As a man who has spent over 35 years working with a bevy of artists, as well as touring all over the place, Clint “Chip” Shearin Jr. could go anywhere he wants for his 55th birthday, which is Monday.
He chose to go back home.
Friday night, Shearin will headline “Chip Shearin’s Birthday Bash and Celebrity Jam,” going down at Motorco Music Hall, right in his hometown of Durham. His road manager suggested the idea of a b’day bash a few months ago, and Shearin has wanted to perform more often in the Triangle area. The last time he performed here was September at Southland Ballroom in Raleigh, with the comedian Sinbad as part of his band, Memphis Red and the Funk Stank Nasty Band.
“I don’t do too many in the area,” says Shearin, who splits his time between Raleigh and Los Angeles. “I grew up in this area. It would be great to do more of them, but with my schedule and tours and dates and those things, it’s kind of hard to do.”
Even if you don’t know who Shearin is, you’ve definitely heard his work. Not only has he recorded and performed with everyone from legendary jazz artists (Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd) to superstar divas (Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson), he’s done session work for movies and TV scores as well as commercial jingles for such companies as J.C. Penney, Ford and Radio Shack.
But his biggest claim to fame is providing the iconic bass groove for the Sugarhill Gang’s hip-hop groundbreaker “Rapper’s Delight.”
Shearin recalls that bus trip in 1979 from Durham to New York, and eventually getting called on to record a lengthy bass lick in New Jersey for $70. He had no idea the song would basically set off the hip-hop revolution. He remembers, “It was just being invited up and (people) saying, ‘Hey man, let’s just go the studio and hang out. We’ll see what comes across, see if they’ll pay us to do something.’ And that’s pretty much how it started.”
Since then, Shearin has gathered enough experience as both a musician and a businessman that he’s now in elder-statesman mode. (Shearin has also dropped music as a solo artist; his debut album, “How I Live,” was released in 2014.)
He’s done some teaching at N.C. Central, his old alma mater, hipping students to the music business. Shearin said those classes consisted of “teaching people to understand that there are so many lows that can happen. But you teach them to understand that the low probably had to happen to get that person to springboard into whatever they’re gonna do.”
What: “Chip Shearin’s Birthday Bash & Celebrity Jam” with Al Strong, Tamisha Waden, Cody Wright, Deon Yates and Gerard Gibbs
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham
Info: 919-901-0875 or motorcomusic.com