By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Victor Wainwright is one of the nation’s premier blues and boogie-woogie pianists, a seven-time Blues Music Award winner, a former Blues Entertainer of the Year and a Grammy nominee. But Wainwright, who’ll be appearing at 3rd and Lindsley Friday night, is particularly happy about the response he’s seeing as he’s now back on the road after enduring, as did many musicians, a long COVID-induced absence from live performing.
“Audiences are really eager, they’re so happy to be able to gather together and hear live music again,” Wainwright said last week during a phone interview with the Tribune.”It’s also been so great for me, to be out there and busy again. I’ve gone from not having any gigs to constantly being on the road and it’s so very wonderful.”
Wainwright’s dynamic, energetic style is a reflection of someone immersed in the blues. The Savannah native had the influence of both his grandfather and father, both blues musicians. He was backing Eric Culberson at the Savannah Blues Bar as a high schooler, and he’s been making hugely popular blues LPs since his 2005 debut “Piana From Savannah.” His lengthy involvement with the music has fueled his desire to see the blues continue to grow and prosper.
“There’s no question you’ve got to know the roots, you’ve got to know the music of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and all the greats, but you’ve also got to bring some new things into it, make it appeal to young people and contemporary audiences,” Wainwright said. “In our shows and our sets we mix it up. My goal is to keep that flame burning, to have audiences want to know about the greats, but also to entertain them with fresh songs and bring some other things into the blues.”
Towards that end Wainwright was a pioneer among blues musicians in the use of social media. “Man I remember we were one of the first blues groups to promote out music on Myspace,” Wainwright recalled. “Now you really have to use social media almost like its your record label. I can remember when CD sales were a huge part of what we did. We’d have them on the bus and bring them to the shows. Today the social media aspect is so big I have someone that does nothing but handle that end.”
Wainwright’s headed two bands, the first Victor Wainwright & the Wildroots and the current ensemble Victor Wainwright & the Train, as well as being in the group Southern Hospitality. Southern Hospitality’s “debut LP “Easy Livin’” hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Blues charts, but he’d headed the Train since 2017. Their 2018 LP “Victor Wainwright and the Train” was nominated for a Grammy.
“For me the greatest thrill as a performer is making that connection with the audience and having someone who never knew who Pinetop Perkins was suddenly recognize that greatness, and when they gear me, they know I’m channeling all that blues experience from what I heard growing up in Savannah, being on the road, living in Memphis for 17 years, and now being back in Savannah. It’s the blues life and I love it.”
Victor Wainwright and the Train, Friday at 3rd and Lindsley, 818 3rd Avenue South. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., Show begins at 7 p.m.