We had the honor and privilege of speaking one-on-one with country hall of fame legend, T.G. Sheppard. Throughout the years he has established himself as one of the leading players in country music and during the 70’s and 80’s reached 15 number 1 hits. He befriended Elvis early in his career and has gathered a lifelong story that is just as good as his number one hits.
The interview below was documented word for word, other than grammatical corrections.
The T.G. Sheppard Interview
Is there a meaning for the initials T.G.?
T.G. Sheppard: Not really, I kind of let people do what they want to with it. Through the years I have been called different things. At the time when I decided to become an entertainer I was a record executive for RCA, and I didn’t want a contact of interest so I changed my name from my real name of Bill Brouder, to an assumed name to record under. At that time initials were kind of big. You had *BG Thomos TJ hall, CW M’call, So I thought “why not I’ll pick initials”, and it seemed to work out for us.
Did you know that “Devil in a Bottle” would be a hit when it came out?
T.G. Sheppard: Well you know, being a song man and a record promoter, I knew I would get a lot of music in the office and then take it to the station. I don’t know it was something instilled in me to – when I would hear a song I would think it was either commercial or I wouldn’t, and this song just sounded very commercial. So I always felt that it was a strong song and could be a contender. Will and behold it did become a number one song.
Have you found that working as a solo artist is better in the music business?
T.G. Sheppard: I think that when you only have to answer to yourself, or when you’re only having to deal with one person coming from a record label stand point, it’s easier. Sometimes you have too many opinions involved in a group, and sometimes with too many opinions comes confusion, and sometimes with confusion comes failure. So I think if you’re able to deal with one individual, it’s much easier than dealing with several different personals using a group.
So Elvis Presley gave you a tour bus.
T.G. Sheppard: He gave me my first tour bus. He was one of my closest and dearest friends. I met Elvis when I was fifteen years old and he befriended me, took me under his wing, became my friend and staid my dear friend until the day he passed. It was an incredible time in my life.
It sounds like a turning point for when you went from record promoter to just performing musician.
T.G. Sheppard: When Elvis gave me the tour bus – what happened was he gave me the confidence. I said to myself well if Elvis believes in me enough as an artist to give me a tour bus, I need to get serious about this. It made me work harder, and his belief in me gave me a lot of confidence, and I think that helped me a lot.
How have you been to stay so collected throughout it all?
T.G. Sheppard: When you approach your career from a business standpoint, I think it kind of gears you that way, and I think being in the record business first before becoming an artist geared me that way – therefore I know how important it is to be on stage and hopefully do a great show, but then I know how important the business side is when you’re off stage. A lot of that prepared me for what I had been doing for my whole career. It was a natural progression from me coming from the business side of the record business over to the performing side.
Did you ever lose track off all your top chart songs you were creating?
T.G. Sheppard: Well yeah. I still have trouble sometimes believing that we had twenty-one number one records. I mean how we felt was if I could have one or two number ones that I would have a great career, but I never thought that 21 of them would come along. I can actually be riding down the road in my car nowadays and on the radio will come a song and I’ll go, “I remember that song, that’s a great so-”, then all of a sudden I’ll realize that it’s one of my songs. You get caught up in it after awhile, but each song is very important in an artists’ career. The songs make the career.
What song of your own beside top-charters do you like the most?
T.G. Sheppard: Well you know one of my favorite songs that I ever recorded was produced by the Eagles producer, Jim Edmond* – a song called “Slow Burn”. The harmonies in that song were kind of reminiscent of the Eagles’ high-end harmonies. I was a big Eagles fan and love their sound. So that one is one of my favorite songs.
You speak of the law-of-attraction as a player in success. How do you mean?
T.G. Sheppard: There was a book many years ago called the secret. It was very big book talking about you get back what you put out in life, and the law-of-attraction is that you attract what you give off. So what I meant when I said the law-of-attraction is I practice the book, The Secret. It was basically about believing in yourself and believing in it strong to where you can attract some success from it.
You have certainly attracted a very positive career.
T.G. Sheppard: Well I’ve been blessed, I’ll put it that way. I think a lot of times you make your own luck. I think being at the right place at the right time and having the right songs in my career has enabled me to do what I do for a long long time. Because really and truly without the songs there wouldn’t be a career. I don’t care how great a singer you are or how great a songwriter you are. Without those magic songs there is no career. I have been very fortunate to have found a lot of magic songs in my life that gave me a career.
