Kenny Wayne Shepherd builds Backroads Blues brand

The Louisiana native brings his traveling festival to Huber Heights Wednesday.



Last summer, Kenny Wayne Shepherd launched the Backroads Blues Festival, a traveling showcase of established and rising talent. The Louisiana native is back on the road for a second year, which includes a stop with his band at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights on Wednesday, June 7, with special guests Eric Gales and King Solomon Hicks.

“The inaugural tour was killer,” Shepherd said, recently speaking by telephone. “The lineup couldn’t have been any better with Buddy Guy, the current King of the Blues, and a really hot up-and-comer in Kingfish (Ingram). He just won a Grammy and is lighting the blues world on fire. We covered three generations between Kingfish, myself and my band and Buddy Guy, which I believe are certainly three of the hottest acts in the genre.”



Rotating support acts

Last year’s tour featured Shepherd, Guy and Ingram at every stop but this time the Backroads Blues Festival dates have various special guests.

“This summer, the lineup is different depending on the market,” Shepherd said. “We’re still trying to figure out what the model will be going forward. I like the idea of having flexibility because all of these artists have their own careers, and they need to do their own shows as well. If we can be flexible, we can make it work and have different lineups in different markets depending on artist availability.

“The bottom line is we’re creating a brand,” he continued. “We want it to be a familiar brand. We want people to come to expect it each year and to know we’re going to bring them the best in the field. They’ll know it’s going to be a great experience even before we announce who’s on the bill. They’ll want to come anyway because we have a proven track record of shows so they know we’re going to bring a great festival no matter who is on the bill.”

Revisiting the past

The touring festival was inspired by “10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads,” Shepherd’s 2007 documentary and corresponding album. The project featured BB King, Hubert Sumlin, Etta Baker, Pinetop Perkins and others.

“We made the documentary film of us playing with all of these amazing blues musicians in their hometowns,” Shepherd said. “It had some of the greatest names in blues entertainment of that time and also some of the unsung heroes of the blues that are tremendously talented as well. We intend the Backroads Blues Festival to be an annual event featuring the hottest entertainment in blues and blues rock today with well-established ones and some of the up-and-comers blazing a trail for themselves.”

In December, Shepherd released “Trouble Is … 25,’ the update of his sophomore album from 1997.

“We re-recorded the record, but we did a similar version to the original,” he said. “We wanted it to sound very familiar so when you listen to it, it instantly sounds like the record you know but the more you listen to it, the more you’ll hear little subtle differences. We made subtle changes to things here and there, but I didn’t want to mess up the vibe of the original record because that’s what made it so special.

“We also filmed a documentary that tells the story of the making of the original ‘Trouble Is …’ album,” Shepherd continued. “That’s a pretty compelling story in and of itself. So, that’s the second documentary film we’ve put out. We also did a live video of the very first night of the tour in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, for a concert DVD. Then, we released the new version of ‘Trouble Is …’ on vinyl, which is the only time this music has been released on vinyl.”



Music in the cue

Shepherd has several recording projects on the horizon, including a new studio album slated for release later this year. He has an album of rock covers recorded and waiting to be scheduled for release. He has also started recording material for a 30th anniversary version of his 1995 debut album,” “Ledbetter Heights.”

“We’re homing in on the song selection for the next record,” he said. “That will be an all new Kenny Wayne Shepherd record with new songs. It’s kind of picking up where our last album, ‘The Traveler,’ left off. If you heard that one and you dig the sound of that record, this is picking up where that one left off regarding the level of energy, the overall musical vibe and the diversity of what’s on the record.

“I’m excited about the different recording project but right now our goal is to get as many people as possible to come out for the Backroad Blues Festival shows,” Shepherd added. “We’re really excited about the event and getting this thing off the ground and running. It’s going to be a great show in Huber Heights. It’s a great lineup at a great venue so we want everybody to come out and have a great evening of blues and blues rock entertainment.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or


What: Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Backroads Blues Festival with special guests Eric Gales and King Solomon Hicks

Where: Rose Music Center, 6800 Executive Blvd., Huber Heights

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7; doors open at 6 p.m.

Cost: $39.50-$103.50

More info: 513-232-6220 or

Artist info:

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