Memphis Music Club: Get To Know Terrence Bishop of The River City Tanlines

We spoke with Terrence Bishop, bassist for River City Tanlines, The Subteens, The Kenny Brown Band, and formerly of Jack O. and The Tennessee Tearjerkers, at his Midtown home that he shares with his girlfriend, Anna Gregory. The house is lovingly restored due to Bishop’s craftsmanship and attention to detail, as well as Gregory’s good taste. It’s the same attention to detail and fearless investment of time to projects that has made Bishop a blue chip musician in Memphis. However, much of Bishop’s success has come organically. When one hears him play his bass, he plays it with such deftness, floating from note to note with a nimbleness that even the musically inclined could only mimic on a piano keyboard (using both hands) the line he is playing. His performance is effortless but not in the vein that Bishop looks bored, there is always energy in his playing, it is effortless like the way the rest of us breathe.

Bishop was born in Swainsboro, GA. His father drove trucks and his mother did factory and secretarial work. While Bishop’s father was a fan of the Texas Outlaws as well as listening to his music through earphones, his mother was a huge Motown fan and played it constantly on the stereo.

“My mom said that the only way she could get things done around the house was to put me in my crib with Motown Music on, I’d bob and rock to the beat and soothe myself,” Bishop recalls.

After living in a series of cities, Bishop and his family ended up in Kissimmee, FL. His father was intent on him becoming a professional golfer and so Bishop spent time practicing golf as well as riding bikes and skateboarding. After breaking his arm as a teenager, he experienced downtime in all areas and tagged along with a friend to a guitar lesson. It was an informal teacher as Bishop recalled: “The guy would have the kid buy a jug of wine for him and he’d sit there and drink and teach the kid to play.”

While watching the lesson, Bishop picked up a bass and began to, even with the cast on his arm, peck the notes as the teacher was teaching. “After a few minutes of it, the guy looked up and asked if I played bass, and I told him ‘no’ and then he said, ‘well, you do now.’” In little time, Bishop was playing with the first of many bands, Lyre.

In 1990, Bishop moved to Memphis and fate would have it that on his first night here he would meet drummer John “Bubba” Bonds (the friendship and partnership of which lead to the existence of a rock-solid rhythm section of many bands) at the New Daisy. Bonds and Bishop soon went on tour together with Son of Slam; however, back then they were touring on a two dollar a day per diem. “We each got a Burger King burger, no cheese, and split a pack of Marlboro Reds,” Bishop said of Bonds and himself.

Bishop again relied on his well-honed talent of becoming fast friends with people to avoid sleeping in a booth at a club with a jacket as a pillow. He quickly found people at each venue along the road and would offer to make them dinner in exchange for letting them sleep at their house. More often than not, it worked. When John “Bubba” Bonds was asked by a fellow band member why he stuck so close to Terrence, he smiled and replied, “Because he’s money.” Hence the nickname that stuck: T-Money.

Presently, Bishop is riding high on the success of River City Tanlines, who made a splash at SXSW this year, even garnering the attention of an NPR feature. The band also recently won the “Best Local Video” award at the 2011 Music Video Showcase for their song, “Looking for a Line” directed by local cult film hero Mike McCarthy.

So, what’s next? Well, Bishop would like to work on music placement as well as production thus making music a full time job.

When asked about the Memphis music scene, Bishop replied, “I live in Memphis, TN, you are going to hear things, better music than anywhere you go…I live in the greatest city for music in the world, not just talking about the United States, this is the best place for music in the world. You can go out, any night of the week, and hear better music than other cities have on a Friday.”

And Memphis is lucky to have him.

Terrence Bishop @ Hi-Tone Cafe, May 2011

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