When you’re touring around the country are there certain cities you are excited to eat in? “Well, I’m from Louisiana, so Louisiana food, Cajun food, things like that, really get me going. But I’m also a barbecue guy. I went over to my grandfather’s house and spent two consecutive days learning his secret rib recipe. Almost everybody in the band is from the South. We really all share a love for great food. But barbecue in particular, so we’ll go out and try to find local places when we’re traveling. Taste some local cuisine unique to the area.”
Without revealing too much of your grandfather’s recipe, what’s your grandfather’s recipe? “It’s an overnight wet rub but there’s a lot of dry spices. It sits overnight and then you obviously bust it out the next day and smoke it for about four hours. It’s really good. What’s funny is I’m the only person in my family that actually took the time to go over and learn the recipe before he passed away and now everybody in my family is asking me for it. I won’t give it to anybody. It’s a secret. It’s a spicy rib but you don’t need any sauce with it at all once it’s done.”
Did you get his smoker when he passed away? “He actually gave me one. Unfortunately, after several years it kind of rusted away, so now I’ve got one of the primo ceramic cookers. So, I’ve been working on trying to perfect his recipe in that but I think I’m actually going to go back to the old-school black barrel smoker with the chamber on the side.”
Do you pack food for your tours? “Not for the tour because usually we fly out to the first date and then get on the bus. But we do have the ability to cook on the bus if we want to. We haven’t in awhile but sometimes I do. We don’t do a lot of things we used to do as we been on the road for a long time. We’ve kind of grown up and everybody has become like family. Our interests and priorities have changed, so one of the biggest highlights of the day, every day, is to find some great food. That’s pretty much at the top of the scale for priority.”
Before you guys go on do you have a traditional meal or a pre-show ritual? “Not really. I try not to eat too terribly close to show time because it can weigh you down. So we usually have dinner at 5 if we’re going on at 9. We don’t have a lot of rituals. Everybody just kind of takes it easy. We just gather up about 20 minutes before we hit the stage and just get into the zone. Sometimes I’ll warm up on the guitar and sometimes I just walk straight out cold and see where the music takes me.”
What’s the best barbecue city? “I have to say one of my favorites and I think leading the pack or right near the top of the heap is Austin. They have some longtime places there, like Iron Works Barbecue, which has been around forever that is consistently good. Then you have the more recent people, like Franklin and La Barbecue. There’s a long history of barbecue culture down there.”
What’s the best music to listen to while grilling? “For me it’s blues and barbecue, man. Blues and barbecue go hand-in-hand.”
We got caught up with Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the recent Bourbon & Beyond festival.
Interview has been condensed and edited.