About Shanghai Brown

Different folks know me in different ways.  To some, I'm an award-winning professional photojournalist, with decades of experience writing, shooting, editing, publishing, hosting, producing, and more.

To some, I'm a travel writer, a travel and tourism professional, former president of the state-recognized destination marketing organization, the California Deserts Visitors Association, or they've met me at my booths for nearly a decade at the largest consumer travel show in the country.  Some international tour operators may have used the itineraries I've created without even knowing their origin.

To others, I'm the tour guide that takes them to strange places they would have never visited with another guide, whether it's a Native American sacred site, or a desert rum distillery.  Or I might be the informal media liaison who gave a visiting travel writer not only an itinerary to help them with their story, but took them for a personal desert exploration.  Some know me as a speaker on Route 66 in the Mojave. 


I'm a strong believer in the power of travel and culture as the best means for educating ourselves in the most meaningful ways possible, and connecting ourselves to all that is most important on this planet - including our common humanity.  While many folks divide travel into categories - luxury, adventure, ecotourism, etc. - I prefer to mash it all up and enjoy it all as it comes.  The totality of the experience, the voyage that is our own life, doesn't need to be categorized and put in boxes.  Travel well, travel often, and live your best, whether you're in a five-star resort or you're dry camping for free on BLM land out in the desert.

Beyond that, to other folks, I'm the leader of a pirate band, singer, drummer, percussionist, traditional shantyman, songwriter, lecturer on piratical history, writer, radio personality, event producer, marketing consultant, and, I'm sure, a few other things, including maybe some I don't want to know about.  Some people think all this is interesting, some prefer their people to be easily labeled and identified, like a bug in someone's collection.  Nobody's sticking a pin through me to put me on display if I have anything to say about it.

Most importantly, I'm simply me, a grateful husband, stepfather to three wonderful children, papou to two incredible grandchildren, and personal valet for an elusive and rare Mojave Sand Leopard.  I don't have anything all figured out, and probably never will.  So what?  That'd be boring.

I enjoy meeting new and interesting people, love good collaborations, and am open to creative ventures.  As long as I'm learning, I'm happy, and I'm happiest outside of my comfort zone.  I have a number of creative projects I'd love to partner on, mostly historically-based travel projects, but some musical ones as well.

If our paths cross, let's hoist a pint, talk story, and you can tell me about your favorite ports, or the wreckage of that alien spacecraft you stumbled upon while looking for Pegleg Smith's lost gold.  Or just feel free to get in touch if you're looking for recommendations for anywhere I've traveled.


Shanghai Brown


Hail me if you've got something to say:


Shanghai Brown, photo by Ian Harland.
Shanhai Brown

The name "Shanghai" Brown was foisted upon me by a fellow shantyman, a dubious Canadian by the name of Tark Hamilton.  He alluded to the Barbary Coast's (the one in San Francisco during Gold Rush years) historical character by the same name and said we shared some similar personality traits.  To this day, I do not know if that was a compliment or insult.  Perhaps both.

As a shantyman, it stuck, and really took hold when I became captain of an incredible pirate jam band, There Be Pirates!.  It has served me well for two albums, performances at festivals from the Queen Mary to the legendary desert roadhouse Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, and two tours to England.

I find it an appropriate name for a voyage such as life.  Cheers!


My Projects & Publications

Mojave Watch is a foundation-supported project I have been working on as director, since February 2018.  It is a public awareness project to help educate and involve desert residents with issues across the desert, from the proposed re-opening of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, to the Cadiz water project, development issues, county code, and more.  Click on the logo image to access the website.

Kefi is the Greek music group I perform in along with my wife.  She has the hard part, taking the lead on clarinet on each song, while I accompany her on a variety of drums and percussion.  We perform as a duo, using backing tracks created in Greece.  Click on the image to the right for more information and our music video shot on the Oregon Coast near Yachats.

The Joshua Tree Gateway Communities Visitor Guide was produced by Sun Runner Media.  Three editions of the visitor guide were produced, the last print edition was distributed in 2018.  The visitor guide was very popular and tens of thousands of copies were distributed.

One of the locations that the first and second editions were distributed was at the LA Travel & Adventure Show, the largest consumer travel show in the country.  I served as president of the California Deserts Visitors Association for 3.5 years, and promoted desert travel at the travel shows in Los Angeles for nine years.

Sun Runner Media also produced two editions of a visitor map for the Joshua Tree National Park area.

Southwest Stories was the travel television series I had written, hosted, and produced for two seasons.  The first season was named The Real Desert with Steve Brown, then after switching production companies, the second season was named Southwest Stories with Steve Brown.

The two seasons featured travel to Twentynine Palms and the Oasis of Mara, Lake Havasu, Palm Springs, Borrego Springs, Ridgecrest, Randsburg, Little Petroglyph Canyon, Felicity, Yuma, Morongo Valley, Old Town Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Pioneertown.

Southwest Stories was broadcast on KVCR PBS TV to 5.8 million households across southern California, comprising 18 million viewers, for more than two years.

You may also view the show and related video content on our YouTube channel.  I continue to be highly interested in producing television travel features.

The Sun Runner Magazine was born on January 1, 1995.  Founded by Vickie Waite, I took over operations on June 1, 2004 and ran the magazine and its related publications until 2018.  The magazine was well loved by readers, but a changing media landscape, and all the usual problems that plague independent media, resulted in moving to a digital-only presence and then ceasing publication altogether.

The Joshua Tree Tortoise Telegraph was a monthly free newspaper focused entirely on hi-desert personalities and culture.  It was produced for two years.  You can access features and complete digital issues in the archives here.  Click on the masthead logo for the archives.

The Palm Canyon Paradise was a monthly free newspaper focused entirely on Palm Springs personalities, events, and culture.  It was short-lived with a three issue run.  You may access features and digital issues in the archives by clicking on the masthead logo.

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