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Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Top 5 Pedals

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Top 5 Pedals

The veteran blues guitarist names his most essential stompboxes.

Pedalboards can be a constant Tetris-style tone puzzle. Between just the basics—overdrive, delay, and modulation—there can be a mind-boggling number of options. Kenny Wayne Shepherd basks in the never-ending search for just the right combination of sounds and dependability. His latest album, Goin’ Home, is a tribute to the artists and sounds that have inspired him over the last several decades. PG recently forced Shepherd to name the top five pedals he can’t live without.

Dunlop Uni-Vibe Chorus/Vibrato M68

I’ve been using the original reissues for the longest time and I recently got one of the new ones they launched at NAMM. It’s a much smaller box, it weighs a lot less, and it still gets you the same sound. Anytime you can save a little bit of weight is a plus. For any working musician, especially if you’re hauling you own equipment, anything you can do to lighten up your rig will be beneficial. If you look at the way that pedal has shrunk, it’s pretty remarkable and I don’t think they can get it much smaller. I don’t use it constantly, but when I do, it becomes a very prominent part of the song. The most obvious example would be on “Blue on Black” for this rhythm guitar part that I play underneath everything. It creates this “vibe,” (pun intended) to the song that no other pedal could really accomplish. I used it some on “Still a Fool.”

Custom Audio Electronics MC404 CAE Wah

There are a million wah pedals out there and I think guitar players, including myself, are always looking for the right wah. I have an original vintage Vox Clyde McCoy that, to me, is the best sounding wah I’ve ever heard. I’m always searching for a newer pedal that's a little more durable and isn’t worth $2,000. I hadn’t really found a lot of wahs that had the throatiness and range that the Clyde McCoy but this CAE wah gets pretty close. It has a dual inductor setup so it’s pretty versatile. It does have an overdrive in it, but I don't really use it. I use the setting with the yellow LED, not the red one.

Analog Man King of Tone

It’s my go-to overdrive pedal right now. It’s a boutique pedal but Analog Man really did an incredible job with that thing. It kinda has that Tube Screamer-vibe to it and gets a lot of really cool overtones and brings the guitar to life. This one gives me more to work with because it has two different circuits and two different gain stages. Depending on my rig, I’ll use the low gain side and kick it on for my rhythm sound when I need some crunch and then stack the other side on top for my solos. If I’m going to sit in with somebody, I’ll take that pedal over even the Ibanez TS808, which has been my go-to pedal for years and years.

Chicago Iron Tycobrahe Octavia

It’s a very faithful reproduction of the original, which I have at home. Those things are fragile and worth a lot of money, so I only use the original in the studio. They are very true to the original circuit and when you want to get that hairy, fuzzy sound with the octave on top—that’s the pedal. I’ve used a lot of Octavia pedals over the years, but the Tycobrahe gives me a little more octave than fuzz. I keep the drive turned all the way down and keep the level at like 11 o’clock. I’m just trying to get the higher octave and just a bit of fuzz. Other pedals are a little heavy on the fuzz and the octave doesn’t cut through quite as much. Sometimes I’ll throw the Tube Screamer on top of it and send it right over the edge.

Jam Pedals Delay Llama+

It’s an analog delay pedal that just sounds nice and warm. It also has this hold button that I thought was interesting. Most delay pedals that I’ve used only have an on/off switch. That hold button really opened up my mind to use it even more as an effect. Sometimes when I would go off on some Hendrix stuff I would hold that pedal and mess around with the timing of the delay. It would get this really trippy sound that Jimi would get back in the day by speeding up and slowing down 2-inch tape. I don’t use delay a lot—I’m not one of those guys who have the delay always on. I use it as an effect, not as a part of my sound.