As a child in Louisiana, Kenny Wayne Shepherd grew up surrounded by music.
With the influence of a radio DJ for a father, the blues musician picked up his first toy guitar around 4 years old, and his first real guitar at 7 after seeing Stevie Ray Vaughn perform live.
“Seeing (Vaughn) was really when I was like, ‘I want a real guitar so I can do this,’” Shepherd said. “I spent several years just sitting around, playing guitar and learning, practicing. By the time I was 13, I was on stage. I didn’t really realize that I wanted to do this for a living at the time, but I loved music.”
Now audiences can hear that love for themselves when the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and the Beth Hart Band perform Thursday, Aug. 2, at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.
More than two decades into a recording career, Shepherd built a powerful reputation as an extremely talented blues guitarist and a riveting live performer. Eight of his 10 studio albums hit No. 1 on the Billboard blues charts, and the band holds the record for the longest-running album on those charts with his sophomore release, “Trouble Is…”
Over the years, the artist received five Grammy Award nominations and two Billboard Music Awards.
About a year ago, the group released its most recent record, “Lay It Down,” which debut at No. 1 on the Billboard blues chart. The band’s 10th studio album explores various genres spanning from blues and rock ‘n’ roll to R&B.
“The material is different,” Shepherd noted. “I don’t want to repeat myself. I like to try different things on different albums. I never wanted my fans to feel like they’re going to know what the record sounds like before they’ve even heard it.”
Shepherd wrote all of the songs on the record, with a variety of co-writers. His favorite tune on it is “Diamonds and Gold” because of the sheer enjoyment he gets out of playing it live for his fans.
“I think that for us, we’re a live performance-based band,” Shepherd explained. “We go and make records, but the albums we make are the vehicle for us to get out on the road and get the music to the people. We’ve built a reputation over the last 25 years that the essence of what we do is live on stage every night. We try to improvise, we jam on some things — it’s a loose situation. We do something different on any given night.”
Although the artist finds it hard to choose just one highlight that sticks out in his career, he finds that the relationships he builds with other musicians became the most valuable aspect of his journey.
“Being on the road for 25 years and playing every night, I think that’s really what helps you to master your craft and help you refine who you are as an artist and what you like to do,” he said. “Over the years, there’s more substance in my music. I’ve become a better entertainer, a guitar player and a better singer. … I’ve just grown as an artist and an individual.”