How Kenny Wayne Shepherd Went From Punk Kid to Blues Legend
As a Shreveport guy who has been in and around the rock community for a long time, its been fun watching Kenny Wayne Shepherd grow up. And I don't mean in age necessarily...but more just watching his growth in the music businesses. He went from a snot-nosed punk (and I mean that in the most loving way possible) to an elder statesman playing in a band with Stephen Stills. And, being in the spotlight from an early age, we've been luck enough to see every stage of his evolution.
As you know, Kenny Wayne is the son of famed (former) Shreveport radio DJ Shotgun Ken Shepherd. Which, and I'm sure it goes without saying, had a HUGE influence on Kenny. He was always around music, so of course he had an interest in it from a young age. But, as Kenny will tell you, when specific event changed the course of his life forever.
His dad, as he occasionally did, promoted and put together a big concert in town when Kenny was about 7. Nothing unusual about that. But something did happen at that concert that made Kenny go from interested in music to dedicating his life to it. During that concert, a young and impressionable Kenny Wayne got to meet Stevie Ray Vaughn and see Double Trouble perform. That meeting changed Kenny forever.
The way Kenny tells it, after meeting Stevie, he dedicated his life to playing guitar. He never had a lesson in his life...he was self taught, learning one note at a time and going from there.
Fast forward a few years, a 13 year old Kenny Wayne and his band played the Red River Revel. Which isn't that unusual. Tons of local artists play the Revel every year. But, Kenny was so impressive, that that performance inspired famed record executive Irving Azoff enough to sign Shepherd to a multiple album record deal.
From that point, Kenny had 7 Top 10 singles, got nominated for numerous Grammy and Billboard awards...the guy was on fire. He opened for the Rolling Stones, BB King, Van Halen and tons of others...he was living the dream! And still is really. Kenny's latest project, The Ride, is a band he started with Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg! And through all that, he never forgot where he came from. He named an album Ledbetter Heights, had Buddy Flett play on a few of his tunes...just little nods to where he came from. And he frequently comes back home to play.
But, I think the main thing to remember from Kenny's story is that if you believe in yourself anything is possible. I mean, of course, Kenny's dad probably helped him get in front of the right people and had some sway in the record industry. But, Shotgun couldn't make Kenny learn the guitar or be as good as he is.
Kenny was a 7 year old kid who wanted to be like Stevie Ray Vaughn and he worked his ass off to learn and master the instrument. He loved the music and the instrument and taught himself how to play it one note at a time.
Its kind of funny....the same way his idol Stevie Ray Vaughn inspired a generation of guitar players, now Kenny is doing the same. The young punk is now an elder statesman of the blues, inspiring the next generation to keep the blues alive.