Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s new disc “Can’t Stop Now” is as well seasoned, well
traveled, and well spoken as the man himself, having been recorded in St. Louis, MO, Toronto, ON, Seattle, WA, Vancouver, BC, and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory! Kenny also has a foot firmly planted in both Blues music’s bright future and it’s glorious past, (that foot is also attached to a pair of hands that play the piano like no one else, check out the opening track “Boogie Woogie Mama").
On first listen to this album I was struck with the soulful Big Easy R&B flavour that washes over many of the tracks like steam from a simmering pot of extra spicy 5th ward jambalaya, Kenny did after all spend much of his childhood in his Mother’s hometown of New Orleans. His astute interpretation of Fat’s Domino’s “Pack Your Suitcase” and his heartfelt original “Ragin’ Storm” do the Crescent City proud.
Family connections also make an appearance on “My Little Peach” where Kenny’s son Cory, lays a funky rap seamlessly into the heart of the song. When I asked Kenny about the variety of grooves on the disc he told me “ I’m trying to remind the R & B lovers of their Blues Roots and to remind the Blues people of how sweet R&B can be and to bridge the gap a little between them”. Kenny’s long time fans know he rarely misses a chance to pay generous tribute to the keyboard legends that have influenced him. Kenny had the privilege of playing with the late piano master Johnnie Johnson on several occasions and pays homage to him with both a wonderful version “Tanqueray” and an original “Johnnie J. Was Good” recorded in St. Louis with Johnnie’s widow in the studio beaming in approval.
“I Can’t Stop Now I’m Having My Fun” Kenny sings on the track “Let’s Have Some Fun”. Let’s hope Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne never stops doing what he does so very well. His music makes this mean old world that we live in a much better place to be.
Andrew Galloway, President
When a piano player's got the three most important things ? the playing, the voice, and the look ? he's the whole package. And that's what attracts me," says Wayne who himself favors boldly colored, French custom-tailored performance wear, such as the fuchsia-hued ensemble he sports on the new CD's cover. Wayne notes that it was pianist Linton Garner, brother of "Misty" composer Errol, who hipped him to the power of the definitive sartorial statement.
Can't Stop Now was recorded at studios in St. Louis, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver (Wayne's longtime home), and Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon. Co-produced by the Isaak Brothers (owners of the Yukon studio) and Wayne himself, Can't Stop Now features many of his regular crew, Russell Jackson (bass), Brandon Isaak (guitar), Dave "Hurricane" Hoerl (harmonica), Johnny Ferreira (sax), Theo Brown (drums) with a special guest appearance the late guitar great Jeff Healey.
Kenneth Wayne Spruell was born in Spokane, Washington in 1944, and spent his early years in New Orleans with his Louisiana-born parents. At age 10, he moved with his family to Los Angeles. A child prodigy on piano, he was encouraged by his preacher father to play gospel music. But unbeknownst to his father he was also secretly introduced to the radically more exciting boogie-woogie style.
By his early teen years, Wayne was an accomplished keyboardist, working dozens of gigs during the early '60s -- including a 1962 appearance at the Alpha Bowling Club with the great Jimmy Reed, the biggest blues hit-record king of all time. It was an infamous gig, featuring everything his father, the Reverend Spruell, feared about the "Devil's Music." A vicious brawl erupted in the crowded, smoky, alcohol-fueled club, and one man attacked another with a broken bottle, blood spraying everywhere. As Wayne recalls with a chuckle, "My Dad grabbed my mom with one hand and ran up to the stage and yanked me off the piano bench and led us through the kitchen and out the back exit...That was the end of my blues career for over 20 years".
By the late 1960s Kenny Wayne was in tight with the burgeoning Los Angeles soul/R&B scene, Wayne played with Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett when they were based in Sherman Oaks, CA and quickly became first-call keyboardist for live club and concert dates around L.A. Work with Billy Preston, Sly Stone and the Doobie Brothers soon followed.
The second half of the '70s saw Wayne moving to Canada, where he quickly established a strong reputation on the Manitoba-to-BC club circuit. Wayne's reputation as a gifted keyboardist put him at the top of everyone's on-call list and he established himself not only with the R&B circuit, but also with Vancouver's blues and jazz communities.
Kenny Wayne's full transformation into "Blues Boss" (the nickname taken from the title of Amos Milburn's Motown Records comeback album) came about following a 1994 tour of Europe. His longtime passion for Fats Domino and Amos Milburn paid off in the form of star treatment from piano-loving European music fans.
In 1994 Wayne's first CD "Alive and Loose", second CD "Blues Boss Boogie" in 1996 and third CD "88th & Jump Street" in 2002 were all nominated for a Juno Award and the follow-up CD Let it Loose was honored with a Juno Award win (Canada's
Grammy's) in 2006.
Wayne's new album Can't Stop Now kicks off with the rollicking, propulsive music that first caught Wayne's fancy as a young man, in the form of a traditional boogie-woogie number, 'Boogie Woogie Mama." Next up is his Fats Domino tribute, "You Can Pack Your Suitcase," a 1954 hit for Domino penned by producer and songwriter Dave Bartholomew. Wayne says he was inspired to pen the churning R&B track "Judge by the Look" by a news story about a comely TV anchorwoman drawing a prodigious salary based solely on her appearance.
Arguably the album's most soulful number, "You Cured My Blues" has a gospel feel embellished by the guitar work of Jeff Healey. Wayne proceeds to shift gears completely in the next cut, "My Sweet Little Peach," a funk workout with a tantalizing slice of hip-hop grafted in. That's Wayne's son Cory, by the way, providing the tight rap break.
