He was born in Michigan on December 28, 1976 – the day his hero Freddie King died – and spent his formative years in Milwaukee, where he was a club fixture long before he could legally take a drink.
Sharrard was 15 when his father took him to a Brewtown blues joint called the Up and Under Pub. There he sat in with singer/guitarist (and local one-named legend) Stokes, who would become his mentor. Another was powerhouse “Chitlin’ Circuit” singer and guitarist Willie Higgins.
Sharrard soon graduated to occasional dates in Chicago, with tutelage coming via jams alongside two fabled Muddy Waters sidemen, drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and pianist Pinetop Perkins.
Then came a chance 1996 move to New York City. The 20-year-old Sharrard, eager to bolt Milwaukee, had his mind on New Orleans. But his friend Sean Dixon, with whom he had a band called The Chesterfields, had found a rent-controlled apartment in the East Village. Sharrard had been in the Big Apple but a year when he met iconic Atlantic Records executive Ahmet Ertegun, who mentored The Chesterfields and gave the young guitar-slinger some sage advice. “Ahmet told me that you must do it all – and well – if you want to survive as a musician,” Sharrard remembers. “He told me to get it all together: writing, singing, producing, playing, arranging. He convinced me to work twice as hard because around 2000 he saw the end of the music business as we knew it. He felt no one was around to support artists like back in the heyday of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.”
The Chesterfields cut three albums and toured nationally before Sharrard began to chart his own course. A series of releases followed, including “Dawnbreaker” (2005), “Analog/Monolog” (2008) and “Ante Up” (2009).
Ertegun wasn’t the only legend with Sharrard on his radar back then: The young guitarist also forged a relationship with Levon Helm – performing with The Band drummer about a dozen times, including his final gig just before his death in April of 2012.
Sharrard remains close with Helm’s daughter, Amy, and a host of other artists on the Woodstock scene.
It was through Amy’s then-husband, multi-instrumentalist Jay Collins – already a member of Allman’s band – that Sharrard embarked on the collaboration of a lifetime. In the fall of 2008, Sharrard began a nearly decade-long run with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Sharrard joined the Gregg Allman Band as a touring guitarist and later became Musical Director.
The fruitful partnership ended with the 69-year-old Allman’s death on May 27, 2017. But not before Allman covered Sharrard’s “Love Like Kerosene” on 2015’s “Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA,” and again on Allman’s eighth and final solo album, the posthumous, GRAMMY-nominated “Southern Blood” (Rounder Records, 2017).
Another “Southern Blood” track, the unforgettable farewell “My Only True Friend” – co-written by Sharrard and Allman – earned a GRAMMY nomination for Americana Song of the Year.