He saw the guitar, a 1961 Fender Stratocaster.
"I'd actually seen the guitar before," he said. "But the first time I had to walk away. I just didn't have the money."
The second time around, Shepherd said, he couldn't pass on the guitar.
"I still couldn't afford to buy it, but I refused to leave the music store without it."
Shepherd talked it over with his father, his lawyer and his record label representative and convinced them to split the cost on their credit cards.
"I could have it provided I paid them back. And I did pay them back."
Shepherd scored two platinum albums (selling more than a million copies) and a gold album (more than 500,000 copies) after that.
"That guitar has been around the world with me," he said. "Several times. I've played it on every record I've ever made -- except that first one."
Shepherd's debut album, "Ledbetter Heights," released when he was 17, also went platinum. He didn't have the guitar at the time he recorded it.
Shepherd said it's his one guitar -- sort of. After he'd had the Stratocaster for a few years, he began to worry about losing it while traveling or what he would do it if his beloved instrument were damaged.
"That was something I didn't want to take a chance with."
So he sent his guitar to Fender. Technicians there kept it for almost a year and a half and made an exact duplicate.
"They cloned it," he said. "Now, I have an exact replica of that guitar that I play every night on stage."
He still brings out the original guitar some nights, and it always ends up getting used for recording. The rest of the time, however, he keeps it safe.
"I have the original locked up in a vault at home."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.