Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne is living large these days. After 50 years in the business, the celebrated boogie-woogie pianist is riding the crest of a career high, touring the world and playing more shows now than ever before.
This is not the normal trajectory for rock or pop musicians. The blues are different. The blues greats thrived on emotion and experience. Fans know that the wiser the bluesman, the more exceptional the music.
Of course, there's the small matter that, well, the old blues greats are no longer kicking it.
"In my case, in the piano blues vein, there's a shortage. A lot of the old guys have all passed on, so it's a little like I'm the next in line," Wayne says.
"I've got that traditional style that people want to see live," he says.
He likens himself to a vintage instrument - one that's seasoned, shaped (and maybe a little weathered) by the passing of years, and sounds better than anything else because of it.
Deeply inspired by Fats Domino and Johnnie Johnson, Wayne started out in the early 1960s backing rock and pop musicians in Los Angeles. He released a string of acclaimed solo albums after relocating to Vancouver in the '80s. These earned him three JUNO nominations before finally taking one home in 2006 for best blues album, Let It Loose.
He adopted his stage name in 1994 during a European tour. It's taken from boogie-woogie legend Amos Milburn's comeback album The Return of the Blues Boss.
"With a bunch of Kenny Waynes wandering around in North America, I had to make a difference between one of them," he says with a laugh. "But I'm the only Kenny Wayne (who) plays piano. The rest of 'em play guitar. If I played guitar then I'd really be in bad shape."
The Blues Boss is playing the White Rock Blues Society's third annual New Year's Eve Blues Extravaganza at Pacific Inn Hotel's Rhumba Room bar. Wayne says he's bringing his "A team" for the set, including bassist Russell Jackson, formerly with B.B. King, and drummer Loren Etkin, formerly of Long John Baldry's band. The band will hit the stage at around 8 p.m. and play well into the New Year.
"It'll be one rockin' place, let's put it that way," Wayne says.
Tickets are $100 and include dinner, desserts, party favours and Champagne. Roughly half of the 120 tickets are still available. The Pacific Inn is also offering discounted room rates that night for $89.
Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne brings his band to Pacific Inn Hotel's Rhumba Room on the evening of Monday, Dec. 31, in a New Year's Eve party hosted by White Rock Blues Society.