The story of how T.G. Sheppard became one of the top 100 country artists of all time and a longtime friend of Elvis Presley is a kids-don’t-try-this-at-home kind of story.
Specifically, he doesn’t recommend running away at 15 with just 60 cents in one’s pocket. That’s not going to end well for most folks.
Dreaming big, though, well, that’s okay, and Sheppard feels that’s how he got to where he is today, with 21 No. 1 hits under his belt. He thinks it was a law of attraction type of thing mixed with God’s grace.
If you like Elvis and are a fan of Sheppard’s “Do You Wanna Go to Heaven,” “Last Cheater’s Waltz,” “War is Hell (On the Homefront Too),” “I’ll Be Coming Back for More,” or any of his other chart toppers from the past 47 years, then consider Saturday night, Jan. 29, a two-fer.
Sheppard will perform at Granbury Live on the square and tell personal stories about the King of Rock and Roll in between performing his own repertoire of hits.
The singer-songwriter has performed several times at Granbury Live, which he said is an “intimate” venue where he is able to make eye contact with everyone who occupies a seat.
“The crowds are always very festive,” he said of Granbury.
Sheppard’s journey to stardom began when he ran away from his family’s home in Humboldt, Tennessee at 15. He knew that he wanted to perform for a living, but his dad didn’t approve.
The teenager hitch-hiked to Memphis to pursue his dream and somehow managed to find work with bands there.
At times Sheppard slept in the breezeways of office buildings and ate discarded food from garbage bins.
One night a few months after his arrival in Memphis, Sheppard went to a skating rink. He was able to skate for free thanks to a buddy who worked there.
At closing time, Sheppard walked out the door into the darkness, the skating rink’s exterior lights having been turned off.
Three Cadillacs pulled up. Out of the lead car stepped Elvis Presley.
Elvis asked Sheppard where he was going, and the boy told him he was leaving because the skating rink was closed.
“He said, ‘Oh, no, they’re not closing it. They’re opening it up for me,’” Elvis said, according to Sheppard.
Elvis told the teen that he and his entourage were one man short for a game of “Kill” - football on roller skates - and would he mind filling in?
That experience with Elvis and his “Memphis Mafia” began a friendship that led to the King of Rock and Roll still being a part of Sheppard’s life today, almost 45 years after his death. Every Friday, Sheppard hosts a show on SiriusXM Elvis Radio live from Graceland, Elvis’ home.
Elvis encouraged Sheppard to pursue his dream and gave the fledgling singer his first tour bus as a gift.
“It gave me confidence that if he believed in me enough as a performer, then I needed to work very hard not to disappoint him,” Sheppard said.
Born Billy Neal Browder, Sheppard started his singing career under the name Brian Stacy. His first record was “High School Days.” It did reasonably well on the pop charts and led to gigs as an opening act for such big names as The Animals, Jan & Dean, and The Beach Boys.
In 1965, Sheppard became a record promoter, using his given name. But when he released “Devil in the Bottle” and it became No. 1 on the charts in February of 1975, he decided to focus solely on his own singing career.
Sheppard, whose sound is described as a fusion of R&B rhythms, pop arrangements and solid country songwriting, was named “Best New Male Artist” by CASH BOX in 1976. In 1982, he was named “Most Promising Male Vocalist” by Music City News.
Sheppard signed with Motown when the R&B label was trying to establish a presence in country music. When the company later decided to get out of that genre, he signed with Warner Bros, scoring 14 consecutive No. 1 hits under that label.
In 1985, the country music star signed with Columbia Records, once again topping the charts with several songs.
Sheppard has performed multiple times at the White House and has been a regular guest on the Grand Ole Opry. His most recent album, “Midnight in Memphis,” was released in 2019. CDs can be purchased through his website, tgsheppard.com.
He is married to Kelly Lang, a successful singer-songwriter in her own right and a breast cancer survivor who has written an autobiography called “I’m Not Going Anywhere.”
Sheppard has been traveling to perform at venues across the country since 1975 and still loves it.
“I’m a road warrior,” he said.
If you wanna go to Heaven by seeing a T.G. Sheppard performance, you’d best get on it. VIP seats at Granbury Live have been selling fast. Those tickets are $65.
Prime seats are $55, and there are more of those.
Tickets can be purchased online at thenewgranburylive.com.
The box office can be reached at 1-800-340-9703.
The show starts at 7 p.m.