T.G. Sheppard: Country artist talks friendship with Elvis, new music and Saturday’s show in Mission

FRED RAMOS | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

T.G. Sheppard recently released his first single in more than 27 years.

The song “I Wanna Live Like Elvis” is in honor of his late friend Elvis Presley. It’s the first track to be released from Sheppard’s upcoming country album, which will be available in April.

One of Billboard’s top country artists of all time, Sheppard will perform on Saturday at the Riverside Club in Mission.

Festiva spoke to Sheppard recently, while on an international tour that will take him to 14 cities, with more dates added weekly. Sheppard said Elvis played a big role in the development of his career.

Sheppard said he knew from an early age he wanted to be a county music star. He left his home in Humboldt, Tennessee at a young age and headed to the bright lights of Memphis. It’s there he developed his own musical style, playing in various bands and following the club and party circuit.

But first, Sheppard would have a chance encounter that would change his life.

Sheppard was a 15-year-old runaway sitting in a skating rink parking lot when a limousine pulled up next to him. To his surprise, Elvis Presley was inside the car and asked Sheppard if he would like to “go for a skate.” That began a long friendship with The King. Sheppard said Presley acted as a mentor and helped guide his early career.

“I hitchhiked to Memphis and I was trying to chase this dream and that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted 16 years,” said Sheppard. “He even gave me his old tour bus. That gave me the confidence to get serious about my career.”

In his new hit single, “I Wanna Live Like Elvis,” Sheppard takes a lighthearted look at the life of Presley. The lyrics at times poke fun at the legendary artist.

“I want to learn karate, make a movie in Hawaii,” the song continues, “I wanna love my momma, lay around with ‘Cilla in silk pajamas.” Sheppard says he played the song for Elvis’ ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, and she was amused. She even gave her stamp of approval and endorsed the song.

Fans will remember Sheppard’s 21 No. 1 hits, including, “I Loved ’Em Every One,” “Party Time,” “Last Cheaters Waltz,” “Devil in the Bottle,” and “Only One You.” He’s maintained a grueling concert schedule since the 1970s.

Sheppard says concert-goers can expect to hear some of his old classics and some new material too.

“In concert, you receive instant gratification because, when you get done with a song, you know that moment if people like what they’ve heard,” said Sheppard.

“But you don’t get that in the recording studio. In the recording studio you really have to go on your gut. But in concert they let you know instantly. Concerts are almost the most fun part of any artist’s career because of the energy you get from the crowd.”

Sheppard is also known for his iconic album of duets entitled, Legendary Friends & Country Duets, released in 2015. The album features 14 tracks with artists such as, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Oak Ridge Boys, Lorrie Morgan, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Crystal Gayle and a lot more.

Sheppard said recording an album with so many legendary singers can be difficult, but often rewarding.

“It is hard, because every singer is different. When you invite an artist in to record with you, you want them to be comfortable. I more or less followed their phrasing, how they interpret a song, so not to make them feel uncomfortable,” said Sheppard. “But the album was rewarding because I feel it validated me as a a singer. I feel that album gave me the right to call myself a country singer. It was very rewarding. It was great to have these people be part of the album.”

Sheppard says he’s experienced a lot in more than 40 years as a country artist. But he laments the recent change in country music. Sheppard said a lot of today’s country musicians have “lost their focus.”

“Today’s country music has lost its melody and its soul. I like a lot of the new performers today. A lot of them are just incredible,” Sheppard said. “But we have such great crowds, because people are thirsty for those traditional songs that bring back such great memories.”

Saturday’s concert promises to be a rare treat for local country music fans. Sheppard said to “expect the unexpected.”

“I love to be able to touch people with a song. The show begins and it ends, and everything in between is just spontaneous,” Sheppard said.

IF YOU GO

WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE The Riverside Club, 214 E. Chimney Road, Mission

COST $45 per person (cash only)