Shaw grew up near San Francisco, California. He began writing about rock and roll music as a young teenager. His first zines were Tolkien-related, but among them was also a mimeographed sheet called Mojo Navigator (full title, "Mojo-Navigator Rock and Roll News"). Founded in 1966 by David Harris, with Shaw's assistance, Mojo Navigator is said to have been an early inspiration for Rolling Stone magazine. In the 1970s Shaw moved to Los Angeles with wife and partner Suzy and started the fanzine called Who Put the Bomp, popularly known as simply Bomp!, or Bomp magazine. Shaw's writing appeared in Bomp!, of which he was editor and publisher, as well as in Creem, Phonograph Record (where he again served as editor) and occasionally Rolling Stone. He also wrote a book about Elton John while on staff as a writer for United Artists Records. Bomp featured many writers who would later become prominent, including Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Richard Meltzer, and Ken Barnes.