GRANITE CITY — Dave Sheppard’s passion for music began 50 years ago and his song is still going strong.
Left-handed Dave, who still does everyday chores with his left hand, taught himself the guitar playing right-handed. The 63-year-old’s self-instruction began when he was 14 years old and the Beatles were the rage. The Beatles songbooks were published and he taught himself the chords to the songs by the diagrams in the books; thus he plays right-handed because he didn’t know the difference.
Audience members will have the chance to see that right hand in action from 7:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16, at Wilson Park’s Centennial Pavilion, when Sheppard will perform his “one-man band” show.
The concert is part of the Music in the Park summer concert series.
Pre-recording keyboard, bass and guitar parts, he plays them back to accompany live guitar and vocals, truly becoming a full band by himself.
Sheppard’s gigs these days also take him to senior clubs and organizations, nursing homes and retirement parties. A solo act for the last 11 years, one of his most popular numbers is Ray Charles’ “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” using a dancing squirrel as a prop for this song.
”Audience participation is always a part of my shows,” he says.
As a young man, he played at school dances, backyard parties and in bands. While attending SIUE, Sheppard and a group of friends won a talent contest. This encouraged him to continue his interest in music. He worked at American Steel Foundry in Granite City to support himself while nurturing his musical abilities, and played with area rock bands during this time at local venues.
The 1980s brought a change to Sheppard’s repertoire; he went country. He played with the Cimarrons, which later became the Dave Sheppard Band. In 1984, investors financed a recording session in Nashville, Tenn., resulting in a record, “Welcome to My World.” While it may not have burned its way up the Billboard charts, it did help Sheppard achieve something most people only dream of doing.
“It didn’t do much for my career in music, but it was a fun experience,” he says.
After retiring following 25 years as a respiratory therapist, Sheppard got back into music in 1999 and has been playing consistently since. A coworker talked him into joining the group Our Gang, which performed at nursing homes and assisted living centers.
From there, his solo act was born, mixing a variety of genres including rock ’n’ roll, country and big band music.
“If you listen long enough, you’ll find something you like,” he says. “I love performing for seniors the best because they really appreciate the time and talent I share with them.”