Rocco DeLuca’s soulful sound resonates at Virginian this weekend

The accomplished lap steel guitarist and organist Johnny Shepherd discuss their musical bond and perform songs in the KHOL studios.
(Left to right) Organist Johnny Shepherd and lap steel guitarist Rocco DeLuca joined us to chat with KHOL Music Director Jack Catlin and perform live on-air in advance of their two-night event at The Virginian Saloon. (KHOL/Jack Catlin)

Los Angeles-based lap steel and resonator guitarist Rocco DeLuca is known for his emotive songwriting and alluring performances featuring a mixture of blues, soul and folk influences.

Growing up with a piano-playing father and musically talented uncles, DeLuca has been attracted to music from a young age. He fell in love with the lap steel guitar out of necessity as it was the only instrument no one in the family had mastered yet. It gave him an excuse to stay up late and jam with the adults.

“I used to listen to my dad play stride piano and I used to sit there beneath his feet and listen to the piano resonate. He was just a fabulous player and passionate about music. So it got me passionate about music. And at the little jam sessions, they would have at the house, there was no steel player. So, he kind of put me on it early.”

Since then, DeLuca has worked in music as a sought-after session player, a bandleader, and a solo artist where the constant has always been his love for collaboration.


DeLuca has played and written songs with numerous legendary artists including frequent collaborator Daniel Lanois, D’Angelo, Leonard Cohen and most recently the late great Robbie Robertson on the soundtrack to the award-winning film “Killers of the Flower Moon.” 

Lap steel guitarist Rocco DeLuca and Shreveport, Lousiana-based organist Johnny Shepherd performed the song “Mighty Glad,” live on KHOL before a weekend of shows at the Virginian.

DeLuca and Shepherd will be joined at The Virginian by bassist Seth Ford-Young and drummer Ben Lecourt, collectively known as “Rocco DeLuca & The Good Medicine Trio,” on Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m.

Both DeLuca and Shepherd are known to have a hypnotizing effect on listeners – so it was almost fate that they found each other through a gig with Daniel Lanois and Shepherd’s band Hallelujah Train.

“I got to see Johnny Shepherd play there and listening to his voice and his organ playing brought back flashes and floods of my father’s playing. But on a completely different level,” DeLuca said. “[Johnny’s] truly one of my favorite musicians on the planet. I think he’s the biggest secret in America as far as music goes.”

That first meeting left a lasting impression on both  DeLuca and Shepherd. 

“I didn’t know whether I was doing a good job or not, because Daniel and Rocco were looking at me pretty strongly. I’m playing the organ and I wondered what it was about. Rocco came up with the idea that we ought to kidnap Johnny [referring to himself in the third person], put him in the van and take him back to California,” said Shepherd.

The bond remained strong between the two musicians, and despite the geographic distance they have collaborated on numerous projects, including Daniel Lanois’ 2021 album “Heavy Sun” and forming a new project together for their eponymous 2023 LP “Mighty Glad.

Rocco DeLuca and Johnny Shepherd performing the song “Send Me A Message,” live on KHOL.

Mighty Glad’s music is driven by hymnal singing, steel guitar, Hammond organ and the harmonious voices of Shepherd and DeLuca. According to Shepherd the aim of Mighty Glad is to send a positive message in their songs and inspire listeners.

“We like to make music that resonates in the heart of man. I like a song with a message, even if there’s a little hurt [in there],” Shepherd said. “Because in life, we do have the ups and downs. And so we come up with these songs, like, “Send Me A Message,” with lightning and spirit. Because I believe that the heart of a man has to be in a certain place for him to be able to live out a [good] life.”

Rocco DeLuca and Johnny Shepherd performing the song “They Don’t Live Long,” co-written with Robbie Roberston from the film “Killers of the Flower Moon” live on KHOL.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with and performances by Rocco DeLuca and Johnny Shepherd.

Want More Stories Like This?

Donate any amount to support independent media in the Tetons.

KHOL 89.1 Jackson Hole Community Radio Membership Support Ad

About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

Related Stories

Pin It on Pinterest