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T.G. Sheppard
Destiny Row Records
Current album: Timeless - Coming soon!

When you set down to interview someone like T.G. Sheppard, you have only one problem; where do you begin? His career spans several decades, isn't limited to country music, and the accolades and awards have flowed freely throughout his career. I found myself thinking that there probably isn't any question I can ask that he hasn't already answered elsewhere or anything I can say about him that hasn't already been written. Much to my surprise and delight, I was wrong. T.G. Sheppard is amazing, as well as amazingly handsome, and I was pleased to discover that he has so many new things going on in his life that we had plenty to talk about.

Sheppard's life story is truly interesting but since it is so well documented on his website (and elsewhere), I decided to restrict my interview to what's happening in his life right now and to what lies ahead. I do want to mention one bit of Sheppard history that really intrigues me, it is his proclivity for changing his name. During the course of his long career he has had more name changes than some people have addresses. Apart from the curiosity factor, I mention this because you may have seen him perform years ago under another name and not even been aware that you had seen him. Among his aliases are Brian Stacy, the name he used at age fifteen, also the name that appears on the first record he ever released, and the name that appeared on the marquee when he opened for the groups America, The Animals, Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys -- obviously Sheppard was one of the first to truly mesh pop with country. A few years later he took back his given name; Bill Browder, and became a successful record promoter for other artists. Then in 1972 when he signed with the Motown label (who had hoped to branch out into country music), he took the name T.G. Sheppard. He scored his first of ten consecutive number one hits with this name, and wisely, hasn't changed it since. Unfortunately, I was so excited to be able to sit down with a living legend that I completely forgot to ask him why he changed his name in the first place and where he got the name he is now known by. Guess we'll save that for another interview. (Oh yes, another interesting trivia fact that caught my attention while doing some research is that it was Elvis Presley who gave Sheppard his first tour bus, as a gift. That was a powerful endorsement of his talent from the undisputed, and at that time reigning, King of Rock n' Roll.)

Sheppard's love of all types of music is clearly evident when you browse his repertoire but despite his biggest successes being in country music, he told us that he is currently working on the one album that he has always wanted to do and, until now, hadn't had the time or the resources.

He says, "For thirty years I have loved a certain type of music and I have always wanted to do an album of some of my favorites. I'm a true romantic and I grew up watching my parents dance around the living room to the songs of Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Dean Martin and others from that era. And there were earlier songs from the big bands that I love so much. All those wonderful, incredible songs." (Much to my delight, he interjected his sentences with a few accapella stanzas of his favorite tunes. What a treat.)

When approached by Destiny Row Records to do an album for them he told them, "I'll sign with you on one condition. You have to let me do what I want to do." Much to his surprise, their instantaneous reply was, "You got it!" Sheppard said, "You don't even know what it is yet." And they responded, "We don't care. Whatever you want, you got it." The end result of that conversation is an album of classic songs from the 40's and 50's, titled Timeless, that should be ready for release in September.

Sheppard hopes to use the new album to promote his favorite charity, "Child Help, USA ." His plan is to perform the songs from the album with various symphony orchestras, or big bands, across the country and all proceeds from any concerts will benefit the foundation. His goal is to raise awareness about child abuse and he hopes to make enough money to help build some "safe houses."

Sheppard credits the creative freedom afforded him by his new label, as well as encouragement from his beautiful partner, Kelly Lang, for finally making this dream a reality. He says that although it was the easiest album he has ever recorded, he would never have done it without the urging of Lang. When he told her that he didn't know if he could do it, she said, "You have to do this because if you don't, you will look back on this missed opportunity one day and say, 'I wish I had done it' and I knew that she was right" he said. "Kelly is a great soul. I'm sure that everyone thinks that I was attracted to her because she is so beautiful to look at but it really was her spirit that attracted me most," now smiling, he adds, "and her kindness too." And as the smile broadens he continued, "I am so proud of her accomplishments. She's so thoughtful. She is a singer and songwriter and she has an album out called It's About Time. Have you heard it?" He was pleased when I told him that I had and he grinned from ear to ear when I told him that he really didn't need to convince me because we had already met the love of his life earlier in the day and she had made quite an impression on us too.

Lang and Sheppard have recorded one duet, a cover of the Righteous Brothers hit, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," but it isn't on any album yet. As I listened to that cut, I started thinking that, hopefully, it will end up on one sometime soon. Their voices blend perfectly and they are such a striking couple. There's enough electricity, not to mention talent, between these two to keep the lights in Nashville burning for quite a while. Talk about your dynamic duos.

In the mean time, watch for the fall release of Timeless, not just the title of T.G. Sheppard's new album, but the perfect adjective to describe an absolutely amazing entertainer.

http://www.tgsheppard.com 

Feature article by Cheryl Harvey Hill

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