Kenny Wayne Shepherd's ultimate blues-rock machine found him decades ago at a guitar store in Southern California. Longtime KWS fans know his trusty 1961 Fender Stratocaster as an extension of his body, a conduit through which he expresses himself like few others can.
The guitar is so important to Kenny that he's called upon Fender several times over the years to replicate aspects of it in new instruments that are better-equipped to endure the rigors of constant touring.
Today, Fender has unveiled the latest descendent of Kenny's favorite guitar — a guitar unlike any other on its roster: the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Stratocaster.
"I have been playing Fender guitars for essentially my entire life," Kenny said via a press release announcing the new instrument. "To me, Fender defined the sounds of countless music genres and was played by most of my musical heroes. The playability of Fender guitars is unmatched, and the quality of the instruments unsurpassed. Our new creation is one I'm exceptionally proud of."
The new American-made KWS signature Strat unites the best of Fender's vintage features with some modern appointments to serve Kenny's needs as one of the world's preeminent blues-rockers.
The new guitar's most immediately striking features is its faded transparent blue finish — which is unique to this instrument — and its bound rosewood neck with block inlays. Kenny says the aesthetic is a nod to a rare and short-lived Fender feature from the mid-'60s that he always coveted.
An early-'60s C-shaped maple neck and chambered ash body make the guitar particularly lightweight and resonant. Kenny tells Q104.3's QN'A that his new signature pickups are a full-throated, hyper-articulate version of their vintage counterparts but with reduced hum.
Any questions about the guitar's road-worthiness have already been addressed. Kenny says he "snuck" a prototype out on the road last year to endure that it sounded, felt and looked as good onstage as it did in the factory.
"A great guitar is all about the total sum of all of its components, and I think this is a great guitar," he said.
Watch Kenny's demo in the video player at the top of this page.
Photos courtesy of Fender