Berisford "Shep" Shepherd

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The first guess for the name of a guy born in Honduras would hardly be Berisford Shepherd, but an American family actually brought their baby, who would become known professionally as Shep Shepherd, back…
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The first guess for the name of a guy born in Honduras would hardly be Berisford Shepherd, but an American family actually brought their baby, who would become known professionally as Shep Shepherd, back to America five months after he was born. This Shep Shepherd -- there are others, as everyone with the surname of Shepherd is automatically nicknamed "Shep" -- grew up in Philadelphia, where he performed with the local band of Jimmy Gorham throughout the '30s. Shepherd became the drummer for both Benny Carter and Artie Shaw in 1941, a double coup that presents potential eligibility for this artist as a king of jazz.

There's nothing like a hit record to shatter notions, however, and in the case of Shepherd his involvement with organist Bill Doggett has meant that if this Shepherd is the king of anything it would be honky tonk. Publishers and their bean counters would be the first to agree, since Shepherd is on songwriting credits for not only the massive Doggett instrumental hit "Honky Tonk" but the A- and B-side auxiliary spinoffs colorfully entitled "Honky Tonk, Pt. 1" and "Honky Tonk, Pt. 2."

The drummer hooked up with Doggett in 1952. It was part two of Shepherd's career for sure: by then he had finished his Army service as well as put in years of performing and recording with Earl Bostic, Cab Calloway, and Buck Clayton -- in each case, bandleaders who hardly shunned the heavier beats that hint strongly of R&B. Shepherd 's Army years were a setting that allowed his talents as an arranger and composer to flower. He also played some trombone in Army bands, as he would in the later years of his career when he settled in San Francisco. The fact that he plays trombone and is a "Shep" has sometimes created confusion with the William Shepherd of Cleveland who played trombone with Dizzy Gillespie, among others, and for some exotic reason shared the same nickname as dear Berisford.

Finally leaving the security of Doggett's combo and the honky tonk philosophy in 1959, Shepherd began working mainly in the pit bands of Broadway shows. Prior to his aforementioned move west, the drummer took part in projects with Sy Oliver and Erskine Hawkins; he also shows up on sides by diverse female vocalists including jazzy Lena Horne, bluesy Big Maybelle, and folky Odetta. In the late '60s and '70s his performing activities were pretty much confined to the Bay area, the drummer spending as much time in the Chi Chi club as a shepherd does with his flock.