Kenny Wayne Shepherd: the 10 blues guitarists that blew my mind
One of the 21st century’s foremost blues guitarists, Kenny Wayne Shepherd furthers his Strat mastery on new album Lay It On Down.
The follow-up to Pierced Arrow, the bluesman’s collaboration with Stephen Stills, Lay It On Down is chock-full of big guitar tones, deep grooves and lyrical solos - just as you’d expect from an alumni of the Experience Hendrix tour.
Indeed, Lay It On Down is the culmination of all of Shepherd’s influences thus far, something he was all too happy to discuss with MusicRadar - and every one is an absolute legend, make no mistake…
Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s new album Lay It On Down is out now via Provogue. The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band tours the UK in October/November:
27.10 - Mr. Kyps, Bournemouth
28.10 - London Bluesfest, O2 Indigo
30.10 - Assembly Rooms, Leamington Spa
31.10 - Tramshed, Cardiff
01.11 - Ritz, Manchester
1. Jimi Hendrix
“He’s certainly one of my favourites, if not my favourite.
“Hendrix made the guitar do things that really no-one had done before his time. He took some of his music influences and put it together and it came out in such a way that it revolutionised the approach to playing the guitar.
“I don’t think there’s anybody since him that really had the impact he had; that’s why he’s consistently listed as the greatest guitar player of all time.”
2. BB King
“He was one of those guys that was very melodic in his playing but literally had the ability to play one note and say everything that needs to be said with one note. I mean, he could blow any guy off stage just by playing one note. He was an incredible talent.”
3. Albert King
“Albert certainly had one of the must unique sounds, in part due to the fact that he played a right-handed guitar upside down, left-handed. So all of the strings were backwards - instead of pushing up to bend the strings, he was pulling down, which made for a very unique sound.
“His phrasing and the attack on his instrument, it’s just really not ever been duplicated. He’s one of those guys that created such an amazing sound and such talent with guitar licks, it just becomes a default.”
4. Stevie Ray Vaughan
“He was single-handedly the guy who lit the fire in me to do what I do. I met him when I was seven years old for the first time and got to watch his show from the side of the stage, and I was completely blown away.
“The fire, the intensity and the emotion that he put into his playing and the way it affected me made me want to learn to play with that same fire, passion and intensity so that maybe I could affect people the way he affected me.”
5. Lightnin’ Hopkins
“He’s your typical old-school Texas blues guy. He really has this raw approach to playing the instrument. He was the guy who would do whatever he wanted to, no matter what, and it would force anyone else that was playing with him to have to follow him.
“Otherwise known as a commanding performer and not the kind of guy you would want to mess with. You just do whatever he does and you do it with a smile on your face!”
6. Billy Gibbons
“To me, Billy is like Jimmy Page when it comes to blues music. He’s one of the kings of writing catchy guitar riffs. Like Jimmy Page is known for being one of the greatest riff writers of all time, in my opinion Billy Gibbons is on the same level.
“If you think of the stuff he’s done over the years and the kinds of guitar licks like Jesus Left Chicago, The Grange, Automobile... Just all of it is so catchy and expressive and I think at one point Jimi Hendrix said that Billy Gibbons is one of the greatest guitar players alive, which speaks volumes.”
7. Eric Clapton
“He’s the only guitar player that I’ve heard people call God. He was beyond Jimi Hendrix! That says it all right there.
“He literally inspired many generations of guitar players and there are iconic songs like Layla and Wonderful Tonight, which was one of my favourite songs when I was a kid. It’s the first ballad I learned how to play!
“He has an unwavering love and appreciation for blues music and everything he’s done for that gets really high marks in my own personal opinion.”
8. Albert Collins
“Albert was known as the Iceman! And part of that was because of his tone but also because he was so cool - he was the king of cool!
“As a musician, you strive to have your own unique sound so that it can be identified in an instant, and he certainly had that. He also had very unique tuning that no else did, and he used a capo on just about every song.
“They also called him the Master of the Telecaster, which he certainly was and one of my biggest heroes.”
9. Buddy Guy
“This guy is one of Hendrix’s biggest influences! I think one of the things that Hendrix got from Buddy Guy was the ability to just unleash on your instrument.
“I mean, Buddy Guy, you can see him today and he’s 80 but he plays ferociously! It’s like his signature thing: he just unleashes on his instrument, and that’s something I think Hendrix learned from him. He’s another legendary player that has inspired so many people.”
10. Stephen Stills
“I’m gonna give a shout out to my band member! In my opinion, he is one of the greatest songwriters of our time and also one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He’s very innovative and creative with the way he plays his instrument.
“He has a completely different approach to the instrument than I do but at the same time there’s a common thread there because he’s a blues lover as well. He’s written lyrically and musically some of the greatest songs of our time, which have defined the sound of a generation through his instrument.”