Victor Wainwright: BLUES, BOOGIE AND MORE by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 1/11/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) One of my favorite new blues artists is a dear friend with whom I have had the honor of sharing a stage many times. His name is Victor Wainwright and you will be hearing a great deal about him and his formidable armada of musical talents in the years to come.

Victor is a born musician who comes from a very musical family and he is carrying on the tradition in style. I met Victor through our mutual friend, my guitar playing traveling companion in the Reba Russell band, Josh Roberts. Vic is not only a classy guy and a good friend but one hell of a singer and piano player. I urge you all to seek out his music and to hear him play live. You will not be disappointed.

Victor's last day gig, interestingly enough, was working as an air traffic controller but he is currently making a living solely from playing music, which I can tell you from practical experience over the decades is a rather daunting task to accomplish living in the Home of the Blues. Lack so many before us, we can only survive by hitting the road and gigging wherever the road takes us.

I joined Victor and Josh for a memorable meal at one of my favorite Memphis Restaurants, called Eat Well located just a bit east of Memphis in the suburb of Germantown, Tennessee. As I polished off a vast amount of sashimi and Ichiban we discussed Victor's latest achievements and what he is doing musically in the near future.

Q. I heard you got some tunes in steady rotation. Tell me about it, Vic.

We are right now a Bill Wax's "Pick to Click" on XM. We are ranked #14 on the national RMR blues charts, up from #27 last week. We hit #5 on the CRB European radio charts. We're being played on over 120 stations worldwide. We hit 3rd best selling electric blues album on CDbaby. This all can be found on our website; radio stations, reviews, video etc. You can also buy the CD there, as well as Cdbaby, and itunes.

Q: Why do you write? Or do you consider yourself a songwriter? Write to Write?

To me, there's only one real reason to write new songs: It's because you get tired of the old songs. I mean, sometimes you just feel differently about songs you wrote 5 years ago. They don't quite fit anymore. So I write when I feel a void or space that needs to be filled. My good friend Stephen Dees, he's both an accomplished and infectious writer. He's written hundreds of songs and he's a well of strong material. He's like Willie Dixon with an audience. I'm very fortunate to work with someone that keeps me on track and also inspires me. It's teamwork. That's the whole thing. You hold this while I nail it in. It's a trust thing too. "Beale Street to the Bayou," we found our rhythm and a way of working together that brought it home.

Victor Wainwright

Q: What's with the title "Beale Street to the Bayou?"

It started as a joke. We had a show in New Orleans. It was total jive and the performance was a bust so we split. But we came together in an unusual sort of way, and ended up having a great time. Near 4am, walking down a back street to our hotel, Stephen laughed and said "Well hell, we'll get a song out of this anyways." That journey encompassed so much of the music we're rooted in. All the history that originated along that path: Memphis [BB King], Clarksdale [R. Johnson], New Orleans [Fats Domino] and so many more.

Leo Goff, Victor Wainwright, Greg Gumpel,
and that dynamic Gentleman of the Blues,
B. B. King

Q: What's the "WildRoots?"

Like a good friend once told me; Break windows, stay up late and smoke cigars. It's hard as hell keeping a band together these days. Look at me; I'm a twenty something performer and writer who's spent the better part of his adult life wearing stylish yet somewhat ratty hats, sunglasses, oversized jackets.... sleeping in hotels with 2pm checkouts, looking like I just stepped out of a saloon while simultaneously searching for my last pack of cigs. I take that back actually, I don't smoke anymore....cigarettes. But seriously, I gave my last interview sitting by the poolside of a some motel in Miami at 4:30am. You know what I'm talking about. We're musicians, and even worse, front men. I'm new at this! So finding guys that can put up with's complex. So many profound players on top of the blues world; playing with one band one day, and another the next. That doesn't work so well for me. I feel privileged to be working with top notch players, guys that inspire me, and the rewards of having a special unique musical bond like I do with the WildRoots, makes it well worth it. We give each other room to grow and inspire each other on and off stage. These are my best friends, my family away from home and home alike. Stephen Dees, Greg Gumpel and Brian Kelly. These guys make up my band. They're the WildRoots. I'm just trying to keep up with them honestly.

The Wildroots

Q. So where are you playing next, Victor?

Dec 31, 2009
Daytona Beach, FL (US) @ Angell and Phelps Cafe
New Years Eve with (THE ROLL MODELS)

The Roll Models is the name of the show that Reverend Billy C. Wirtz and I do together. There's plenty of laughs, but it's mostly ripping old school boogie woogie. "Not your everyday Dueling Pianos!" Some insider info: Along with working on a new WildRoots album, the Reverend and I will be recording a new CD together in 2010. It will be a pretty straight forward callback to some of our biggest boogie woogie piano heros.

Jan 22, 2010
Ft. Lauderdale, FL (US) @ Sheraton Design Center - Legendary Rhythm & Blues "Pre-Cruise" Party

There will be an opening band, Joey Gilmore, from 8:00 PM to 9:15 PM. Then JP Soars and then Red Hots, the IBC winner, will play and bring Billy Gibson, Dave Fields, and myself up. There will be 2 sets.

Jan 23, 2010
Memphis, TN (US) @ The Rum Boogie Cafe

Brandon Santini from "Delta Highway" and I will be joined by Josh Roberts from The Reba Russell Band. We have formed a new trio for in town gigs while we're not on the road. We will be opening up for Bob Margolin at the Rum Boogie from 5:30-9:30 on the last day of the IBC.
Unfortunately, the "Piano Summit" that Billy Wirtz and I have done for the past 3 years will be pushed forward this year to a later date, not yet announced.

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz and Victor Wainwright at the 2nd Piano Summit

Nighthawk: Well that's a damn shame. I got to play a bit with you guys last year at Wet Willie's on Beale and saw some really great piano players. I hope you can do it again next year. Where do play after the gig with our crazy friend, Rev. Billy?

Jan 24th-26th
Memphis, TN (US) @ The Rum Boogie Cafe

Just like I mentioned before, Brandon Santini and I will be joined by Josh Roberts for a great three nights of blues on Beale. Brandon on Harp, Josh on Guitar, and I'll be playing piano and singing.

my buddies Josh Roberts and Victor Wainwright

Feb 26, 2010
Tallahassee, FL (US) @ The Bradfordville Blues Club

The WildRoots are back on the road starting Feb 26th. The tour is still being worked on but I can't think of a better place to start. Gary Anton, owner of the Bradfordville Blues Club, and winner of this years KBA for Blues Club of the year, hailed us as his best new find for 2009. We love this place!

Feb 27, 2010 - Mobile, AL (US) @ Blues Tavern - Blues Tavern LIVE!

Feb 28, 2010 - Pensacola Beach, FL (US) @ Paradise Bar & Grill

Vic has a very classy website replete with his music and lots of information about himself and the band. Check it out here:

Victor Wainwright on the Wurlitzer Model 200 electric piano

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©Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010
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American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

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