Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

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Kenneth Wayne Spruell
piano. vocals
born: in Spokane, Washington

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne - Tanqueray (Live at Yale)

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 8, he moved with his family to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles. A child prodigy on piano, Kenny was encouraged by his preacher father to play gospel music. But Unbeknownst to his father, the Reverend Matthew Spruell, he was also secretly introduced to the radically more exciting boogie-woogie style by his rebel uncle Charlie his father’s youngest brother.

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 Kenny’s 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 Kenny 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, members of Sly & The Family Stones and 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'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. Kenny's longtime passion for Fats Domino and Amos Milburn paid off in the form of star treatment from piano-loving European music fans.

Kenny’s first release in 1996 Alive & Loose, second release Blues Boss Boogie in 1998 and third release 88TH & Jump Street in 2002 were all nominated for the Juno Award. The follow-up CD Let It Loose was honored with a Juno Award win (Canada’s Grammys) in 2006 on Electro-Fi Records, one of Canada’s premiere blues label.

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.

Kenny 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)

- Alive & Loose [1995]
- Blues Boss Boogie [Real Blues 1201, November 1999] with Greg "Junior" Demchuk, Dave "Hurricane" Hoerl
- 88TH & Jump Street [Electro-Fi 3371, 2002] with Mel Brown, Jeff Healey, Dave Hoerl, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Bob Stroger, Chris Whiteley
- Blues Carry Me Home [Isabel 640201, April 2003] with Russell Jackson
- Let It Loose [Electro-Fi 3388, May 2005] with Pat Carey, Steve Hilliam, Dave Hoerl, Brandon Isaak, Russell Jackson, Darrell Mayes
- Can't Stop Now [Electro-Fi 3407, May 2008] Johnny Ferreira, Jeff Healey, Brandon Isaak, Randy Oxford, Richard Underhill,Chris Whiteley

He appears on the following albums:
Joe Louis Walker - Silvertone Blues [Verve 547721, October 1999]
The Twisters - After the Storm [Northern Blues 0037, January 2007]

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