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Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

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Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Kenny Wayne grew up in the midst of a sharp musical dichotomy, thanks to parents whose tastes were wildly divergent. His preacher father told him to stay on the straight and narrow path, and at all times to avoid "the Devil's music," a classification that included boogie-woogie. His mom, however, was thoroughly taken with everything about boogie-woogie. As a self-taught musician, it was all she could play. She especially favored Amos Milburn's "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer," while she also exposed her son to songs by Nat "King" Cole, Little Willie John, and Fats Domino. But when Wayne was old enough to start music lessons at age eight, he didn't get to start out playing his mom's music. Instead, the organist who played for his father's San Francisco church services became his first instructor. For a time, Wayne learned about reading music and how to play some classical pieces. It wasn't long, though, before Wayne convinced the organist to teach him how to play the livelier music that his mother knew how to play, and jumpin' notes of boogie-woogie were rolling through the sanctified air above the empty church pews.

The piano player, who was born Kenneth Wayne Spruell, is frequently identified by his nickname, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne. His parents relocated the family from his hometown of Spokane, WA, to San Francisco not long after his birth in the 1940s. They settled in Los Angeles during the following decade, and in the 1960s they headed to Compton, CA. While he was growing up, Wayne drew inspiration from Gene Harris and his jazz ensemble, the Three Sounds. He also favored the works of artists such as George Shearing, Erroll Garner, Cal Tjader, and Mongo Santamaria. Wayne led his own band, an Afro-Cuban and jazz outfit called the Latin Jazz Prophets, during his teen years. More inspiration came from listening to the music of Ray Charles, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon, Big Joe Turner, and Jimmy Reed, among others. During the 1960s and 1970s in Los Angeles, he frequently provided backup for artists in a variety of genres, including pop and rock. After touring with a Santana-like group, Wayne established an R&B band and went on the road, playing Canada, the mainland U.S., and Hawaii. Thanks to a warm welcome from Canadians during the 1980s, Wayne set down roots in Vancouver, British Columbia. The CD Alive & Loose received a Juno Award nomination in 1997 in the category of Best Blues/Gospel Album. Another nomination came two years later for Blues Boss Boogie in the category of Best Blues Album. Wayne dedicated his debut album, Smile, to the two diverse early influences in his life, his preacher father and his boogie-woogie-lovin' mom. 2002 saw the release of 88th & Jump Street, followed by Blues Carry Me Home in 2003 and Let It Loose in 2005.