One of the most tragic stories of the 1990s rock world was that of singer Shannon Hoon and his band, Blind Melon.
Despite scoring one of the decade’s most enduring singles and videos, “No Rain,” and a quadruple-platinum hit with the band’s 1992 self-titled debut album (in addition to touring alongside rock’s biggest names), Hoon could not overcome a dangerous drug addiction.
Only two records into a promising career, Hoon was dead from an overdose at the age of 28. “A Devil On One Shoulder and An Angel On the Other” (now available through Lulu.com) is the first book to tell the group’s story — culled from over 50 exclusive interviews (including the surviving band members and those closest to the band). The following excerpt focuses on the group’s “breakthrough period” circa the summer and fall of 1993, when it opened up sold-out tours for both Neil Young and Lenny Kravtiz and also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.
As one of the top breakthrough artists of 1993, Blind Melon land two prime tour opening spots — Neil Young and Lenny Kravitz. Additionally, the group grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine… naked.
PAUL CUMMINGS: The Neil Young tour was one of those dream tours they wanted — they obviously had a lot of respect for Neil Young. They were the opening act, there was a middle act — it was either Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, [or] Social Distortion. [And] Pearl Jam did three shows. That was great for them to be on that. The first time they were called to meet Neil Young, they were all standing there like they were at the principal’s office — “Yes sir, no sir, very happy to be here.” That was a big deal for them. Neil Young likes an hour between when he goes on and the act before him, so a lot of the time, they were going on about the posted door time.
LYLE EAVES: That was a weird transition — you could watch it happen day-to-day when that video took off. Neil Young’s crowd, you could imagine, could care less who Blind Melon was. Plus, being the first band on a three-band bill, they were going on [when] it was daylight. I mean, there was no one there. Half the time they played, there would be 125 people in a 33,000-seat outdoor shed. The crowd didn’t care. And then, all of a sudden, the video starts taking off, and there would be like seven teenage girls standing by the stage screaming. It was the first thing that hit me — “What the hell is going on here?” And then, the next night, there’s 200 of them. Within a week, there was actually a crowd showing up to see them. You could literally watch it happen.
GLEN GRAHAM: I’ve been a Neil Young fan since I was very young. Just getting to see six weeks worth of shows was amazing. He had the oddest choice of a backing band possibly ever for Neil Young — Booker T & the MG’s. Booker T & the MG’s are fantastic… but as Neil Young’s backing band? And they had Jim Keltner as the drummer — it was a thrill to meet him.
My memories of that tour, like most tours, have nothing to do with playing. Neil was touring with his kids, one of whom had severe cerebral palsy. He was in a wheel chair — Ben, the model train guy. He was on the side of stage the whole time watching and loving it. And his other son, Zeke, who was about 18 or at the time, I think he had cerebral palsy – but extremely mild. I remember at Bill Graham Amphitheater, Neil giving him a Bronco or something for a birthday present. It was casual. It was like, these are adults — people who have done this 50 times. It was just nice to see what you could grow into eventually. Also, David Briggs was on that tour. David had a monitor on the side of the stage — I think h