T.G. Sheppard has come in contact with almost every big name in country and pop music during the last 50-plus years, and now his fans in Paris will have a chance to see him up close and personal right in their own backyard.
Sheppard is headlining a concert at 7 p.m. Friday at the Krider Performing Arts Center. Ronnie McDowell and Amber Hayes are also on the bill, as is the quartet Mark 209.
Speaking from McMinnville Wednesday afternoon, Sheppard said he’s excited about the shows he has lined up this week (Paris on Friday and Paragould, Ark., on Saturday) because this is the week of his late friend Elvis Presley’s 85th birthday.
Presley’s birth date was actually Wednesday (he was born Jan. 8, 1935) and Sheppard was performing in McMinnville that night. But the Paris show will have somewhat of an Elvis flavor to it, too.
“All of us that are playing there have connections to him,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard himself met Presley in the 1960s after he had left his home in Humboldt at age 15 and run away to pursue a music career. He even lived with Presley at Graceland for a while.
Fittingly, Sheppard now hosts a radio program from 2-5 p.m. Central time every Friday on the Elvis Radio channel on Sirius XM satellite radio. And the show is broadcast from Graceland.
“We do the show live as much as possible,” Sheppard said of the show. “Sometimes we have to pretape some of the interviews.”
Sheppard’s producer for that satellite radio show is Jim Sykes, a Paris native who has worked in radio for nearly four decades and hosts his own daily show on the channel as well.
“Jim is like a prodigy. The way he produces the show is just seamless,” Sheppard said.
Another tie to Elvis is one of Sheppard’s single releases off his new “Midnight in Memphis” album, which was released in September. That single is called “I Wanna Live Like Elvis,” and revolves around what Sheppard calls a comical trip through Presley’s life.
The album was Sheppard’s first solo country album in 22 years, and a lot changed in the music industry during his hiatus from recording.
“It’s all so different now. Streaming is the big thing now. People have the luxury of picking out the individual songs that they want to own rather than buying a whole album. I’ve had to go to school a lot about how these things are done now,” he said.
Nevertheless, live audiences seem plugged in to the new music he’s doing, giving him a great reception during his recent shows.
That’s just one of the reasons he still loves touring. While the travel is tough, he steps on the stage and “the shows still are a thrill and a joy to do. In fact, they may be more exciting for me now because I am able to relax and enjoy myself — I’m not competing with anyone or trying to make a big career move like when I was younger.”
That comfort level has been well-earned. Sheppard has had 21 No. 1 hit singles in his career, with songs such as “I Loved ’Em Every One,” “Last Cheater’s Waltz” and “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven” carving out his niche in country music history. He had eight straight Number Ones on the U.S. country charts in the early 1980s.
“We can’t do them all (in concerts), but we’ll try to do as many of the Number One songs as we can,” Sheppard said of the show in Paris. “We also love to have fun, so the fans can expect a lot of humor, too.”