Tennessee Music Pathways honors Sheppard
Portion of East End Dr. to be designated as T.G. Sheppard Way
by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
A Humboldt legend will now be memorialized for years and years to come. Country music superstar and Humboldt native T.G. Sheppard now has a marker in his honor and put Humboldt on the map as part of the Tennessee Music Pathways.
While Sheppard was in town as Grand Marshall of the Strawberry Festival, it was a perfect time to unveil the Tennessee Music Pathways marker, which honors Sheppard and his career in country music.
Sheppard spoke about his life “coming full circle” from a run-away 15-year-old kid who hitchhiked to Memphis to begin a music career as a singer/songwriter, promoter and a record producer, to flying back on a private jet to be Strawberry Festival Parade Marshal and having a Tennessee Music Pathways marker honoring his career.
Sheppard had a big day on Friday of festival week. It began by riding through the Grand Floats Parade as grand marshal. Next, he sat at the head table for the Governor’s Luncheon and was asked to be the speaker after Gov. Bill Lee’s airplane was stuck on the tarmac in Nashville, grounded by the storms. The day culminated with the marker unveiling, along with another surprise unbeknownst to Sheppard.
At the downtown green space for the Tennessee Music Pathways marker unveiling, Mayor Marvin Sikes joked with Sheppard, calling him governor (since he did fill in for Gov. Lee). Sheppard’s joking reply was Sikes was governor of Humboldt and the Strawberry Festival, which brought smiles and laughter to the monumental day.
Tennessee Department of Tourist Development West Tennessee Division Manager Marty Marbry was on hand for the unveiling of the marker. Marbry said she had been working with Humboldt Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Love for a couple of years to have a marker in Humboldt, Sheppard’s hometown. The two of them, along with Mayor Sikes, finalized all the planning and held a celebration on Friday, May 12 at 2:30 p.m. in the downtown green space at the corner of Main St. and Central Ave.
As Marbry addressed the crowd attending the marker unveiling, she explained how Tennessee Music Pathways honors music legends across seven genres of music: blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock and roll. She joked and said she had no idea there were so many genres and had to look it up. Marbry looked at Sheppard and said she was pretty sure Sheppard fit into more than one of the genres of the program.
During a reception after the marker unveiling, Mayor Sikes read a proclamation designating Friday, May 12 as T.G. Sheppard Day. But, that was not the only announcement. Sikes, along with festival president Shane Lynch, who is also a city alderman, brought out a street sign, “T.G. Sheppard Way”, which will designate a stretch of East End Dr. in Humboldt to honor Humboldt’s famous country singer.
Sheppard is among country music royalty with 21 No. 1 hits over his career. He released his first record, “High School Days” using the stage name, Brian Stacy. This opened the door for a much bigger career as the opening act for some of the biggest shows in America.
By 1974, under the stage name, T.G. Sheppard, he got into the record promotion business with RCA, where he became friends with Elvis Presley. After unsuccessfully promoting the song “Devil in a Bottle” to several artists, Sheppard went to Nashville and recorded the song himself. He signed with Motown, which looked to expand into country music.
When Motown got out of country music, Sheppard signed with Warner Bros. His career took off like a rocket with 14 consecutive number one hits. From the late 1970s through the 80s, Sheppard’s career had amassed hit after hit.
Now, Sheppard has another feather in his musical hat with the new Tennessee Music Pathways marker in his hometown.
According to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development in 2018, Tennessee Music Pathways was launched in 2018 as an online planning guide that connects visitors to the state’s rich musical heritage at tnmusicpathways.com. Tennessee Music Pathways are a 1200-mile, state-wide system designed to designate and certify locations that have made significant and impactful contributions to Tennessee’s rich music history. It
stretches across all 95 counties and features hundreds of landmarks from the seven genres of music that call Tennessee home. From the largest cities to the smallest communities, Tennessee Music Pathways identifies and preserves the unique musical history throughout all 95 counties of the state. More than 500 possible locations for markers have been identified including birthplaces, resting places, hometowns, high schools, churches and locations of first-known recordings or performances of the musical pioneers and legends influenced and shaped by Tennessee.
Sheppard has had many big days and unforgettable events in his life. Luckily, he had the honor of sharing these events in Humboldt with his lovely wife, Kelly Lang, who is an accomplished singer in her own rite. Sheppard once said he was in love with Lang long before they married. Those watching the marker unveiling and the street sign announcement saw a humbled Sheppard who was fully appreciative of the honors bestowed upon him in his hometown, Humboldt, Tenn. There were probably a few tears of joy shed throughout the week.