Blind Melon Biography

A US alternative rock band comprising Glen Graham (5 December 1968, Columbus, Mississippi, USA; drums), Shannon Hoon (b. Richard Shannon Hoon, 26 September 1967, Lafeyette, Indiana, USA, d. 21 October 1995, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; vocals), Rogers Stevens (b. 31 October 1970, West Point, Mississippi, USA; guitar), Christopher Thorn (b. 16 December 1968, Dover, Pennsylvania, USA; guitar) and Brad Smith (b. 29 September 1968, West Point, Mississippi, USA; bass), Blind Melon entered the US mainstream in 1993. One of their major claims to fame was introducing the phenomenon of the ‘bee girl’. Back in their home base of Columbus, Mississippi, Graham was passing round a snap of his sister, Georgia, appearing in a school play. The band elected to use the shot, which presented young Georgia as an awkward, publicity-shy youngster adorned in a bee-suit, on their debut album. The image would also reappear in the video for their second single, ‘No Rain’, in June 1992. Directed by Sam Bayer (responsible for Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’), the Bee Girl was portrayed by 10-year-old Heather DeLoach. MTV played the clip relentlessly, helping to boost the fortunes of their album. The young girl became a huge cult icon, beloved of various rock stars including Madonna, while Blind Melon profited greatly from their association with her. The band’s album had been shipped for several months and was languishing outside the US charts, but it soon re-entered and went on to reach number 3.

Success had not been as instantaneous for Blind Melon as many assumed. Smith had long been a dedicated musician, playing drums, baritone saxophone and guitar, the last of which he taught to Stevens. The two had left Columbus in 1989 for Los Angeles, where they met first Hoon, a small-town mischief-maker who had left his sporting ambitions behind when he became involved in the drugs scene, and Thorn, who had formerly played in a local heavy metal band, R.O.T. Together they scoured Hollywood for a drummer and found fellow Mississippi refugee Graham. A demo tape was recorded, and, without their consent, circulated to the major record companies, who began queuing up for their services. This despite the fact that they had an armoury of just five songs. It was Atlantic Records who eventually requested their signatures. They were put to work in a Los Angeles studio, but were distracted by the presence of Hoon’s old Indiana friend, Axl Rose, who was recording Use Your Illusion with Guns N’Roses. Hoon was invited to add backing vocals, and appeared in the video to ‘Don’t Cry’.

After a support tour with Soundgarden the band relocated to Durham, North Carolina, to find space and time to finish writing their debut set, before teaming with producer Rick Parashar in Seattle. Afterwards, events overtook them, and by November 1993 Rolling Stone magazine was parading them, naked, on their cover. Two years touring followed, including dates at Woodstock II in America and the Glastonbury Festival in England. The pressure to repeat the success of the debut with Soup was obvious, but when it finally emerged it was far less accessible than many expected. Recorded in New Orleans during bouts of drug-related non-activity, Hoon confessed in interviews that he could not actually remember making the record. In truth he had passed some of the time between albums in a rehabilitation clinic. The new songs included ‘St. Andrew’s Fall’, which concerned suicide, and ‘Skinned’, about serial killer Ed Gein, who dressed in the skins of his female victims. Some of the effect of this track’s lurid subject matter was alleviated by the presence of a kazoo solo.

It was generally known that Hoon had unsuccessfully fought heroin addiction for some time, but neither the band nor his family could prise him away for long enough periods for him to complete his rehabilitation programme. He died from a cocaine overdose in October 1995, his body discovered in the band’s tour bus. The final album, Nico (named after Hoon’s stepdaughter), was released in 1996. It was a sad and patched-together affair that the remaining members felt morally obliged to release. Thorn and Smith resurfaced three years later in Unified Theory, while Stevens worked with Royston Langdon of Spacehog in the Tender Trio. The surviving members of Blind Melon revived the band in late 2006, with new singer Travis Warren taking the place of Hoon.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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