Interview: Kenny Wayne Shepherd
The blues-rock guitarist talks about his early days and why he first picked up the guitar, and he offers advice to younger players.
The blues-rock guitarist talks about why he picked up the guitar, his early days and gives some advice to young players.
GUITAR WORLD: What inspired you to start playing guitar?
My dad was a disc jockey at various radio stations in our hometown and he used to take me to concerts. I attended my very first blues concert when I was 3 years old. It was Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. And because my dad got to go backstage, too, I got to meet many musicians. Watching all these concerts while I was growing up played a major role in my interest in the guitar.
But the defining moment for me was when I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was 7 years old at the time and I got to meet him afterward. I walked away from that concert just dying to get serious about the guitar. I already had some toy guitars that I had played around with at home, and I probably learned my first notes on one of them, but I got my first electric guitar right after I had met Stevie.
What was your first guitar?
It was a Yamaha copy of a Strat—just a real cheap starter guitar. When you’re seven years old, your parents don’t know how serious you are about music, so they’re not going to rush out and buy a custom Strat or something. So I basically learned on that guitar for the first few years before I finally upgraded.
What was the first song you learned?
I don’t remember exactly, but one of the songs I was most inspired to learn was “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. But it takes a while to get to the point where you can actually play a song like that properly, so I think my first songs were probably simple tunes like “Yesterday” by the Beatles, songs that were primarily just chords.
Do you remember your first gig?
The first time I got up onstage I was 13 years old. I sat in with the Bryan Lee band down in New Orleans on Bourbon Street. Nobody else at the time would let me get up and jam a little, but he did. I was supposed to do only two songs and then get down, but I did the two and he wouldn’t let me off the stage, so I played all night, until three in the morning with him.
And soon after that, I put together my own band and started doing my own shows, and by time I was 16, I had signed a record deal.
What is your favorite piece of gear?
My 1961 Fender Stratocaster. It fits me like a glove and sounds like no other guitar. It has toured the world with me several times over, and I can’t imagine ever playing music without it.
What advice would you offer young guitar players?
Focus on your vibrato. People who want to learn the guitar sometimes just want to play a whole bunch of notes and play really fast, and they forget to focus on the vibrato, which gives each note a voice.
If you listen to B.B King or Albert King or Eric Clapton, they have a signature vibrato that distinguishes their sound from anyone else. So if you can nail the vibrato, everything else will sound right on.
You Might Also Like...
10 hours 42 min ago
Jacky Vincent of Falling In Reverse Discusses Joe Satriani's 'Surfing With the Alien' — The Record That Changed My Life11 hours 23 min ago
11 hours 59 min ago
12 hours 2 min ago
12 hours 7 min ago
13 hours 10 min ago
13 hours 28 min ago
In the Magazine
Most Commented Articles
GUITAR WORLD ON FACEBOOK
Guitar World on Twitter
- 1 of 590