Lem Sheppard
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Lem Sheppard

Kansas City, Kansas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1979 | SELF | AFM

Kansas City, Kansas, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 1979
Solo Blues Blues


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Students get history lessons via music"

Students get history lessons via music
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Passaic Valley Today
Pages: 1 2 > display on one page | Print | E-mail WOODLAND PARK – The students of Charles Olbon School were treated to a very special guest recently. Lemuel Sheppard brought his very special brand of folk music mixed with historical references to the school as a precursor for Black History Month.

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Pictured is Lemuel Sheppard, a singer musician who came to entertain the students of Charles Olbon School. Sheppard talked about certain folk songs that were born out of the Civil War period, including their historical significance, as a precursor to Black History Month. Sheppard has been entertaining and informing audiences for 25 years. During his performance, he played several folk songs and talked about the history behind them, when he visited the school on Jan. 27.

"Had it not been for the Civil War, we would not have many of these songs, like 'The Rowing Song,'" said Sheppard, right before he began to play "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore."

"Everyone on the boat would sing this together as they rowed," he told the students. During the song, students chimed in and clapped.

The song was first noted during the Civil War and was sung by freed slaves who rowed in boat across Station Creek at St. Helena Island of the coast of South Carolina, according to the book "Poems from the Battlefield," by Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt.

"People are still writing about the Civil War, including the 'Underground Railroad,' which had to do with slaves running away to go north where they would be free," Sheppard explained. "There were many people that helped hide slaves during the day so that they'd run at night, including the plight of Tice Davis, who was a runaway being pursued by his owner. The song 'Follow the Drinking' Gourd,' was about following the stars to the Big Dipper during their travels at night. It would lead them to the North Star and guide them to freedom."

Sheppard then switched his acoustic guitar and brought out a banjo.

"The banjo is a truly American instrument, however, there have been different version of it in other countries around the world," he noted, as he began to play snippets of "Amazing Grace," "Pop Goes the Weasel," and "The Corn Song," on the banjo. He made the students get up and move around by re-enacting 'The Rowing Song,' including other tunes, where they had to mimic Sheppard's moves.

Sheppard then explained to students that during Civil War times, many families and friends were fighting each other on opposite sides of the war. He depicted battle scenes where a cease fire would bring on songs and music from opposing side, and thus, a battle of the bands would ensue.

"Many songs would describe feelings of wanting to go home, which inspired the folk song 'Home Sweet Home,'" he said. "A lot of blues and jazz stems back to this time.

The music originally has its roots in West Africa."

Sheppard then ended the program by explaining to that in the Civil War years, many people would say "Take Time In Life" when they really didn't want to say good-bye.

"So, 'take time in life' boys and girls!" he proclaimed, to close the show.

Afterwards, Sheppard reflected on his love of historical folk music.

"It started when I was in college when I was a saxophone major," he added. "I played guitar as well and started performing at schools for fun. I enjoy American folk music and interpreting the history relative to a particular song. With folk music, I believe it is history. I always try to make it age appropriate."

Linda Dewey, principal, said the performance was invaluable in teaching about Black History Month.

"We all enjoyed Lemuel Sheppard's performance for our Black History Month assembly. His songs were great."


- Northjersey.com : News

"Students Learn the Songs of War"

Students learn the songs of war
Washington Elementary School students got a special treat at the end of the day Friday.
Folk artist Lem Sheppard from Pittsburg performed an educational concert about slavery and the Civil War for the students in the gym.
Using a guitar and banjo, Sheppard played songs, such as "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "John Brown's Body" and "Take Time in Life."
Sheppard explained to the children how folk songs developed during that time and how slaves would sing songs to help them work.
"When people heard songs they hadn't heard before, they started writing them down," he said. "Everyone all over was writing down these songs during the Civil War."
He also spoke about the Fugitive Slave Act, which was passed by Congress in 1850 requiring runaway slaves to be brought back to their masters.
"Slaves were running away, and they were escaping," Sheppard said. "That was a big deal, because when they ran away, that was (the slave owner's) money."
The Underground Railroad helped runaway slaves avoid capture, and Sheppard told the students how "Follow the Drinking Gourd" helped slaves find their way north.
"The song didn't say look for the North Star," he said. "The song didn't say look for the moss. It was all a secret. You had to learn this song, and then learn all of the secrets to the song."
The Civil War separated the country, and Sheppard showed that division with the song "Home Sweet Home."
During the night prior to the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, the bands in the Union and Confederate camps battled each other playing music from their respective camps.
When neither band could come up with anymore music, they both played "Home Sweet Home" and the soldiers from each camp sang the song.
"They were going to wake up in the morning and have a battle, but for that one moment, they were all singing the same song together."

- The Hays Daily News

"Blog entry"

http://www.patsyterrell.com/2007/02/lemuel-sheppard.html - Patsy Terrell

"Lawrence Kansas Public Library"

http://www.lawrence.lib.ks.us/newsroom/releases/lemuel-sheppard.html - Public Library

"Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."

http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium/artist_detail.cfm?artist_id=SHEPPARDLE - Millennium Stage

"National Endowment Of the Arts"

http://www.nea.gov/about/NEARTS/2008_v2/story.php?id=p07_kansas - NEA

"State Of Missouri Parks department"

http://www.dnr.mo.gov/newsrel/nr06_379.htm - Department Of Natural Resources


Still working on that hot first release.



  When you hear Lem perform traditional music you are reminded that this is music we once danced, clapped and sang along to. It doesn’t take long after he launches into The Crawdad Song or John Henry that a four or five year old is seen dancing around in front of the stage.  His bluesy rendition of the Spirituals brings out the humming and swaying from anyone who knows them.


 His voice trained by Dr. Eva Jessey- The Grand Dame of American Music, can move seamlessly from a Baritone with its full richness while singing a Spiritual to a Folk holler, and then to a juke joint bluesy tenor.


Sometimes while discussing to origins of the St. Louis Blues lem picks up the tenor banjo to give the audience a chance to hear what W.C. Handy might have heard in that train station in Mississippi that made him the father of the blues. Lem not only plays bottle neck guitar but he takes you on a journey through history to teach you why the Delta Bluesmen called it “Spanish Tuning” when they tuned their guitars this special way.


You can tell that Lem hasn’t forgotten his Kansas City jazz roots when he plays music from the Harlem Renaissance or something from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess that he learned from Eva Jessey, the folk opera’s original choral director. To share with the audience where it all came from, Lem likes to end many of his concerts with a crowd favorite, his arrangement of the West African folk song Take Time.

Everyone loved this program... Lem was a hit!
---- Pine Bluff MO

"Awesome performance! captivating"
-----Rose Hill NC

"Great performance"
---- Thousand Oaks CA

"Exceptional program"
----Turner OR

"Very engaging!"
Londonderry NH

"The children loved his stories and songs"
---- Yonkers NY

Our students were completely dazzled by Mr. Sheppard's program. He is a wonderfully talented individual who incorporates social studies, music, and language arts into his very educational program.
--- Clay City Elementary School - Clay City, IN

"Thanking you for a wonderful year of touring for our company 
we appreciated so very much all of the great shows, the professional way you did them, and all the extra miles and efforts on some of the weeks. I would hope we could do another tour in the future."
John Tacha
The Bureau of Lectures
Lawrence Kansas

 "An example in international and inter-cultural relations."

The Eisteddfod International Music Festival 

"The perfect touring artist'
US Embassy Brasil

"Lem has been traveling the world teaching them about us, and traveling the country teaching us about ourselves."


"You have an open invitation to play here anytime"

Elgin Community College,

Band Members