Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Award-winning blues guitarist Kenny Shepherd ready to rock Pavilion

Live performance has always been central


Brandon Jordan

Web Developer & Distribution Director

Published August 25, 2021

Live performance has always been the essence of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.

But when that was taken away during the COVID-19 global pandemic, the band did the next best thing. They released a live concert album and video, Straight to You: Live, in November.

“People have been asking us to do a live concert video forever, for decades,” Shepherd said in an interview on the band’s website. “We’ve been working so much, focusing on studio recordings, but I’ve been hearing the call from the fans for many years now.”

The band was originally set to come to Fort Wayne in early September, but due to illness, its Straight to You: Live Tour was delayed. The band will play the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion at 7 p.m. Oct. 1.

Young Beginnings

The Louisiana native’s recording career began nearly three decades ago. He had been performing since the age of 13 and was only 16 when he signed on to a record label.

Since then, Shepherd has sold millions of albums and performed on a number of late night shows, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Also, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and USA Today have all featured the modern blues legend during his career.

Fender released a custom Kenny Wayne Shepherd Stratocaster guitar.

“I grew up playing a Strat,” Shepherd told Fender. “Everything about the instrument is just perfect for me. It’s all in the right spot for the way that I play.”

While his 1995 debut album, Ledbetter Heights, was certified platinum by the RIAA in 2004, Shepherd is perhaps most well known for the track “Blue on Black” from his 1998 platnum sophomore album — a track that has since received more than 34 million streams on Spotify.

Shepherd has also earned two Billboard Music awards, was nominated for five Grammy awards, and has recorded with stars including B.B. King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards.

At the turn of the millennium, Shepherd was featured in the end title track for the animated film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000).

His first live album, Live! In Chicago, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues chart in 2010, and the blues band’s subsequent album, 2011’s How I Go, also debuted in the blues chart’s top spot.

His 2014 album, Goin’ Home, became Shepherd’s sixth No. 1 debut on the Billboard Blues chart. The names of stars littered the credits for this album, including Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb’ Mo’, and Robert Randolph. The album also featured Ringo Starr.

More Blues and More Soul

Soul artist Bette Smith and blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland will join the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band when they return to Sweetwater in late summer.

Glide Magazine called Smith the “the epitome of ‘music is a healing force’” after the singer’s 2020 album The Good, The Bad and the Bette.

“The album message is a story seen through the lens of a child, and then an adult, who still wears her scars of childhood, but also of hope, strength, and optimism going forward in life,” Bette said on her website. “Often people think I’m very confident and strong, but they don’t know I’ve faced many obstacles and traumas I fought hard to overcome.”

The three-time Grammy nominee Shemekia Copeland recently won International Artist of the Year from the UK Blues Federation.

Copeland’s 2020 album, Uncivil War, is a look at problems facing modern American life with a demand for change. Songs on the album face issues ranging from gun violence in “Apple Pie and A .45” to civil rights in “Walk Until I Ride.”

In an interview on her website, Copeland says she is “trying to put the ‘united’ back in the United States. Like many people, I miss the days when we treated each other better. For me, this country’s all about people with differences coming together to be part of something we all love. That’s what really makes America beautiful.”

In a review of the album, reporter Barry Mazor of the Wall Street Journal said that Copeland’s “ferocious vocal power is noted and praised so often that it’s possible to miss the sweet-tempered, kindhearted nature that lies not far from that surface — a trait she shares with soul queen Mavis Staples.”

Tickets to see the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band at Sweetwater Pavilion are available for purchase at sweetwaterpavilion.com.

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