Sean Bonniwell


musical style: 

photograph of Sean Bonniwell

Thomas Harvey "Sean" Bonniwell (August 16, 1940 – December 20, 2011) was an American singer-songwriter/guitarist, who was known as the creative force behind the 1960s garage rock band, The Music Machine.

Bonniwell was quoted in Richie Unterberger's 1998 book, Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll, as saying "Rock and roll was a teenager in the '60s, and I used that climate to express my confusion, my anger, at the injustice of the world."

Bonniwell was born in San Jose, California. During his teens, Bonniwell was inspired to form a high school vocal group after hearing the song "Only You" by The Platters. After high school, Bonniwell's first serious musical incarnation was that of clean-cut pop-folk guitarist for the quartet The Wayfarers. The Wayfarers released three albums under the RCA label.

As the folk music craze died out, Bonniwell sought to create music with "fuzz and fangs." In 1965, he formed a trio called The Ragamuffins, which quickly grew into The Music Machine. Adopting Beatles-style moptop hair and all-black outfits (and Bonniwell's signature single black leather glove), Music Machine churned out a diversified style of garage rock. After the band debut's album spawned the successful single "Talk Talk" (1966), the original line-up broke apart. Bonniwell continued on with Music Machine, now signed to Warner Bros. Records and re-named The Bonniwell Music Machine (1967). Unhappy with the way things were going, Bonniwell sold the rights to the band name to his label in order to be released from their contract.

In 1969, Bonniwell released a solo album (Close) on Capitol Records. This recording marked a change in identity for Bonniwell, who not only chose to make gentle, sensitive music (contrasting that for which he was known), but also chose to record under the name of T.S. Bonniwell. The recording received minor label support and displeased Bonniwell enough that he left the music industry altogether. He entered a period of spiritual quest and internal soul-searching, grew a beard, sold everything he owned, and drove around the US in a Volkswagen bus.

In 1996, Bonniwell self-published a memoir called Talk Talk, which was later revised and re-titled Beyond The Garage, published by the small press Christian Vision. Several years later, Sundazed Records put out previously un-released Music Machine material from the 1960s, along with demo recordings from The Ragamuffins. Bonniwell claimed to have written over 300 songs since 1970.

In November 2004, Bonniwell embarked on his first European Tour, performing his hits with musicians from the US and Europe.

In 2006, Bonniwell recorded his first new material in several years, as a guest musician appearing on a self-titled debut album by The Larksmen, a garage rock group from Los Angeles, California. He appeared on two songs entitled "Burn Like A Boy" (actually written back in 1967 for The Music Machine but never released) and "Out Of Darwin's Mind".

Bonniwell died on December 20, 2011, in Visalia, California, from lung cancer. He was 71 years old. Read more about Sean Bonniwell on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

Gear used by Sean Bonniwell

Sean Bonniwell electric guitars

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