Kenny Wayne Shepherd Discusses Muddy Waters' 'Hard Again' — The Record That Changed My Life

by Kenny Wayne Sheperd
Posted Jul 25, 2014 at 4:16pm

Kenny Wayne Shepherd chooses (and discusses) the record that changed his life.

Muddy Waters
Hard Again (1977)

"Hard Again is not just one of the greatest blues albums of all time, it's one of the greatest albums of all time. It came out the year I was born, in 1977, on Blue Sky Records. Johnny Winter produced and played guitar on it.

"It's packed with great blues musicians: James Cotton on harmonica, Pinetop Perkins on piano, Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith on drums and 'Steady Rollin'' Bob Margolin on guitar as well. When I was three years old, my dad took me to see Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. That was my first concert and my introduction to the blues. So even though I was young when I discovered Hard Again, I was already a fan.

"My dad was a DJ who did the morning show at a local radio station when I was growing up. I would drive into work with him in the morning and hang out until it was time for me to go to school. Then another DJ who had the overnight shift would take my dad's car and drive me to school... only we would pull around the corner—I was 13 years old at the time—and the guy would jump out of the driver's seat and we would switch places. He would let me drive my dad's car to school. And the first thing I would do is put on this Muddy Waters record and crank it up, man. Every single day, on the way to middle school."

"That album changed me in a lot of ways. It has a lot to do with my interest in blues music. But also I decided that, if I was gonna sing, I wanted to sound like Muddy Waters. But I couldn't do it when I was young. That's one reason why I shied away from singing for so long and just focused on the guitar.

"So that album definitely changed my life, because for as long as I can remember listening to it, it's been my favorite album and it's made me want to play the blues. It inspires me every time I listen to it. It makes me want to run and pick up a guitar and start playing."

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