The song title says it all in "Let's Have Some Fun" which offers a striking contrast to the subsequent cut, "Ragin' Storm." Wayne's sober-eyed take on the hurricane that laid waste to his childhood home of New Orleans is unsparing in its view of the U.S. government's complicity in the Katrina disaster: "The system failed to do its job/Now the troops are down here trying to control the mob."
Wayne goes on to offer upbeat comfort in the Crescent City strut of "Don't Cry," before kicking into the loping, high-spirited blues of the late Johnnie Johnson's "Tangueray". And, Wayne notes with a touch of deserved pride, "Johnnie's widow was in the St. Louis studio when I recorded the song." Wayne wrote the following track, "Johnnie J. Was Good," as a direct tribute to his kindred stylistic spirit.
Can't Stop Now concludes with a fitting title "The Party's Over" though the accompanying tune exuberantly contradicts that sentiment.
With his supercharged new album Can't Stop Now, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne continues to further his reputation as one of the premier purveyors of red-hot contemporary blues piano.
"There's no boogie-woogie-blues piano man out there today who pounds the 88's with the conviction of Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne." (Jeff Johnson/Chicago Sun-Times)
By Moira McCormick
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne (a.k.a. Kenneth Wayne Spruell) was born in Spokane, Washington raised in San Francisco and is now a Vancouver, Canada based blues pianist/vocalist who is being hailed as a cross between Amos Milburn and Fats Domino. Lots of traditional Blues and Boogie – Woogie with a taste of Kansas City Swing and New Orleans Rhythm best describes Kenny’s music. The “Blues Boss” puts down some of the most compelling blues piano you can hear anywhere. His keyboard and warm vocal style lend themselves to the more urbane, West Coast blues style as pioneered by the smooth Charles Brown, the shouting Big Joe Turner and the good rockin’ Fats Domino.
In addition to his vocal talent, songwriting ability and piano skills, Kenny has energy with a capital “E” and the charisma to make it to the top. North Americans call his style “Traditional Blues” close to the work of Amos Milburn. It’s a genre that’s in very short supply in today’s blues world. Europeans call it “Rockin’ Boogie” and trace it back to Pete Johnson and Fats Domino. Whatever you care to call it, it boils down to the fact that Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne is “one hell of a boogie – woogie man”.
Kenny Wayne’s musical roots are firmly planted in the New Orleans Jazz and Blues tradition, even though he was born up north, he absorbed a lot of music growing up in a household headed by his Louisiana born parents. Kenny acquired a true West Coast feel by spending several years paying his dues in the Blues, Jazz and R&B worlds of Los Angeles and San Francisco where aside from working as a featured headliner he backed artists ranging from Charles Mingus to Jimmy Reed.
Signed to the Electro-Fi label in 2001, Kenny’s Electro-Fi debut “88th & Jump Street” (E-fi 3372) features both an outstanding collection of material and a true All-Star Band comprised of guitar legends Mel Brown and Jeff Healey, plus Chicago Blues premiere rhythm section drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Bassman Bob Stroger .May 2005 will see the release of Kenny’s eagerly anticipated follow up “Let It Loose” (E-fi 3388). As boogie – woogie piano proudly stomps it’s way into the 21st century Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne is both the man to watch and listen to. For info on Kenny’s CD’s visit the CD section of this site. For Bookings, Tour Dates and additional info on Kenny please visit
Winner, 2006 Blues Album Of The Year view photos
Nominee, 2002 Best Blues Recording
Nominee, 1998 Best Blues Recording
Nominee, 1996 Best Blues Recording
MAPLE BLUES AWARD
(Toronto Blues Society)
Winner 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 Piano Player of the Year
Nominee, 2005 Producer of the Year
Nominee, 2005 Entertainer of the Year
Nominee, Piano Player of the year '97-'01,'04 & 2007
Nominee, Recording of the year 1998
REAL BLUES MAGAZINE WINNER
Blues Artist of the year 2001
Best Canadian Blues Pianist 1997 - 2005
Best Live Canadian Performer '97
Best Canadian Songwriter '97
Best Canadian Blues CD of year '98
Best Canadian Blues Song '98 "Potential Danger".
1997 Songwriter of the Year
BRONZE MEDAL - KEEPING THE BLUES ALIVE IN FRANCE
Bronze Medal in recognition of contributions to keeping the BLUES ALIVE in FRANCE
PACIFIC MUSIC INDUSTRY AWARD NOMINEE
1997 Best Blues / R&B Album
Here is what people have said:
"There's no boogie woogie-blues piano man out there today who pounds the 88s with the conviction of Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne" Jeff Johnson - Chicago Sun Times
"One of the true "missing links" between the past and modern-day blues piano players, Kenny Wayne has taken the music of past masters and welded a style all his own" Music City Blues Society
"You’ll jump, you’ll jive and have a great time as Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne does his boogie woogie piano/singing and performing with a panache evoking Champion Jack Dupree" Jonathan Takiff/Philadelphia Daily News
"Back in the 1950's, Kenny's talent at rolling a rumbling piano boogie would have earned him fame and fortune as a rock 'n' roller. If the piano ever returns to the front ranks of contemporary blues, Kenny Wayne may well be leading the charge" Living Blues Magazine
“Superb…Kenny Wayne is an act to watch out for” – Blues & Rhythm.