As far as the prowess of the modern bluesman, it’s pretty hard to top the virtuosic ability of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Entering the scene as a teenage prodigy with a knack for channelling the ferocity and emotion heard in the playing of his heroes Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, Shepherd has been a mainstay in the world of blues rock for close to 25 years now, with his live shows acting as an absolute masterclass for budding guitar buffs looking to finesse their way around the fretboard. Ahead of a hotly anticipated East Coast tour kicking off in Brisbane in October, we dive into the formidable arsenal of vintage and modified gear favoured by the one and only Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
1961 FENDER STRATOCASTER
Every guitarist can testify to the fact that some instruments feel like an extension of your own body and soul, and most would be able to pinpoint the exact moment ‘the one’ fell into their hands and never left. For Kenny Wayne Shepherd, that exact moment occurred when the prodigal young guitarist first visited Hollywood’s Guitar Centre at the age of 16 and stumbled upon a worn out ’61 Sunburst Stratocaster. Despite not being able to afford the guitar, the vintage Strat never strayed far from Shepherd’s mind, and on his next visit to L.A. to play his first industry showcase a year later, he managed to convince his management team to split the cost of the guitar three ways, subsequently playing the instrument on every studio release and tour ever since.
FENDER JIMI HENDRIX MONTEREY STRATOCASTER
It’s no big secret that Shepherd, like most Strat-wielders, is a die-hard Hendrix fan, so it should come as no surprise that the Louisiana bluesman would tote a Monterey Stratocaster onstage for a blistering set-closing cover of ‘Voodoo Child.’ Modelled upon the Stratocaster that Hendrix infamously smashed and set ablaze at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Shepherd’s model is part of Fender’s initial limited hand-painted run, and features a customised neck with jumbo frets and added Graphtec saddles.
FENDER KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD SIGNATURE STRATOCASTER
Back in 2008, Shepherd and Fender unveiled the first editions of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Stratocaster. Based on the specs of Shepherd’s favourite vintage Stratocasters with a modern twist, the models feature custom-voiced KWS pickups, updated hardware and hot-rod inspired graphics painted on the body below the bridge. Onstage, Shepherd can often be seen playing various prototype models of the KWH Signature Strat, including a white model with an incredibly rare channel bound birds eye maple fretboard designed in conjunction with then-Fender CEO Larry Thomas.
GIBSON LES PAUL
Shepherd owns several Les Pauls, with a particularly delicious vintage ebony Les Paul Custom handed down to him by his grandfather being favoured by Shepherd for occasional use in the studio and onstage.
NATIONAL RESOPHONIC ELECTRIC RESONATOR
The fusion of a traditional Dobro body with the shape and electronics of a single-cut electric guitar, Shepherd uses this National hybrid guitar to recreate the steely sounds of his hit single ‘Aberdeen’ when playing live.
MARTIN KWS SIGNATURE ACOUSTIC
Inspired by his huge 1998 single ‘Blue on Black,’ Shepherd and Martin teamed up to create the colourful KWS Signature Martin Acoustic Guitar, featuring a jumbo cutaway silhouette and a Sitka spruce top for a distinctively snappy and resonant tone.
On recent tours, Shepherd has been using a massive sounding setup consisting of three Fender amps modified by the one and only Alexander Dumble, the crowned maestro of boutique amplification. This rig includes an original blackface Fender Vibroverb from 1964, a ’57 Deluxe Tweed rewired by Dumble and referred to as the ‘Tweedle-Dee Deluxe,’ and a modified Fender Bandmaster head feeding into a Fender Twin Reverb, delivering a huge saturated tone for Shepherd to use for feedback during his extended blistering solos.
As a serial gear addict, Shepherd is known for shaking up his pedals for different tones while on tour, and often uses a sophisticated switching system to avoid the hassle of navigating an overcrowded pedalboard.
Shepherd is vocal fan of the Analog Man King of Tone overdrive, calling the boutique pedal his ‘secret weapon’ on various occasions, using it in conjunction with a dual inductor Dunlop MC404 CAE wah-wah for those classic searing blues rock tones. For modulated, Leslie speaker inspired tones, Shepherd alternates between an Analog Man Bi-Chorus and a Dunlop Uni-Vibe, while an original Roger Mayer Octavia beefs up his signal for the high-pitched shredding heard on ‘Blue on Black.’ Although he doesn’t use delay often, Shepherd owns a fully analogue Jam Pedals Delay Llama for lush, old school sounds to beef up his playing. To keep things in tune, Shepherd also plugs into a Boss TU-2 tuner, and juices up his rig with a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 power supply.
Catch Kenny Wayne Shepherd on tour in October with information here teglive.com.au.