A Podcast Conversation With ... Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
This Juno-winning master of piano blues has just released a new album, Blues From Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon. Learn more in this FYI podcast.
By Bill King
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne - Blues From Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon
That 280-mile sweep of US 59 between Houston, Texas and Texarkana is known as “Boogie Woogie Highway.” The piano style originated in the lumber camps and railroad lanes of Piney Woods – East Texas. It is said that boogie woogie’s eight-beats-per measure bass line imitates two rotations of a steam engine driver wheel of the mid- eighteen hundred. Piano players rode the rails, stopping at each campsite to play in barrelhouses designed to keep workers on the grounds in makeshift juke joints called “booga roogas" where liquor flowed, and dice games and dancing got one through the suffocating nights of toiling heat and aching bones after a hard day of backbreaking labour. Piano man Clarence Smith gave the style a name with his hit song "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" in 1929. However, the piano style had been around a good fifty years prior.
There’s no better representation of the art form than celebrated west coast piano man Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne. We chatted about his brand new release Blues From Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon — and his journey north to Canada and that change of life.
More on Kenny:
Canada's multi-award-winning beacon of the blues Kenny 'Blues Boss" Wayne has prepared his Hall of Fame talents for takeoff with announcing his new album, Blues From Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon — released March 4th via Stony Plain Records.
The 17-track album pays spirited homage to the piano-pounding and bass-slapping ancient legends from a legend himself while serving as a rousing and riveting guide to Chicago and Paris's lively post-war blues scenes.
“Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon were a team, and their styles worked great together,” Wayne says of the artists behind the release’s inspiration. “Out of many other blues piano players I’ve listened to, I found a unique playfulness between these two men, unlike the many other great blues pianists.”
Focused on the period when the two giants of the genre teamed up to tour the globe in the late ‘50s-early ‘60s, Blues From Chicago to Paris presents a robust collection of favourite songs and the innovative tunes that have inspired and influenced artists ever since.
As was the case with his previous release, 2020’s Go, Just Do It, Kenny Wayne took on the role of producer once again for Blues From Chicago to Paris; he also invited bassist Russell Jackson, a veteran of the B.B. King band during the 80s, and drummer Joey DiMarco into the studio for the sessions.
Now 77, Wayne's six-decade musical career began with him soaking up the sounds of gospel music from his father, a preacher. After that, his genre journey traversed through jazz, Latin, R&B, and soul, with explorations in swing, bebop, dance, and the standards, for good measure.
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne was inducted into the Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame in 2017. He has won a large number of awards in Canada and the US, including a Juno Award, a Western Canadian Music Award, seven Maple Blues Awards (as Piano Player of the Year), wins in the Living Blues and Real Blues Magazine Critics' Polls, and many more.
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s Blues From Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon is now available via Stony Plain Records.