Blues Music Prodigies Derek Trucks

Actually, these kids are much more than alright. These kids are brilliant. Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Sean Costello each began to excel as blues musicians – guitarists and vocalists all – from an exceptionally young age. And each have gone on to achieve remarkable things in blues music. Derek Trucks is a Grammy award winner who has been listed in Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time twice. Kenny Wayne Shepherd has sold millions of albums, has had top 10 singles and is a Grammy nominee. And Sean Costello released a string of highly acclaimed albums before his untimely and tragic death at the way too young age of 28. Here’s some more interesting info about these three gifted musical prodigies!

Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks was no ordinary young kid with a guitar. It was 1988 and Trucks was only nine years old when he began playing the guitar. While you would think a nine year old kid in 1988 would be drawn to the Van Halen and hair metal music that was so prominent during this era, the young Trucks went in a different direction – that of blues! The nine year old trucks already had a number of blues influences which he pursued on the guitar: for starters, the Three Kings – B.B., Albert, and Freddie – as well as slide guitarists such as Duane Allman and Elmore James. Perhaps it is not surprising that Duane Allman would be such an influence on trucks – after all, Derek’s uncle Butch Trucks was a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band!

The young and incredible aspiring guitarist wasn’t content to sit at home and play in his parents’ basement. So he went out and played, and by the age of 12 he had already played with blues legend Buddy Guy. He soon began playing shows with the Allman Brothers Band which he became a full member of in 1999, joining up with another unbelievable guitarist in Warren Haynes. Derek Trucks remained a member of the Allman Brothers Band until the group finally – and sadly – called it quits this past year.

Derek Trucks formed in his own band at the young age of 15. Sure, many 15 year olds form bands, but not bands that would grow to become one of the hottest acts on the blues-rock circuit: The Derek Trucks Band. After joining the Allman Brothers Band, Trucks filled up the remainder of his not so ample spare time recording and touring with the Derek Trucks Band. We’re not sure when he found time to sleep – wait a minute, rock stars don’t sleep!

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd really started playing guitar at the old age of seven years old. This occurred several months after meeting Stevie Ray Vaughan, who he was “pretty mesmerized by.” Shepherd is a completely self-taught guitarist and does not read music. Shepherd would learn one note at a time by playing back records and tapes of music from his father’s music collection. Whatever works!

At just 13 years old, Shepherd was asked to play onstage with blues musician Bryan Lee. At 15, he was touring with B.B. King and Bo Diddley. He was able to jam with B.B. and he served as the leader of Diddley’s backup band. From there, Shepherd went on to create some demo recordings and also had a video shot of his first performance at the Red River Revel Arts Festival in Shreveport, Louisiana. Record mogul Irving Azoff was so impressed with the kid that he signed him to a multiple album record deal. Shepherd’s music career took off from there.

When Shepherd was playing blues as a kid, he found that it was hard to get people to take him very seriously. After all, how much can a kid know about the depth of feeling and passion that goes into blues music? However, as he’s gotten older he’s overcome those stereotypes and become a much more respected musician in the blues community.

A life-changing experience for the young Shepherd was when he met Stevie Ray Vaughan at the age of seven. Prior to this experience, Shepherd also saw a Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker show which exposed him to the live blues music that he came to really love. But it was Vaughan that left Shepherd with the greatest impression. Shepherd was awed by the intensity and passion with which Vaughan played music, and Shepherd knew he wanted to achieve the same effect as a blues musician himself.

Sean Costello

Blues guitarist Sean Costello was obsessed with the guitar from a very young age. He determined that blues was the genre for him when he bought the album Rockin’ Chair by Howlin’ Wolf and loved it. When he was 14 years old, Sean Costello won a talent contest sponsored by the Beale Street Blues Society. He soon formed a band and then recorded an album at just 16 years old. Music historian Tony Russell exclaimed that Costello was already, “displaying a flawless command of 1950’s blues guitar.” He then got a gig playing lead guitar on Susan Tedeschi’s Just Won’t Burn album, and his band toured as Tedeschi’s backing group. He continued to release highly praised albums as he aged into his 20’s and received a W.C. Handy award nomination.

How did Sean Costello devise his solos? Generally, he starts off with something easy for the listener to digest, and then moves onto a section that is kind of “weird and twisted.” Then he resolves the solo with another easier to digest section, essentially creating a system of tension and release. Tension and release is the key to his soloing style.

Sean Costello tragically passed away at the far too young age of 28, the night before his 29th birthday. Costello was suffering from an ongoing and terrible bipolar depression, which he self medicated through the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. This helped him cope with the depressive side of bipolar depression. Unfortunately, on April 15, 2008, Costello passed away from an accidental drug overdose in his Atlanta motel room. A life cut way too tragically short, a silver lining is that his family established the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research which helps support research into the devastating illness. It also provides services for musicians living with the disease. Costello’s music lives on and so do the cherished memories that his friends, family and fans have of him.

– Brian M. Reiser,
Tribut Apparel / Joe Bonamassa Official Blog

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