By Thom Jennings
Special to NFP
Bass legend Billy Sheehan returns to the area on Tuesday at The Tralf with his latest project, The Winery Dogs, a powerhouse supergroup featuring Richie Kotzen and Mike Portnoy. To date, the group has released two albums, a self-titled debut in 2013 and "Hot Streak" in 2015.
Sheehan is best known around these parts as the longtime bass player and leader of the band Talas. The three-piece power trio, consisting of Sheehan, Dave Constantino and Paul Varga, owned the Buffalo music scene for a decade.
In the minds of many Western New York music fans, Talas was a band that should have been a huge national success.
"A lot of it is timing. We were a great band. Those guys are incredibly talented. I am really proud of my work with Talas," Sheehan noted during a recent phone interview.
It was during his run with Talas that Sheehan opened for Van Halen on multiple dates. Later, Sheehan was part of the quintessential David Lee Roth Band lineup along with Steve Vai and Gregg Bissonette. The lineup almost had a reunion at a Hollywood nightclub in November.
"I guess word leaked out and the fire marshal wound up doing the right thing and calling the thing off," Sheehan said.
During Sheehan's tenure, the group recorded the song "Ladies Nite in Buffalo," which some people took as a poke at Buffalo.
"No, it was not meant as anything bad; there are lots of gorgeous women in Buffalo - especially in the Polish community," Sheehan said.
As far as whether the Vai, Sheehan and Bissonette band rivaled Van Halen musically, Sheehan was quick to say, "Well, first of all, I have always been a huge fan of Van Halen. There really is no comparing us to them. All of us are really good at what we do, and I have a ton of respect and admiration for those guys."
In addition to stints in Talas and the DLR Band, Sheehan's other band of note was Mr. Big, where Sheehan began working with fellow Winery Dog Richie Kotzen.
"When Mike Portnoy and I started talking about doing something together, it was Eddie Trunk that suggested I call Richie," Sheehan said.
Trunk has been a huge supporter of the project, which is now a full-fledged band.
"When we started this, I knew I didn't want it to be some kind of side project, and it has been a great experience and we are thrilled with the response from the fans," Sheehan said.
Tuesday's show will be a homecoming for Sheehan, who still loves his old hometown and considers it one of his favorite places to perform.
"It's always great to see old friends. The last time we were in the area it was a special time, and I am sure it will be again when we go up there next week," he said.
Tickets for The Winery Dogs at The Tralf on Tuesday start at $35 and are available through Ticketmaster or the Tralf box office. Go to tralfmusichall.com for more details.