Cover Story ~ From the Road with Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band ~ Durham, NC
This is a true story about my love for music and God hearing my heart and answering my prayers.
The story of my admiration for Kenny Wayne Shepherd starts in his youth, and my affections for his music and his story have grown over the 22 years since I was first introduced to a boy child, with a mean manipulation of a six string. I remember it well too. The opened package was tossed there in my mail bin by an editor and I was the lucky recipient because I was the blues reporter for the publication. A fair amount of paperwork from the label and publishing company came with a disc featuring a young kid on the front. I put the disc in the changer of my car and listened to it right out of the office. I was impressed before the first toll plaza.
That was late September 1995, driving along the Garden State Parkway listening to his debut disc Ledbetter Heights. A few months later it was slotted that the band would be coming through the area and when the tour contacted the publication I wrote for, my editor assigned it to me for the National blues column of The Aquarian Weekly. Boogie n Blues published weekly and offered me great opportunity to speak with many amazing players, including Buddy Guy, Jeff Healey and even tonight’s featured player KWS.
I did a 20 minute phone interview with Kenny Wayne the week his debut disc, pictured above, took the place of his own hero’s work. He replaced SRV’s Greatest Hits at the top of the blues charts with his initial offering. While speaking with this young man, just about 18, I wondered what a whirlwind it must be and we even joked about how he missed having time to himself for simple things like going to the bathroom. I asked if he wanted me to hold on, I wouldn’t mind. He laughed and I never forgot the day I interviewed him at my home in NJ while he was on the road. Probably because his music has been moving me ever since.
A few weeks following our interview I made it out to a show at Irving Plaza, in NYC to see him for the first time. He opened the show for another fairly new band on the scene with a big presence, Gov’t Mule. What did not register and carry through enough to stick, even with photographic proof, was that Shepherd switched singers early on and Noah Hunt joined him a couple of years into the journey. I was reminded of this when I found out, thanks to the folks with the tour, after sending back some pics from that part of the journey. It was also more proof that it was a lifetime ago, that my faded memories of impressionable music were made.
Over the years Shepherd has been a strong and steady presences in the arena of rocking blues. He delivers clean and precise offerings of praise to all that have come before him and inspired him. I am overjoyed to see that 20 plus years later. Today he is doing it with more skill, great comfort and ease, while standing at the helm of this genre carved out by the one who inspired him most of all, Stevie Ray Vaughan, of course. He was just 17 when he offered the world his soul and now at 40 he is in full control of his destiny and grounded in his music diversity that will always be rich in paying tribute to the blues.
On Tuesday, September 26, 2017 The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band pulled into Durham, NC to perform at The Carolina Theater in Durham, located at 309 W Morgan St. Durham, NC. Opening the show was The Apocalypse Blues Review, a rocking band with blues overdrive from Southwest Florida, who warmed up the stage for the fiery force to come.
After a fierce blues finish the hard-working road crew went at it swiftly and with care to get the stage set for the greatness that would grace it.
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band is out on the road headlining a tour in support of their new release, Lay It On Down. The band went into the studio in the early part of the year. They released the album in Europe in July and on August 4, 2017, it hit all the markets for sale here in the states. Since then and in the 8 weeks we’ve watch as this music master gives us his greatness yet again, climbing charts and checking in at Number One!
Personally, I am not surprised, think this is his best original work yet. It is fascinating for me to watch any artist, but this man in particular really speaks to my soul with his music. He always has. If I could have two wishes for this album, it would be for it to offer more songs and one being a pure instrumental selection. It never disappoints me to get lost in his instrumentals. My favorite feature of this album is Shepherd’s vocals. It’s just very exciting from my vantage point, because when I was first introduced to him he was rather shy on stage and rarely took the microphone.
They opened the show with the closing track of the new release, offering the audience a shotgun seat with “Ride of Your Life.” Throughout the night they also offer the first release and opening track, “Baby Got Gone,” a song that reminds me of myself chasing my music dreams. “Diamonds & Gold” was served up with a touching message for how we all should live this life. “Down For Love” came straight out of Texas and the ballad of “Hard Lesson Learned” was also played from the new release. The title track, “Lay It on Down” was the opening encore offering.
I could not help sitting there and thinking, today he has all the players one might need to make a stellar band. It was not like that the first time we met. Featuring the back beat of Chris “The Whipper” Layton, on drums, session artist, Kevin McCormick on bass, Joe Krown on the ivories and Noah Hunt at the mic and on guitar, for the past two decades makes this a worthwhile band to see. Add in the creme de la creme and you emerge with The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. This too was another thing this artist has grown around. He has been a true work in progress and in these twenty plus years he has grown into his most confident voice and found his best band too. I would love an opportunity to talk more about all of that and many other things.
