American blues superstar Kenny Wayne Shepherd plays his own Fender Signature series guitars but he admits a love for Gibson - father-in-law Mel Gibson, writes Graham Walker.
He says the Lethal Weapon star is an incredible support.
”I wasn’t sure what they might think of me, given that I was a musician and they generally have bad reputations when it comes to dating girls,” laughed the award-winning songwriter, who plays Sheffield’s Plug on Saturday, October 25, 2014.
“He’s a fantastic father-in-law to me and an incredible grandfather to my children. All my in-laws are great. I’m very happy to be part of the family.”
VIDEO: Press the play buton to watch Kenny talking about the making of his latest album, Goin’ Home.
Kenny, aged 37, married Gibson’s eldest daughter, Hannah, and they now have a girl and two boys.
But when it comes to guitars his love affair is not with Gibson but Fender - in 2008 the company released the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Series Stratocaster, designed exclusively by him.
“For a guitar player that’s like the Holy Grail,” says Kenny.
“Ever since back in the 90s, when Fender started doing the Signature series, that was something for the elite musicians. People like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck have signature series guitars. Naturally I was extremely excited and honoured when they asked me if I wanted to help create a Kenny Wayne Shepherd edition Stratocaster. It was a great experience and process. We came up with three different models, the same specification but different appearances. And I play them all the time on stage. You’ll see them when we come to your town.”
Now Kenny is a huge name in his own right, with his own brand of blues-rock. He has sold millions of albums, had seven top 10 singles on the Billboard Blues Charts, been nominated for five Grammy Awards and worked with legends including BB King, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
Ringo Starr has been a personal friend for 12 years and Kenny played on a couple of songs on his 2012 album. Ringo has returned the favour and is one of the big names featured on Kenny’s latest album, Goin’ Home.
Kenny will be playing songs from it and his extensive back catalogue at Sheffield’s Plug.
In an exclusive interview - listen to it in full at thestar.co.uk - he said: “If you are a fan or blues music, guitar playing or just good music in general - this is the show for you.
“We’re going to do songs from previous albums, an extensive catalogue, after being in the business for over 20 years - but we are also going to focus a lot of attention on the new record, Goin’ Home.
“It’s a traditional blues album where we go back and record songs by some of my bigest heroes and musical influences. So old and new songs.
“I’m not one to name drop, but over the years I’ve got to play with just about every one of my heroes and a lot of people from a lot of different genres, everyone from B King, to Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd - I mean just an interesting mix of different kind of musicians, all legendary players.
“The experiences of playing with these people were all unique. I certainly feel honoured to have played with these incredible musicians.
“Many incredible musicians are also featured on the new record, as guest artistes. People like Warren Haynes and Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh from the Eagles, Robert Randolph and several others.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to call Ringo a friend for 12 years now. He’s an incredible man and obviously an incredible player. He asked me to play on his last album in 2012 - I played two songs on it. That was a really amazing experience, for sure,
“But one of the best things that’s come out of playing with these people are the personal relationships that have developed and just to be able to cal him a friend is truly a honour.
Kenny, who picked up his first guitar aged three and began playing seriously at seven, is one of the last of a fading breed of true blues-rock guitar gunslingers.
His advice to others wanting as career in music is to have fun and take it a day at a time and be open to the idea that there is always more to learn.
He said: “Playing guitar has been part of my life as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a guitar in my hand.
“There’s always more to learn. Any person in life, in general, you should always be open to the idea that there’s more to learn. That way you are progressing.
“I would say I never sat around and thought of myself doing this, at this level. When I was a kid I just enjoyed learning how to play and I never looked too far into the future in my mind. We should deal with one day at a time, for sure.
“But anything is possible. I didn’t move to Los Angeles, or Nashville, or to any place to pursue a career in music. I stayed in my home town in Shreveport, Louisiana and I felt like I was meant to play music and that’s what ended up happening.
“So if you feel like this is what you’re supposed to do, just stay true to yourself and your music and things will generally take care of themselves. If you were meant to do this, it will happen.”
* Kenny’s guest support is Laurence Jones, aged 22, who is making a big name for himself and has been compared to a young Robin Trower.
Laurence has signed a deal with Ruf Records. His debut for the label, his second album, was recorded at the legendary Dockside Studio in Louisiana, where artists such as BB King and Derek trucks have recorded.