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Second coming?

Of the incomparable SRV, I mean.

That, of course, is Kenny Wayne Shepherd, courtesy of the likewise incomparable Diogenes Sarcastica, who I gratefully thank for the steer to this one. A bit of bio on Shepherd and his interesting road to blues fame—a long, strange trip fueled, of all things, by the delight of grandmas across America: S&H Green Stamps.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd (born Kenny Wayne Brobst; June 12, 1977) is an American guitarist. He has released several studio albums and experienced significant commercial success as a blues rock artist.

Shepherd was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He graduated from Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport. He is “completely self-taught”, and does not read music. Growing up, Shepherd’s father (Ken Shepherd) was a local radio personality and some-time concert promoter, and had a vast collection of music. Shepherd received his first “guitar” at the age of three or four, when his grandmother purchased a series of several plastic guitars for him with S&H Green Stamps, which Shepherd has said he would “go through like candy”.

Shepherd stated in a 2011 interview that he began playing guitar in earnest at age seven, about six months after meeting and being “pretty mesmerized” by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Labor Day weekend in 1984, at one of his father’s promoted concerts. His self-taught method employed a process of learning one note at a time, playing and rewinding cassette tapes, using “a cheap Yamaha wanna-be Stratocaster…made out of plywood, basically”, and learning to play by following along with material from his father’s record collection.

Blues musician Bryan Lee invited the then-13-year-old Shepherd to play guitar onstage. He subsequently made demo tapes, and a video was shot at Shepherd’s first performance at the Red River Revel Arts Festival in Shreveport. It was this video performance that impressed Giant Records chief Irving Azoff enough to sign Shepherd to a multiple album record deal.

From 1995 on, Shepherd took seven singles into the Top 10, and holds the record for the longest-running album on the Billboard Blues Charts with Trouble Is…. In 1996, Shepherd began a longtime collaboration with vocalist Noah Hunt, who provided the vocals for Shepherd’s signature song, “Blue on Black”. Shepherd has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and has received two Billboard Music Awards, two Blues Music Awards, and two Orville H. Gibson Awards.

I thought I recognized drummer Chris Layton in the above vid, an alumnus of Stevie Ray’s Double Trouble band, and turns out I was right about that; he’s been back there pounding the skins for Shepherd since 2006, as it happens. No surprise that, really; although it could be argued that Shepherd doesn’t quite have the same casual, flawless fluidity as Vaughan, there’s no denying the lad has some damned fine chops of his own, and definitely knows a thing or two about that elusive will o’ the wisp: TONE. It’s the bluesman’s meat and potatoes, a make-or-break quality that the very best players spend entire careers obssessively chasing down, never entirely convinced that they’ve quite caught it. YET.

And Kenny Wayne has it, in spades. His breakout classic-rock-radio hit “Blue On Black” I’m sure you’re all familiar with already, so let’s try another one on for size and see how it fits.

Fits pretty nicely on a hot summer Saturday night, I’d say. One last vid to pull it all together.

Somewhere out there, Stevie Ray Vaughan—and Jimi Hendrix too, probably—are smiling down in approval at their rightful heir.

5

3 thoughts on “Second coming?

  1. Damn!
    I remember hearing about Little Kenny Wayne Sheppard way back when he still a kid and liked his style but he kinda dropped off my radar for some reason. I see he done growed up.
    And yeah. that’s the closest to the Second Coming of BOTH legends I have ever heard.
    Thanks for posting these videos Mike. I see some binge listening in my future.
    I even sent ya some Link Love.
    https://bustednuckles.net/somebody-done-growed-up-while-i-wasnt-paying-attention-holy-cow-have-i-missed-out/

    Now I’m going to try to post this comment for the third damned time.

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