For anyone who has been asleep and is not familiar with the blues artist with rock edges, that has blazed trails with guitar strings, he has been recognized by Fender, who offers a KWS Signature Fender Stratocaster, a guitar that Shepherd himself made with the company about a decade ago. His music has been recognized in the highest regards and his life on the road has taken him to all corners of the world. The Louisiana born player has grown up right before our eyes and now is raising his own family of five with his wife Hannah. One of the most admirable things about him in today’s world is his love for family and how he keeps that first even with this crazy career.
I admired the business model of a young Shepherd being managed by his name sake and father, Ken Shepherd, who not only bought Kenny his first real guitar but he also brought him to the shows featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan, who not only signed the guitar but inspired his mind so much with his music that it ended up putting Shepherd on the trail he still blazes, fueled with great family success.
Currently the band is touring the states while preparing for a quick jaunt for festivals and live music fun over in Europe early next month. They will return to the states in mid October and continue touring here til the end of the year.
When I learned the band was coming to town, I reached out to the website, called and spoke with his tour. I requested a press pass and expressed an interest in wanting to interview the band. I followed up with an email. After several days and no word I followed the link on the site for tickets and purchased the last front row orchestra seat. It was right in front of Kenny’s amps. I would not know until he came out, but what a lucky girl am I! I swear that seat was waiting for me, ten days before the show.
After a few attempts at trying to line up an interview with an artist,who has always been reachable and gracious with media, I left town with hope in my heart that I would reach him with the request myself. My heart was a little heavy as I drove several hours without a guarantee to of meeting him…I noted a pretty sunset on the way towards Durham and there was a beautiful lining around the clouds. I observed it and ask God one time to please, please let me meet this man tonight so that I can ask him face to face for an interview.
Within minutes the sun was behind the buildings, I was parking across the street and staring star struck at KWS’s tour bus and trailer. My heart was racing and again I said “Dear God, please guide me through this night, keep me safe and let me tell him my desire to interview him. “I locked the doors of the truck and walked on to my seat. As I approached his trailer, I snapped a few shots and as I looked toward the building here comes the man himself, phone in hand, looking down and walking straight on toward me.
I had nothing more to say but “Timing is everything,” as I extended my hand and introduced myself. I asked him first for an autograph and as he was graciously signing his name with my purple pen, I threw in a request for an interview. It was great to shake his hand several times and welcome him to NC. I feel like God is riding in the music bus with me. What an awesome co-pilot! I will be following up with the management team to arrange that interview and will keep you all in the loop as we roll down the road with this mopar loving blues man!
Keep up with the band and all of Kenny’s studio and touring projects, by keeping up with his website
Currently the 2017 Lay It On Down Tour is a great effort in giving fans a little bit of all of this artist and his many projects. He knows very little down time with cutting chops with his own project, as well as The Rides featuring Stephen Still and Barry Goldberg and before this latest band release he was keeping busy on tour with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. If you enjoy raw guitar blues based rock roots music, this band does Lay It On Down! Go see them soon.
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~ Open Mic Madness ~
One of the best ways to get used to playing is to get out there doing it. A good way to get started is by checking out any or all of our areas open mic’s. There are several that go down in town here in New Bern, NC. This past week I stopped out at The Brown Pelican to check out who was in the house. I met a whole slew of new performers while I was out and enjoyed a great night of blended jams.
For those looking to break out and play a new song for an audience in New Bern tonight, you are in luck. Tonight there is an open mic at the Trent River Coffee Company, located at 208 Craven St., New Bern, NC. Sign up starts at 6 pm and music plays from 6:30 – 9:00 pm. Pack up the gig back and come show us your talent. This particular open mic is offered once a month at TRCC and most always on the last Saturday of the month.
I found a couple open mic events happening around the Triangle area. First one starts at 5 pm and is being held at the Activity Center at Chosen Generation Christian Church this evening. Located at 1653 Old Louisburg Rd., Raleigh, NC. There will be food and prizes and lots of fun tonight.
For those living around the Raleigh area, there is an open mic tonight as well at Raleigh Brewing, located at 3709 Neil St., Raleigh, NC. Here are the details I know:
OPEN MIC NIGHT!!!! Brought to you by Ike Frasier! Every Saturday at Raleigh Brewing 7-11PM on our patio! Saturday nights at Raleigh Brewing is your time to shine! Musicians, Comedians and all Artist welcomed! We provide: Mic & PA System, Tent/Staging Area You Provide: Whatever you need to perform (instruments, jokes, etc.) First come, first serve basis! No call aheads, just show up!
