Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ticket Presale to CD RELEASE!

Hey guys, this is a June 11th CD Release Party Ticket Pre-sale blog! Tickets go on sale to the general public on May 23rd, but you can get yours with presale code "Piana" starting at 10am Friday, May 20th. 

Go to and follow the easy instructions. You'll be able to enter the code "Piana", and select your seats. **These tickets will sell out, so please don't wait, get your tickets and the seats you want! =)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Victor Wainwright & Mark "MuddyHarp" Hodgson

Mark "MuddyHarp" Hodgson has been called "the best blues player in florida" by Jam Magazine, been complimented by the likes of Junior Wells and Jeff Healy, "the best harmonica I've heard," "you play likes you were born to it," and has been in concert with legends such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Leon Russell, The Fabulous Thunderbirds....and many many more.  Comfortably settled in New Smyrna Beach, FL, he's achieved more than most blues artists ever will and has the fan base to back it up.

Hodgson is unarguably an extremely talented vocalist and harmonica player, recording some of his most notable work with King Snake Records and also with his partner for almost twenty years, the acclaimed late tenor saxophonist, Noble "Thin Man" Watts.

But what do I, Victor Wainwright, have in common with this blues giant? Well....

Click for larger size!
I moved from Savannah, GA to Daytona Beach, FL to attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 1999. Hodgson was leading the house band at the famous Boot Hill Saloon. I was already deep into music by this time, and even though I of course was not allowed in, because of my age, I found ways into that Honky Tonk, sometimes borrowing friends ID's or often times just flat out sneaking in. I got thrown out twice before I guess they just gave up; So I just watched and listened. It was something I hadn't heard before, but something I REALLY liked!

Photo by Wade Caldwell
I had been learning how to play genuine rock n' roll piano from my father and grandfather before heading to Daytona, but I hadn't really heard the blues LIVE, how it's meant to be heard. Mark was really the first real blues band I took notice to, that sparked within me an interest that would be everlasting, and that would shape the rest of my life. He probably doesn't remember this, but one of those Boot Hill Saloon nights, I came up to Mark, who was just bigger than life in every way, and asked, "Hey man, do you know where I can find more blues?" He responded with... "boy, I AM the blues!" haha One of my most favorite memories.

Photo by Wade Caldwell
The rest of that year, and into the summer back in Savananh, GA, I started collecting blues records, listening to the blues, playing the blues and learning. I had bought "Extreme Blues" from Mark, one of his most popular albums, and started singing along to it at home, playing piano along with it, and many other blues albums.

Album Cover for "Extreme Blues"
The next school year I returned to Daytona Beach, a Sophomore, and landed one of my first gigs, doing mostly all solo work. Eventually, as time went by, I landed a gig at a venue called "The Wreck." I had just got deep into the set when in walked Mark. I was a little nervous... He sat at a table relatively close to the stage and I watched him as I played and sang. I wanted to impress him, but he wasn't paying me a bit of mind. I thought, "there's no way he's even listening." During the break, I came off the stage and Mark met me. He asked if I had been playing long, when I had gotten into town, and if I wanted to learn? I of course said YES... It must have been exactly how Buddy Guy felt, when Muddy Waters walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder...

Photo by Wade Caldwell
Mark taught me about the blues, the people who created it and where it came from. He told me stories of what the "Thin Man" taught him, touring the chitlin' circuit, the hardships, and how to actually get deep into the soul of blues music... "Turn the F#*K down..." "don't play like you don't care..." "play like you give a damn!".... I'll be honest, at first it wasn't easy to please Mark. Number one, he's got a tremendous aura, a huge stage presence, like "Howlin' Wolf", and he very obviously knew what he was doing. Number two, he's a professional, and expected the same from the musicians that played with him. I really believe that some tough love can go a very long ways, and it's becoming more and more scarce within the world, not just in the blues. The bottom line was, it really made me want to improve. It was the mentor-ship I needed, just like the "Thin Man" had showed him.

Photo by Wade Caldwell

I eventually figured out though, and it took a many a nights of playing, that Mark really wasn't after me to learn particulars at all; It wasn't about me "turning down," or "stop wearing those f''ing flip flops on my stage!" It was something else entirely. He was not trying to tell me I was playing the wrong notes, he was trying to guide me into "playing the notes right." In other-words, HOW those notes are played... about finding a passion and desire, a love for the music, an emotion that you can and are willing to share with the band, and an audience, carrying on a tradition, and understanding the responsibility that comes with that. FINDING WHAT THE BLUES WAS FOR ME... and not falling into the cliche's that so many blues players do. That was the ultimate "lesson" I gained from my time performing with Mark Hodgson, and he knew that without that, I had no business being on the stage with him, or any other bluesman.

I consider Mark Hodgson a mentor, but also a dear friend, and for the past two albums I've released, Hodgson has been a guest on each, lending his encouragements, and expert harmonica playing. "Lit Up!" my latest recording and newest project, is no different. Hodgson is featured on several tunes, both acoustic and electric.

(Click to Enlarge!) Photo by Wade Caldwell 

Photo by Wade Caldwell (Click to enlarge!)
On June 11th, The WildRoots and I are having the "Lit Up!" cd release party, in Daytona Beach at the News Journal Center (Main Theater) 8pm. If you want to witness some of what I've written about here, you'll come see Mark "MuddyHarp" Hodgson and I take the stage. Don't miss it, don't be late, and enjoy an awesome reunion. =)