After a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, Shannon “Clint Clinton” Stanfield, has left the building. Stanfield, 45, found notoriety at the age of 15 as guitarist of the 5 Twins, a group that mixed Ramones power chords with pure pop to become one of Knoxville’s favorite first-wave punk bands.
When the group disbanded in 1982, Shannon moved to Manhattan’s Lower East Side to join a Knoxville expatriate contingent including his mentor of sorts, Terry Hill. There he developed his “Clint Clinton” persona as frontman of the Clintons. By 1985 the Clintons were mainstays of Manhattan’s downtown scene, sharing stages at CBGB, Irving Plaza, and Maxwell’s with legends like Johnny Thunders, the Fleshtones, Billy Bragg, and Alex Chilton. The band regularly toured the East Coast, releasing records on the Coyote/Twin-Tone and Diesel-Only labels.
Stanfield returned to Knoxville in 1986, regaining his status as a mover/shaker of the music scene as a music columnist and photographer and continuing the Clintons in various incarnations for decades.
Shannon had effortless cool. He was dead serious about his art, but well aware of the fleeting nature of fame—he possessed the unique ability to laugh at himself and everyone else in the Knoxville music’s limited constellation in a sweet, non-judgmental way. Shannon was the Will Rogers of Knoxville rock.
Here’s what some of his closest friends and fellow musicians had to say:
Mike Knott (The Clintons, 30 Amp Fuse): Clint was absolutely the funniest guy I ever knew. On- or off-stage he always cracked me up and loved to laugh himself. The Clintons will forever be rock ’n’ roll comfort food, and I’m glad I got to ride shotgun on that bandwagon.
Johnny Wright (Clintons guitarist): It was the greatest honor to play in his band for the last 13 years. My talent paled in comparison to Shannon’s, but he never made me feel self-conscious or sub-par. He was my supportive, patient friend, and I learned more from him about music and the joy of entertaining than I could have ever imagined.
Camp Childers (STDs, Fabulous Bluejays): He worked hard, but he would only find jobs that involved having a good time—like writing bar reviews or making bridesmaids laugh for pictures. His songs covered topics like class rings, heartbrokenly crying in his Burger King fries, and finding a woman to drive him home from the bar. He was a great father who taught his son cheesy lines to use on women and how to strut like Ric Flair. I’ll remember him as a guy who was always smiling and made me laugh.
Rodney “Sweet Basil” Cash (The Clintons, 30 Amp Fuse, the Gone Dogs, others): Shannon was all about having fun, laughing, basically enjoying life to the fullest. I’ll never forget seeing Shan for the first time with the 5 Twins. I was enamored by this handsome man with the kick-ass band. My life pretty much changed after that night. I knew that I would be hooked on playing rock music for the rest of my life! I loved that talented, eccentric, cheesy man with all my heart.
Brian Waldschlager (5 Twins, Wh-Wh, Dirtclods, solo artist): Meeting him the first time was like a cross-town field trip. Here came this slacker glam-punk with this busted Univox/Mosrite knock-off guitar, a handful of cool songs, and a girlfriend who would pogo and do the pony. We cranked out Ramones and Iggy covers on the Strip in 1980 when we were both in high school and later played in the punk pop-and-roll band called 5 Twins. Years later, when I moved to Nashville, “CC” often made trips down for our “writer retreats” and his guest room was available to me anytime. We were close then and remained close to the end, whether it was catching a Tennessee football game or writing songs as recently as last fall. Shannon was unbelievably gifted and made his uniqueness look easy. He inspired many to express themselves musically and artistically using their own distinct voices. It breaks my heart to have lost my dear friend of all these years, but he still makes me laugh.
Dana Stanfield Bayiates: I was married to Shannon from 1987 to 2004, but I’ve known him since 1980. We had two children together, Tate, age 14, and Katherine, age 9. You could say we grew up together. Well, neither of us ever really grew up, but that’s a different story.
Shannon was a walking contradiction. The things people seem to remember are his easy laughter, his smile, his onstage rants about other musicians’ girlfriends stalking him, his mysterious way of making you feel as if you were the only person in the room, even at a crowded party. But he didn’t think he was so special; he had a surprisingly low opinion of himself, needing constant affirmation. Shannon could never find his wallet, the remote control, or the set of keys he’d just laid on the counter, but he was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. He was scary smart. Most people probably never realized this.
At the end of the day, though, he was Shannon. I’ve never known anyone remotely like him, and I know I never will. He was the sunniest, funniest, most talented, and most complicated Renaissance guy most of us will ever know.