Blue on Black

"Blue on Black" is a song by American blues rock group Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Written by Shepherd with Mark Selby and Tia Sillers, it was originally released on their second studio album, Trouble Is... (1997). In 1998, the song was released as a single and reached the top position on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

"Blue on Black"
Single by Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
from the album Trouble Is...
ReleasedApril 7, 1998 (1998-04-07)
Producer(s)Jerry Harrison
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band singles chronology
"Somehow, Somewhere, Someway"
"Blue on Black"
"Everything Is Broken"

"Blue on Black" was regarded as the best rock song of 1998 by various media. It won the Billboard Music Award for "Rock Track of the Year" and the song's popularity helped make Trouble Is... the 1999 "Blues Album of the Year" in Billboard. The song continues to be a top download of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd catalog, ranking at number one on Rhapsody. It is also his most-listened to song on Spotify with over 26 million streams.

In 2019, Shepherd teamed up with American heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch, along with country singer Brantley Gilbert and Queen guitarist Brian May for a reworked version of "Blue on Black". It also performed well on the record charts and proceeds were donated to the Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit first responders.


In an August 2017 interview, Shepherd discussed the song's origins:

We wrote that when we were down in New Orleans – me, Mark and Tia. I had the music, and Mark and I were just rolling with the music and tried to develop things up. Tia came up with this idea based on a shirt that I was wearing that was blue and black. She noticed the two colors that were dominant on my shirt, and if you mix those two colors together, black consumes the blue. It doesn't amount to anything if you put the two together: You still have one color, instead of creating a new color. So she built on that idea, and it became this really deep song. It's really up to the listener to determine how they apply it. So many people have applied it to a death in the family, an abusive relationship, a broken relationship, or whatever. There are so many different ways. That's what's beautiful about music and lyrics is trying to write a song that the listener can apply to their own experience in whatever way seems fit. And that's one of those songs.[1]

Performance and personnelEdit

As Shepherd's signature song, he often closes his concert performances with "Blue on Black", just prior to "Voodoo Child".[2] The Jimi Hendrix cover was also included on the CD single with an alternate mix of "Blue on Black".

  • Kenny Wayne Shepherd – lead guitar
  • Noah Hunt – lead vocals[3][4]
  • Joe Nadaeu – rhythm guitar
  • Jimmy Wallace – keyboards
  • Robby Emerson – bass guitar
  • Sam Bryant – drums, percussion

Charts and recognitionEdit

Shepherd discussed the song's commercial significance in an interview:

The success at rock radio that we had early in my career, with 'Blue on Black,' I think we set a record. When that song was out, it definitely helped expose my music to a wider audience, and also, by gaining that exposure, then I get to turn a lot of those people on to the blues who may not have listened to the blues otherwise.[5]

"Blue on Black" reached number 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[6] It also reached the top position on the magazine's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[7] A review in Billboard, described the song as a "widely appealing meld of brooding southern rock, searing blues guitar and alt-country touches".[8]

In honor of the hit single, the Martin Guitar Company issued its Kenny Wayne Shepherd Limited Edition Signature model JC-16KWS, a distinct jumbo model in dark blue, in January 2001. The guitar design was inspired by the imagery evoked in the song's lyrics.[9] Proceeds from the model were to be donated to Providence House, a Shreveport, Louisiana shelter and development program for homeless families with children.

Five Finger Death Punch versionEdit

"Blue on Black"
Single by Five Finger Death Punch featuring Kenny Wayne ShepherdBrantley Gilbert, and Brian May
from the album And Justice for None
ReleasedApril 12, 2019 (2019-04-12)
LabelEleven Seven

American heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch recorded "Blue on Black" for their 2018 album And Justice for None. However, on April 12, 2019, a version different to the one on that album, was released as a single, together with Kenny Shepherd, country musician Brantley Gilbert and Queen guitarist Brian May. It merged Sheperd's blues rock, Gilbert's country, May's classic rock and Five Finger Death Punch's mainstream rock styles.[10]

An official music video was released on April 11, 2019. Proceeds from the song were donated to the Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit first responders.[11] This version debuted and peaked at number two on the US Digital Song Sales chart and number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Five Finger Death Punch's first visit to the latter list since 2011 and also became the band's record-extending tenth Hard Rock Digital Song Sales number one.[12] It also topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart for five non-consecutive weeks.[13]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Songwriter Interviews". Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  2. ^ Landers, Rick (December 7, 2007). "Kenny Wayne Shepherd Interview". Archived from the original on October 16, 2009. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  3. ^ Olivier, Bobby (May 1, 2019). "The Story of Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 'Blue on Black': From '90s Crossover Hit to 2019 Superteam Smash". Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  4. ^ Huey, Steve. "Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  5. ^ Peerless, Beth (May 21, 2009). "B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Leon Russell Top Exemplary Santa Cruz Blues Festival Lineup". Monterey Archived from the original on February 24, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  6. ^ "Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Chart History – Hot 100". Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  7. ^ "Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Chart History – Mainstream Rock Tracks". Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Olivier, Bobby (May 1, 2019). "Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 'Blue On Black': How It Went from '90s Crossover Hit to 2019 Superteam Smash". Retrieved April 21, 2021. Shepherd’s 'Blue on Black,' and its widely appealing meld of brooding southern rock, searing blues guitar and alt-country touches exploded on rock radio.
  9. ^ "Martin Introduces Kenny Wayne Shepherd Jumbo". January 18, 2001. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  10. ^ "Brian May (Queen) just released a new song with metal band Five Finger Death Punch". RawMusicTV. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  11. ^ Bienstock, Richard (April 12, 2019). "Listen to Brian May and Kenny Wayne Shepherd Guest on Five Finger Death Punch's "Blue on Black"". Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  12. ^ "Five Finger Death Punch's 'Blue on Black' Cover Hits Hot 100 & Hot Rock Songs Chart". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  13. ^ "Mainstream Rock Songs - 2019 Archive". Archived from the original on September 30, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2019.