Magnatone Giveawya

September 2014
more... ArtistsGuitaristsBluesS-StyleRockKenny Wayne ShepherdStephen Stills

Easy Riding with Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd

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The Rides 3_FEAT


Supergroup the Rides is a trio comprised of Stephen Stills, Barry Goldberg, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

Can’t Get Enough is the debut album by the Rides, a new band fronted by guitarists Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. But in a sense, the project originated in 1968, nearly a decade before Shepherd was born.

The spring of that year, Stills found himself at a career crossroads. Buffalo Springfield, the band he co-fronted with Neil Young, was on the verge of breaking up, and he had yet to connect with former Hollies member Graham Nash and ex-Byrd David Crosby to form Crosby, Stills & Nash. He received a phone call from producer Al Kooper, inviting him to contribute to what would became the Super Session album. Kooper had commenced the record with Chicago blues guitar phenom Mike Bloomfield, but Bloomfield jumped ship.

“So Al called me up,” remembers Stills. “I asked him, ‘How far down the list of guitar players am I?’ He goes, ‘You’re right up there at the top!’ And I go, ‘Yeah, right. Nobody knows I’m a lead player—everyone thinks that I’m just a folk singer.” But Stills agreed to replace Bloomfield for the album’s second side. Super Session was a hit, with critics lauding both Bloomfield’s blues stylings and Stills’ West Coast sound.

“I started out on guitar playing to Jimmy Reed records. Not Joan Baez, not Pete Seeger—Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, and Robert Johnson.” —Stephen Stills

Fast-forward 40-some years, when Stills’ manager, Elliot Roberts, and record exec Bill Bentley hatched the idea of revisiting the Super Session concept using Stills, plus another guitarist to take the role of Bloomfield, who died of a drug overdose in 1981.

Stills says he was thrilled when Roberts floated the idea, because he’d been looking for a vehicle to play blues, his first musical love. “I started out on guitar playing to Jimmy Reed records. Not Joan Baez, not Pete Seeger—Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, and Robert Johnson. It’s a part of my soul. It’s in my DNA.”

They quickly recruited former Electric Flag keyboardist Barry Goldberg, who played on the Bloomfield side of the original Super Sessions. (Al Kooper isn’t part of the new project.) But they had the seemingly insurmountable task of filling Mike Bloomfield’s shoes. Goldberg suggested Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

“The funny part,” says Stills, “is that I’ve known Kenny Wayne for about a decade from going to [Indianapolis] Colts games. Kenny was always a very polite, gunslinger-type guitar player in the jam bands we’d form for Colts parties. To me he was just ‘Kenny the young guitar player.’ I had no idea of his talent.”

“They called me up and asked if I was interested,” recalls Shepherd. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure!’”

Taking over for an iconic player such as Bloomfield’s might give some guitarists pause, but Shepherd says the thought never crossed his mind. “I don't think there’s going to be all that much comparison,” he says. “We do share a few things in common, aside from appearing on an album with Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg. For a long time he was successful playing guitar and not really singing. Really, though, our styles are pretty different. He was known for playing a really awesome ’59 Les Paul burst, and I’m a Strat guy.”

Once the trio started playing, the initial concept evolved. “They wanted to throw us into the studio, have us jam for a few days, hit the record button, and see what happened,” says Shepherd. “But once we met up at Stephen’s house to start throwing out ideas, we decided that we wanted to write together. Once that happened, the scope of the project changed.”


It only took a week for the Rides to complete Can’t Get Enough. “We worked the way they describe the Beatles working when they first started,” says Stephen Stills. “It was very organic and natural, which is the way it’s supposed to be done. No machines. No polling numbers. No demographics.”

Goldberg and Stills had already written several songs. “The first time I showed up, they played them for me, and we finished them together,” says Shepherd. “Then I threw out some ideas I had, and we collectively banged out the lyrics. You can’t fake chemistry, especially in songwriting. We didn’t really know how that process would go, but it was actually pretty effortless.”

That creative connection is especially evident in the interplay between the two guitarists. “Most of the time we just intuitively played what we heard,” says Shepherd. “It didn’t require a whole lot of conversation. We all set up in the same room like a live band, so when it came to solos, it was just like a bunch of guys jamming. It wasn’t really mapped out—we just did what felt right, or what the music dictated.”

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