What after 13 years of silence brought you to the point where you needed to create another album?
T.G. Sheppard: I don’t know. I felt that I wanted to contribute once again for something and when I had the opportunity to record an album called Legendary Duets, it really invited a lot of people to record with me. Like Willy, and Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Merl Haggard and the Oaks. Mickey Gilley and BJ Thomas and Ricky Skaggs. All those incredible performers took me up and came in and did duets with me. So Legendary Friends and Country Duets became a project that really I felt had some validity and could be something that someone would want in their record collections, so that’s the reason I came back. I had a chance to come back and do some great music with great friends.
There was time before that you were hospitalized, so this must have been a personally sentimental album to you.
T.G. Sheppard: It really is because actually – you know I don’t talk of it often, but I’ll talk about it with you – I actually four years ago I came in off the road late one night, got off my bus and went into my house and told my wife I didn’t feel well. Within a three week period – I mean they rushed me to the hospital that night, I was in intensive care – and on five different occasions within a three weeks I actually died five times, and each time they would bring me back. The thing about dying is, when you wake up from that you don’t know you died. I would come back around each time and they would go “Are you okay?”, and I’m goin’, “What do ya mean?”, and they were like, “You were gone.” My wife kept saying each time, “Did you see anyone on the other side? Any bright lights?”. So one day I woke up and said, “Hunny I think I just saw Buddy Holly.” She said, “You kidding!?” And I said, “Yes. I’m kidding.” I think that time frame – those three weeks – was life altering for me, and it made me realize that I wasn’t done yet, and that there was still more to do. I had a new appreciation for life. The things that I used to think were big are very small. What’s important in life is relationships with your friends, your family and God. It just realigned my whole life and prioritized my life. I love living life now much more than I did before.
Did you imagine that you would be where you are now when you first started as a musician?
T.G. Sheppard: You know I dreamed of it, but I didn’t know if I would ever achieve it. I just really and truly wanted to do music that would connect with people and make a difference in their life, even for only three or four minutes at a time for a song. Will and behold it happened. I’ve been doing it since I was twelve years old, until it happened – I had my first number one record when I was thirty years old. So it took awhile, but to go back to what we were talking about earlier – I put it out there, (the law-of-attraction), I put it out there and I guess I was practicing The Secret even before the book came along. You know, if I could work hard and believe in what I was doing, then maybe I could attain some kind of success – will and behold we were able to have some success.
You have talked about how much you enjoy being on the road. What appeals to you most about being on “the road”?
T.G. Sheppard: Well I – What appeals to me most about being on the road is the fact that I love a different atmosphere and a different feel for people each day, and I’m able to get that by traveling on the road. Each venue is different. It never gets boring. I just really love touring – I’m a road dog. If I’m at home too much of the time I want to go back on the road. If I’m on the road and get a little cold, I want to go home. It can be a difficult situation. I don’t know – I love different parts of the world and country and I get a chance to sing to people in all those different places. It’s an exciting way to live.
Do you have any advice for musicians/entertainers/performers alike striving to succeed in this business music world?
T.G. Sheppard: Well I think that first of all you have to believe in yourself. In the beginning when you first start out, you’re the only fan that you have. You believe in what you’re doing. Success is attained by looking back in life occasionally to see how many people are following you. You look back and you see a few people starting to follow you. One day you look back and you see a larger number of people following you. Then one day you look out in the audience and there’s thousands of people – so I think it’s just believing in what you do, and never taking no for an answer – putting out there what you want – the law of attraction. Getting it back.
Any new material to be looking forward to from T.G. Sheppard?
T.G. Sheppard: Oh there will always be something. I don’t know what it will be. Now that I’ve got my feet wet again from this last album I’m in the mood to want to go in and do more music, so I’ll come up with some type of an idea that will hopefully be something people will want to hear.
Think you’ll be coming back to the Valley next year?
T.G. Sheppard: Yeah. I come there once a year. I love that particular hotel and casino, and I love that part of the country. My wife will be with me, who is an incredible singer and songwriter, Kelly Lang. She’ll be performing with me and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
We look forward to your show at Carson Valley Inn November 12th! Thank you T.G. Sheppard for taking the time to speak with us today.
T.G. Sheppard: Thank you for your time today man. You were easy to talk with.