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Happy news for Rochester blues

November 16, 2018

If you love the blues, it’s time to get happy – Kenny Wayne Shepherd is coming to Rochester. He’s had two platinum records and has collaborated with everyone from B.B. King to Stephen Stills. His music has even been used in Batman cartoons and covered by Five Finger Death Punch.

Now, he’s bringing his “Blue on Black” attack to Rochester for some ripping guitar slinging that’ll sear your ears, and he even took some time to answer questions for 507 readers.

You got your first guitars when you were 3 years old. What memories do you have of those first instruments?

I carried those things around with me everywhere. They were little toy, plastic guitars with plastic nylon strings that my grandmother got with S & H Green stamps. I learned my first notes on that guitar. I don’t know how old I was, but I think it was “Smoke on the Water.”

What were the early days of your music career like?

I got on stage the first time when I was 13, did my first demo recordings at 14, put a band together at 15, and signed a record deal at 16. All I knew is that I loved playing music, and I had an opportunity to make an album. They got it on the radio, and people started buying it. You never know if you’re going to be successful or not… It was just thrilling for me because I was getting out on stage and people were showing up every night.

What was it like working with blues legends for 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads?

Meeting up with B.B. King in his home town of Indianola, Mississippi and playing with him in Club Ebony, which is a very small juke joint, that was a unique experience. Going to Etta Baker’s house. She was in her 90s. I sat with her in her kitchen, and we made music together. Reuniting some of the guys from the Muddy Waters band and Howlin’ Wolf’s band, that was amazing. The whole thing was incredible… We are actually in the planning stages of doing another version of that.

What was it like making music with Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg from your project, The Rides?

They are like my big brothers, and obviously Stephen is one of the greatest American song writers of our time. It was an honor and a pleasure to be a in a band with him. Just writing songs and performing, I learned a lot from them… We’ve done two great records together and three tours together. Stephen was just texting me the other day, so I think the wheels are in motion for a third album.

If you could recommend just one track from your most recent release, Lay It on Down, what would it be?

“Diamonds & Gold.” I think that’s my current favorite off that record. It sounds really fresh and current… It’s a song I think everyone can appreciate.

What was the recording process like for that record?

We’ve always done our albums one way: that’s to get everybody in the room together and play together as a band doing the least amount of overdubs as possible, because I don’t want it to sound manufactured. I want it to sound like the band is playing together as a band, as human beings in the same room interacting.

What will fans hear at the Rochester show?

We are featuring a lot of songs from the new record and some older stuff. We are putting some songs in the set that we haven’t played in many, many years that people have been listening to for a while. If people have heard us several times, they’ll hear things they haven’t heard in previous shows.

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