Wayne Buttery 1

Story: Lenny Stoute

Once you go Bananas you never go back. Just ask blues man Wayne Buttery who’s made a career on its appeal. Buttery broke into the Toronto music scene in the Sixties as part of the Canadian Blue-Eyed Soul Invasion, which included acts Tony Flaim, George Oliver and Johnny Wright. All those cats were singers though and Wayne was content to wail on guitar for the moment. In the early Seventies he stepped up the act by co-founding a 50s nostalgia act called Bananas and helped move them in a short space of time to being the best known band of their kind in all of Canada. At first, Wayne wasn’t singing and didn’t really care all that much until the night the singer didn’t show for a gig.

“ We did a quick check and as I was the only one who knew all the lyrics, I was it. It was three songs before my knees stopped knocking and then after that I started getting cocky”.

With Wayne now the lead singer, the Bananas appeal soared and toured all across Canada and into the US for the rest of the decade, along the way playing with stellar blues acts of the period including Wilson Pickett, Muddy Waters, Dutch Mason, James Cotton, Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds and like that.

Of course, all good things come to an end. Or not.

“ It took the better part of a decade to completely finish with Bananas. Members would come and go including Steve (Negus, Saga) and only I was crazy enough to keep going. Because every time it looked like I would disband, something would come up that was just too good to say no to. It may not have been creatively satisfying but I owe a lot to it.

“ I learnt how to sing, I learnt how to run a band. In particular I learnt so much of the basics of being a vocalist from Tony Flaim; things like proper breathing, He was my biggest influence as a singer”.

Ok, so now the good thing came to an end, right? Not so much; as his name might suggest, dude’s smooth and slick and quick as you can say’ bananas’ he’d peeled off his skin and emerged as something else. After putting in time in Middle Age Crazy, Buttery formed his own unit, The Bluenotes and hit the circuit. The Bluenotes were never quite it for the big man, especially once he and family relocated to Elmvale in the bucolic Southern Ontario countryside.

Turned out this Elmvale and the surrounding area was a hotbed of blues and jazz players and before long Wayne hit on the ‘having your cake and eating it too’ plan of forming a blues band from the local talent pool, with a focus on dominating a lucrative and growing resort market within easy striking distance.

Yea, in the fullness of time Bananas begat The Groove Project, which has been begetting the primo gigs in cottage country ever since.

As befitting a savvy band in these industry-shrinking times, The Groove Project can go out as a quartet, a quintet or any other combination up to an eight=piece band.

But it’s not likely you’ll see Buttery go out as a duo with Roly Platt. The pair cut an album together, Tangled Roots, an all-acoustic affair Buttery  allows is very close to his heart.

“ Roly is a North American harmonica legend and I’m just glad he likes me. I wanted to do an acoustic album because the textures are so different. It was something I had in mind but I was waiting until I was confident I had the right guy.

“ We wanted the feel of a live album so each track was recorded live off he floor in one take. With the exception of a few lead overdubs, that was it. Much thanks to Dennis King (drums, percussion) and John Warren (Guild acoustic bass). for their parts in keeping the sound warm and textured.

Wilson Pickett and Wayne rock out, Edmonton, 1974.Wilson Pickett and Wayne rock out, Edmonton, 1974.“ However, Roly is a stay at home kind of guy and while Tangled Roots has been well received, I doubt we’ll be going out to tour it anytime soon”.
Just as well, as Buttery is one busy laidback bluesman. He puts the ‘Southern’ in Southern Ontario while simultaneously keeping fingers in so many pies you’d think he’s talking bigamy. F’r instance he’s currently hustling three albums; the aforementioned acoustic Tangled Roots and a pair with Wayne Buttery & The Groove Project.

Live At Twisters catches the band in smokin’ hot form at this Orr Lake roadhouse, burning through standards including the rarely heard “Congo Square” and ‘I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water’, Canadian John Shand’s excellent “My Baby Got The Love’ and of course ‘Hootchie Kootchie Man”.
Waiting finds the band in a more mellow place as they stroll and bop through this collection of Wayne Buttery originals plus Milton Campbell’ s ‘Life Is Like That’ and Pat L.Coast’s ‘The Dangerous Kind’.

We’re into Canada Day week, which means for Wayne and the band top of mind is the 12th anniversary ‘Blues Cruise’.

This four-hour floating boogie bash happens aboard the MS Georgian Queen, a converted WW11 military tug which holds 200 people and several tons of fun. The party departs Penetanguishene Town Dock at 7 p.m Saturday July 2.

For more info on this and all things Wayne Buttery check out http://www.waynebuttery.com/index2.html