GUITARIST KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD REFLECTS ON HIS TIME TOURING WITH VAN HALEN, SAYS, DAVID LEE ROTH “NEVER SAID ‘HELLO’ TO ME”
Greg Prato for Ultimate Guitar spoke with blues rock guitarist/singer Kenny Wayne Shepherd about his experiences touring with Van Halen, excerpts from the interview appear below.
Ultimate Guitar: I believe you’re the only artist who can say they opened for Van Halen during their short-lived “Gary Cherone era” back in 1998, as well as their last-ever tour in 2015 with David Lee Roth. How would you compare those two tours and your personal experiences?
Kenny Wayne Shepherd: They were very drastically different tours. I mean, they had two different lead singers. Although Gary Cherone did a good job, he was kind of thrown into a situation with really impossible expectations from the fans. First of all, you have David Lee Roth, and then Sammy Hagar came along and it’s incredible that he was able to come in – it’s a testament to the artist that he is – to a band that was so well established and had such an identity, and then by his joining the band took it in a slightly different direction and became even more successful. Right? So now you’re going to do this a third time with another guy?
And these fan bases are already divided on ‘Is David better? Is Sammy better? Which era is the best Van Halen?’ And then you’ve got this third guy coming in. It was a challenging proposition from the get-go. But he had a great voice…it was a great tour, I had a great time. And Eddie and I, that’s when he and I hit it off as friends and then maintained a friendship. So that was ’97, ’98 or something like that. And we maintained a friendship all the way up until when he passed away.
And obviously, we did the 2015 tour. The most noticeable difference to me was obviously Mike Anthony wasn’t there. But also, David Lee Roth being there. David Lee Roth… I never saw him. He never said hello to me. Whereas in the ’90s, we saw everybody and hung out with them all the time. Eddie came and found me every single day. He tracked me down and gave me a hug. We’d sit down and talk. I mean spending like real quality time together. Wolfgang, Alex – spoke to all those guys.
Never saw David Lee Roth. Not one time. I was asked to leave the hallway when he was coming down the hall, kind of thing. So it’s like, ‘OK, whatever. You do you.’ But it was a great experience.
And, we have a lot of history together like, beyond just touring and doing the music together. Because this is not like a massively well-known story, but my dad brought Valerie Bertinelli to her first Van Halen concert. And that’s where she met Eddie for the first time, right? So, our families have this crazy connection that goes all the way back to Eddie and Valerie meeting. It’s just interesting, how intertwined our lives were over the years…”
Ultimate Guitar: How did your father know Valerie?
Kenny Wayne Shepherd: So, what happened is the Bertinelli family is from where I’m from – Shreveport. And so back in the early ’80s, you probably remember they had the whole actors strike in LA, right? She was on One Day at a Time, and so all the actors were striking, and nobody was working. She came back to Louisiana to hang out with her family. She wanted to go see Van Halen, and my dad, being the big radio guy in town, he knew everybody, and he knew her father. And my dad gets tickets and backstage passes – or he did – to every show that came through town.
So, her dad called my dad and said, ‘Valerie wants to go to see this rock n’ roll band called Van Halen. And I want you to take her and you can kind of keep an eye on her – make sure that she’s taken care of,’ or whatever. So, it’s not like they went on a date or anything – he was just facilitating getting her into the show, getting her the tickets, and taking her backstage to go be able to say hello to the band. And then that was when the first time that her and Ed met.
Read more at Ultimate Guitar.
In older Kenny Wayne Shepherd news, back in 2019, Shepherd, along with Five Finger Death Punch, legendary Queen guitarist Brian May, and country star, Brantley Gilbert, teamed up to record a special version of Shepherd‘s song, Blue On Black.
The artists and their respective labels donated all proceeds from the collaboration to the [amazing] Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.
To read what the artists had to say about their participation, in this special project, please go here.
[Dana’s note: Since I have a very special place in my heart for veterans, and first responders, along with the highest praise for actor Gary Sinise, and his foundation, I have decided to repost this great cover, below. A message from Mr. Sinise, is also posted, down thread.]