There are open mics that happen almost every day of the week. Some are great for finding your next band, others are awesome for those finding their own voices still. Around town New Bern, there is an open mic each Wednesday evening at 37th Street located on Neuse Blvd., New Bern, NC. Music starts at 10 pm and Justin Hargett is your host.
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Getting Down Around Town New Bern, NC
Happening now at Union Point Park it is Embrace Recovery Rally, celebrating the close out of National Recovery Month. On the bill for entertainment will be local talent Bobby Hurff, with his band Gypsy Sunrise. The band will perform from 3-4 pm.
Showing off our towns diversity, we celebrate recovery at one event, while at the next one we celebrate the invention of beer. There are actually two beer festivals happening around New Bern today, The first one I have to tell you about is taking place in Taberna and it is open to the public. Just head down to the Taberna Country Club for Rocktober Festfrom 3-5 pm. New Bern’s own busy Zen Pirates will rock the crowd before jet setting down to Emerald Isle to play from 10 pm til 2 am, at E-Club located at 8102 Emerald Dr., Emerald Isle, NC.
Following the Zen Pirates and closing out the night of music is Vin Mott Rhythm & Blues Band. Check them out from 6-9 pm. Sounds like a great night of beer and good music, especially for those around the James City way!
There is also an Oktoberfest Celebration of beer and music at The New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, kicking off at 6 pm. If you do not have tickets they can be purchased at the door for $25.00. Live music will be performed by Harbour Towne Fest Band.
On the patio tonight come enjoy the talented Tom Spellman and his many equally talented friends and family. He will be live under the tent from 8-11 pm at The Harvey Mansion, located at 221 S Front St., New Bern, NC.
Live at The Brown Pelican, located at 411 Broad St., NEw Bern, NC, you can enjoy the grooves of the East Brogues Band. The Carteret County trio will rock you from 8-11 pm, so be sure to come out and dance. The show is free and the music is rockin’ fun.
Joe Baes brings his groove to BrÜtopia 1201 Highway 70 E, New Bern, NC. Baes offers familiar rockin favorites from the 80’s and 90’s and tonight he will be collection tips for The Goff Family. So if you are in the mood for rockin’ fun, local beer and helping others come out tonight from 7-10 pm and be a part of coolness. Baes knows lots of talented friends so I bet a few surprise guest are a part of this equation.
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~ Cruisin Along the Coast ~
Blue Moon Jazz, a New Bern based outfit will be performing at Floyd’s 1921 Restaurant & Catering, located at 400 Bridges St., Morehead City, NC. Music plays from 7-10 pm and you are encouraged to come early for a wonderful meal and stay late to dance the night away with the talented John Van Dyke and his band.
Big Drink Music Company will perform live at The Trading Post Southern Food & Spirits, located at 8302 Emerald Dr., Emerald Isle, NC. Music starts to play at 6:30 for the dinner crowd and continues til 9:30 pm. Come enjoy classic rock and country classics that you know and love.
Ravenz Bru have a show tonight at the VFW in Cedar Point, located at 246 VFW Rd., Cedar Point, NC. Music starts at 7 pm and the party goes til 11 pm. Come out and enjoy classic rock and beach favorites and while you are there… Dance!
Justin Castellano will perform on the deck outside the Icehouse Waterfront Restaurant, at 103 Moore St., Swansboro, NC. He starts offering the music at 9 pm and rocks souls til midnight. Come watch this player as he bends strings and makes sounds that thrill audiences and inspire dancing.
Hank Barbee is also performing in Swansboro,NC this evening. You can come enjoy some good food and great music at The Church St Deli, located right on Church St. The long lean guitar talent gives up the grooves from 7-10 pm.
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Answering the Call:
Each week I ask my talented Facebook friends to tell me where they will be performing and here is what they told me this week. Please get out and support live music this weekend. These bands work hard for your good time.
Live Music Events
If you have Facebook you can search the many music events happening throughout the state by clicking on:
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That is all my news and music that I found for your dancing pleasure. I hope you get out and enjoy the sounds of live music sometime soon. I am dedicated to making sure you know where to go to find it. If you like this blog please sign up and get an email each time we publish. I appreciate my readers, the musicians and the venues who all do a part in keeping live music alive! Thanks for keeping me informed!
Please take kindness with you today and hug strangers. Don’t forget that life is short and could end in a moment, so make sure you take time to enjoy the dance. Party safely people! We love having you here with us! You rock, so don’t roll the car! Rely on sober friends, call a cab or sign up to Uber around!
Send all of your event invites to me on Facebook, so I know where you are playing in the days ahead. I can be found on Facebook by following this link:
I also read emails daily. You can send those to: