Although you could argue all day how to label and categorize each of these guitar players, it’s their influences that binds them all together to help create a style of playing and a sound of their own. In each of these String Theory episodes, there are recurring influences that one would expect from the blues/rock/country players like Merle Haggard, John Prine, Waylon Jennings, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duane Alman and more. But it’s the additional influence of modern rock and metal in the 70s, 80s and early 90s like Van Halen, Steve Vai, and even Metallica that helped push these players to create their own style. It is because of this blend of influences, and the era of metal meets country meets blues meets singer-songwriter, that each of these artists excel in the Delta Blues, Blues Rock, Americana, Hard Rock, and Pop Country arenas, without missing a note. Hear how all of these artists and more created the unmistakable sounds of Clint Black, Joe Don Rooney, Jason Isbell and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

Clint Black

When I first started playing guitar, it was just a means to an end. I wanted to sing, and so I just learned enough guitar chords to be able to sing some songs I knew. And that really was it. I started learning some songs from song books, namely James Taylor. So it became a little bit more about technique and finger-picking, and over time that evolved. 

Clint Black uses Regular Slinky and Paradigm Regular Slinky electric guitar strings and Earthwood Extra Light Phosphor Bronze acoustic guitar strings.

Joe Don Rooney

You hold that high note and it’s just soaring. And it’s like, there’s the reason why you’re put on this earth.

Joe Don Rooney uses Paradigm Regular Slinky and Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Slinky electric guitar strings, Paradigm Light and Medium Light Phosphor Bronze acoustic guitar strings.

Jason Isbell

I’ve always been the kind of guitar player who liked to play melodies that I could sing. I think I read Eddie van Halen say that sometime in the 80s in one of those guitar magazines. He was talking about how you should be able to sing every melody that you play, no matter how complicated it is. And I started doing that really early on, because it just makes it more lyrical and more vocal and more melodic.

Jason Isbell plays Regular Slinky and Paradigm Regular Slinky electric guitar strings.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

From the moment I was born, I was surrounded by music because my dad was on the radio, he was a disc jockey and he managed radio stations. My first concert was Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker when I was three years old. I was introduced to music and the blues at a very early age. But there was something about guitar, as an instrument, I was always tuned into guitar and the drums. But there was something that pulled me towards the guitar.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd plays Mega Slinky, Ultra Slinky, and Custom Single Gauges 11-58 electric guitar strings.

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