" Interview "
Bobby Wayne Interview
Pittsburgh's vocalist Bobby Wayne has been on the scene for over forty years and his experience shows as he fits in with many of today's best Soul singers. Wayne's most recent CD, Soul Station on the Bonedog Records label, is co-produced by bassist Mike Sweeney and recorded and co-produced by the Mojo Boneyard. Sweeney authors half of the fourteen tunes included on this surprisingly high-quality disc. The horn arrangements of trumpeter Dan Donahoe and multi-reed player Robbie Klein are of the loftiest magnitude, which elevates Soul Station's overall sound and keen production value.
A little history on Mr. Wayne: Soul Station is his third release on the Bonedog Records label. Wayne has been Soul singing around Pittsburgh for nearly forty years. In 1969 Wayne recorded for the renowned Atlantic Records under his real name, Wayne Boykin, which produced the vinyl single "Heart Of A Poor Man" with the flipside "Make Me Yours." During the 1980s and '90s Wayne worked with a band known as the Marcels, but it wasn't till 1999 that he had his first full-length recording credited to his stage name, Bobby Wayne. That recording was the appropriately titled Long Hard Road, which was followed by Hit That Thing, both on his current label, Bonedog Records.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Bobby Wayne just as his third CD, Soul Station, started to chart around the radio dial.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: How you doing Bobby?
Bobby Wayne: Oh, man, everything is okay over here in Pittsburgh.
BW: What's the music scene like in Pittsburgh?
B. Wayne: Some nice things went on over here back in the day, it was like a mini New York City, with clubs everywhere and we had it going on! Pittsburgh is also known for its Jazz.
BW: Do you still see guys like Jimmy Ponder and Gene Ludwig?
B. Wayne: Oh yeah, I see Jimmy all the time, Gene too, plus every now and then George Benson will pop up too. We go way, way back!
BW: Got to love George. How old are you, Bobby?
B. Wayne: Sixty-four.
BW: You don't look it my man, you look quite youthful on the cover of Soul Station.
B. Wayne: Well, thank you, but I'm not no spring chicken, you know what I mean? [Laughs]
BW: How did this new CD come about? You sound dynamite and the band is honking!
B. Wayne: All of those guys in my band are all seasoned cats. Mike Sweeney wrote most of the tunes, he got in touch with me, he had the lyrics and the bass lines, so we got together and went over it and I tweaked it a bit. Because I heard the songs one way, which was all together different than he heard it, but when I finished with it, he liked the way I did it.
BW: The label also sent me your previous recording Hit That Thing. I have not listened to it yet, so tell me is that the same crew of musicians and does that disc groove similarly as Soul Station?
B. Wayne: Pretty much the same guys and we groove nice on that one, too. I wish you had a copy of my first one, Long Hard Road.
BW: Jeffrey at the label told me he was in the process of getting Long Hard Road repressed and told me he would get me a copy when he gets them back in stock. Seems like you have a nice association going on with Bonedog Records?
B. Wayne: Well, yeah.
BW: You said that like you are not sure?
B. Wayne: Hmmm, it is a nice association I'm having with the label; we go back from the days of the Rhythm King band, which was around 1978-79. Bonedog Record's Jeffrey was the bass player with the band, and this other guy, who was the leader of the band, came by house asking if I was interested in joining the band, so as I just quit a band called Taking Names, I told them yeah. It turns out they had a singer that wasn't cutting it and they were in the studio recording, so I said yeah I'll join the band. I wasn't doing nothing. I started to learn their material and fronted the band, we did one album, but it was never released as we had a falling out and I quit!
BW: You don't sound like a difficult guy to work with, are you?
B. Wayne: I'm really not difficult, but when the bandleader doesn't pay you for a job you have done it's time to move on, and so I did.
BW: Tell me more about your past.
B. Wayne: OK, let's start with 1964. I met a drummer named Van Harris who had a six-piece band called the Village Vanguards and they were looking for a new singer. So I told him I was interested and met the band at a club called the Workman's Club. I sat in with them and they liked it, as did the crowd, and the club owner dug it, too. Plus there was a three-piece vocal band called These Gents who worked with Dinah Washington and the Dells, so we all worked out pretty good together. Then we hooked up with a radio station here in Pittsburgh, WZUM, and some of the DJs produced shows down at the Savoy Ballroom on the main drag Center Avenue. We opened and backed the Five Stairsteps, the Van Dykes, Billy Stewart, Irma Franklin, the O'Jays, Mary Wells, Gene Chandler, Fontella Bass, and many others. We had one show there every week, which ran from 8 p.m. till midnight, there was a full-length stage, the room was gigantic with a balcony, and we put one-thousand and more kids in there every Saturday night, no problem.
BW: I bet you'd like to see those days come back?
B. Wayne: That'd be beautiful! After that we ended up in Montreal, then on to Nova Scotia, to Los Angeles where I was offered to do a recording. So we laid down "Heart of a Poor Man" and "Make Me Yours" for Atlantic Records. I was calling myself Bobby Wayne then, but Atlantic told me that there were too many Bobbys, so I used my real name, Wayne Boykin.
BW: Which makes it confusing to the record buying public.
B. Wayne: Oh yeah, plus there was a big barbeque place here called Boykin's Bar-B-Q which was on the main avenue, so everybody assumed I was associated with the barbeque joint and tried to hook me up in there, but I did not go for that! I wanted my own identity.
BW: What happened to the two tracks that you recorded for Atlantic.
B. Wayne: It was released on Atlantic as a single, catalog 2670, 1969. Arthur Wright did the arrangements with the Leon Haywood Band providing the sound.
BW: Who produced those tracks?
B. Wayne: Theodore Toney and Rudy Ray Moore.
BW: Oh, wow, Dolemite!
B. Wayne: Yeah the nasty, dirty comedian.
BW: Okay, now back to the future, you seem to be getting some good attention with Soul Station. Is this one getting more focus than your previous two albums for Bonedog?
B. Wayne: Well, I got a good response to Hit That Thing. Which is the cleaned-up version of what Rudy Ray Moore put out, as Rudy had an album called Eat Out More Often. [Laughs]
BW: We won't delve too deep on that one!
B. Wayne: Okay, but yeah, Hit That Thing got some good attention and I was very pleased.
BW: Did you know George Benson when he was with Brother Jack McDuff?
B. Wayne: Look, I know him when he was with McDuff and when he left McDuff and before he got with Brother Jack. The three vocal guys I told you about earlier who called themselves These Gents, well they sang with Benson in a group called the Altiers and man they was dangerous, too! They were my competition back then, it was George and the Altiers, and my band which we called The Exceptions. Man we had a ball! Every July 4th, there was a neighborhood thing called the street dance in a schoolyard, man... that was the time to show your stuff!
BW: I heard McDuff didn't want Benson to sing in his band, but I heard he was always a singing fool?
B. Wayne: Back in the day George was always singing and playing his guitar, too. Nobody really understood how great a singer Benson was.
BW: Not until Tommy LiPuma got his hands on George and hit a grand-slam with the Breezin album. And the rest was history!
B. Wayne: You've got that right.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com