“Les Pauls always felt a bit awkward”: Kenny Wayne Shepherd on why he prefers Strats

The last guitar he bought was a Les Paul, however…

Kenny Wayne Shepherd playing guitar on stage

Image: Andrea Friedric / Getty Images

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Blues icon Kenny Wayne Shepherd has explained why he prefers Stratocasters to Les Pauls in a new interview.

Speaking to Guitarist, Shepherd says that Strats suit him, and his style of playing, better, but that the last guitar he bought was actually a Les Paul.

“A 1960 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst – an original one,” he expands. “I had been on the hunt for some time, at least ten years.”

But while he does use Les Pauls, they’re not his favourite. He says, “The thing is, Les Pauls always felt a bit awkward because of my style of playing. I have to adapt my approach with Les Pauls, otherwise, I’ll be in the middle of playing and I’ll accidentally hit the pickup selector and change the sound of the guitar mid-solo.”

He goes on to say that, over time, he began to use Les Pauls on a few different songs, both in the studio and on stage, to get the particular sound he was after. But there was only one version of the iconic guitar that he found worked well for him.

“I found that the features of the 1960 Les Pauls, with the thinner neck profile, just seem to play faster and easier for me,” he says. “A year or two ago, I finally found the right one and it’s a beautiful guitar with a tremendous flamed top and basically the appearance of a ’59, so it has all the good looks you would ever want and a great personality to go along with it.”

In 2020, Guitar caught up with Shepherd to discuss his newly-released signature Strat. He said at the time, “The original Strats in the early ’50s were made of ash and that’s why those Sunbursts look so beautiful.

“After playing Strats for decades in alder, ash, even pine-bodied Strats, I found the difference in sound between ash and alder is pretty minimal but visually you get that gorgeous effect.”

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