Twitty started giving the preteen guitar lessons soon after and introduced Bryant to the recordings of Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many others.
Soon after Bryant's documentary feature, he moved to Nashville. He graduated high school a year early.
In Nashville, he quickly linked up with drummer Caleb Crosby, who introduced him to guitarist Graham Whitford, son of longtime Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, and bassist Noah Denney.
Together, they formed Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown.
The band’s debut album, Wild Child, and its first television performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! helped it gain a cult following in 2012.
The Nashville blues quartet signed to John Varvatos Records in 2015 and released its follow-up EP, The Wayside, with producer Vance Powell (Jack White, Beck) later that year.
Bryant and his band are currently touring Europe, supporting rock greats such as Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith, Deep Purple and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Bryant says the European tour will end mid-July and the band will have a few months of rest before returning to Texas for a Sept. 2 performance at Heritage Hall in Paris.
But Bryant’s band isn’t the headliner.
“You would think the Shakedown would be,” Bryant says, adding that he has no other information about the show other than his performance. “Either way, we’re gonna blow the roof off.”
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