It’s always cool when we get to see a local go the distance. And Hunt, a Cincinnati native, has done it in a major way. Millions of people around the world know him as the soulful voice of the multi-platinum group the Kenny Wayne Shepard Band. However, longtime local music fans know can recall a time before the fortune and fame.
“I remember the first time Noah played Stanley’s.” says Jody Steiner, former booking manager and bartender at Stanley’s. “He was fresh out of college, just looking for a place to play where he could earn a little bit of bill money. We had a cancellation so I called Noah up and said ‘Hey so and so just cancelled their gig, can you come play? I can pay you $40 and all the draft beer you can drink.’” Hunt jumped at the chance to be heard and quickly became a staple, scoring a weekly gig at the Columbia Tusculum bar.
Soon after teamed up with the guitar playing ace Jason Dennie and the acoustic duo regularly began packing the house at Stanley’s. “We had some great times there. It got so busy that we blew out a wall to make the room bigger. They were a big part of building a great scene at the bar,” says Steiner. Hunt and Dennie displayed a musical connection that resonated with both each other and local music fans. So much in fact that in 1997 both scored wins in the Cammys (now known as the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards); Hunt for Folk Vocalist and Dennie for Folk Instrumentalist.
During that same period of after college soul searching, Hunt formed the local band Uncle Six; a move that would move that would ultimately lead him to cross paths with a young, up and coming blues guitarist named Kenny Wane Shepherd. Uncle Six served as Hunt’s platform to develop and showcase is songwriting, stage presence and vocal skills. The band, and its rotating cast of backing players, quickly became a favorite in the Cincinnati music scene; regularly scoring headlining gigs at the area’s top venues and festivals.
Undeniable talent like Hunt’s doesn’t just appear every day. And when it does make itself known it attracts plenty of attention. Such was the case with Hunt. In 1995, after three years of playing together professionally, the band Uncle Six (known today as the 420 Allstars) signed a spec deal with RCA records. Even though the deal with RCA didn’t lead to kind of success Uncle Six was looking for, it did open doors for Noah. Just two years later Hunt was tapped to become the new lead vocalist for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. The addition was like a silver bullet for success for his new band.
Their first record together, "Trouble Is..", yielded three number 1 singles, including the classic Blue on Black, and sold over a million copies worldwide. Their next record, "Live On", gave them another number one song, and also went platinum. They have been nominated for four Grammy Awards, and have received three Billboard Music Awards. Kenny and Noah have shared the stage with such legends as BB King, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, and many more. The blues documentary "Ten Days Out: Blues from the Backroads", released in 2007, was the number one blues album on the Billboard charts, and received two Grammy nominations.
There’s an old saying in the music business. “It takes 7 years to become an overnight success.” More often than not it takes time for talent to develop, mature and find it’s “voice.” In Noah Hunt’s journey we find the story of a local kid that makes good on the promise of talent; giving voice to one of today’s most widely known and respected blues rock acts in the process.