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Wayne E. Goins:  An Introduction from a Jazz and Blues Master!

11-13-2017 | By Wayne Goins | Issue 94

Wayne Goins, Jazz and Blues Man Extraordinaire, joins Positive Feedback as a Senior Associate Editor and as a Musician in Residence. We welcome Wayne to our creative community with real enthusiasm…I've heard him play! The man has the real bad-ass chops, amigos!

Dr. David W. Robinson, Ye Olde Editor

Wayne Goins

Well, hello there! Nice to meet you. I'm new here—do let me introduce myself. I am Dr. Wayne E. Goins, a new friend of an old friend of yours, Dr. David W. Robinson. He wanted me to meet you, so here I am.

I wear several different hats, so to speak: A guitarist, music educator, academic scholar, performing artist, entrepreneur, author, and—last but not least—family man. In my day job, I function as a University Distinguished Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas (where we affectionately call it "The Little Apple").  

To start at the beginning: Being born and raised in Chicago, quite naturally I was surrounded by the sounds of authentic Chicago blues both in my home and on the streets of the city. My dad was a bonafide blues harp player from Mississippi who could sing and play just like Little Walter, and he also taught me my very first blues licks and riffs on guitar. Beneath it all, I am, indeed—first and foremost—a blues man. I was bathed in Muddy Waters, and was raised by a Howlin' Wolf.

Eventually I joined R&B, pop, and hard rock bands to add to my arsenal of musical influences. Reggae music soon followed when I went to college, right after the Big Band bug bit me. I fell hard for swing, and as a jazz guitarist, I've had the privilege of performing over the years with such greats as legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, trumpeter Clark Terry, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, organist Jimmy McGriff and the great Lionel Hampton.

I eventually went back to school to complete my PhD. at The Florida State University—but before I did that, I had already gathered significant teaching experience in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta, where I conducted jazz ensembles and taught jazz guitar and electric bass at Morehouse College, Emory University, and Kennesaw State University.

Since that time, I have been busy pursuing a career as a writer.  I authored the award-winning book, Blues All Day Long: The Jimmy Rogers Story, [University of Illinois Press] in 2014, and authored A Biography Of Charlie Christian: Jazz Guitar's King of Swing in 2005 [The Edwin Mellen Press.] Two additional books, The Jazz Band Director's Handbook: A Guide To Success (2003), and Emotional Response to Music: Pat Metheny's Secret Story (2001), were also published. Inspired by my jazz students at Kansas State University, in 2006 I wrote The Wise Improvisor, a college textbook for all levels of jazz improvisation.

Dr. Wayne Goins, distinguished professor and director of jazz studies, guitar at K-State is giving back to the community through his Hummin' and Strummin' guitar classes he will be teaching over the next few weeks. (Ryan Manring | The Collegian)

Seven years after I began teaching at KSU, I was searching for a record deal as an outlet for my passion for performing jazz guitar. Alas, I was unsatisfied with what was being offered, so I started Little Apple Records, my own independent jazz label, where I released six albums featuring my brand of jazz and blues guitar: Chronicles of Carmela, West Coast Swing, Standard Fare, Smokin' at The Oak Bar, Bluesin' With The B3, and Home…Cookin! I also produced Last Call on my label for my former student Rick Smith, who now is now a wonderful guitarist in his own right—we have a regular weekly Sunday jazz brunch where we play as a guitar duo at the Bluestem Bistro (feel free to stop by if you're in town!)

As a freelance writer, I began writing CD reviews and feature columns regularly for Living Blues magazine, and also wrote in each issue of Pure Guitar (now defunct, sadly.)  I submitted numerous music reviews for Jazz Ambassador magazine, and was a feature columnist for Jazz Improv magazine, where I wrote extensive articles and interviews on guitarists Charlie Christian, Will Matthews, Kenny Burrell, Charlie Hunter, saxophonist Bobby Watson, and others. I have also had the good fortune of publishing several biographical entries in The Encyclopedia of the Blues as well as the Grove Dictionary of American Music. The best news of all, though, is that I am currently writing the definitive biography on the Grammy-Award winning blues musician Taj Mahal, and immediately after that will resume work on the biography on Jim O'Neal—the foremost pioneer of Living Blues magazine.

Oh, before I forget… I should mention that I am married to a wonderful woman, with two beautiful daughters (and a brand-new grandson!) Meanwhile, I spend my free time reading as many books as I can (novels, textbooks, manuals, autobiographies, history books, etc.) I'm an avid film collector, lover of music biographies and DVD documentaries, collector of guitars, and in my spare time I've built twenty Stratocasters for myself (and a few others that were commissioned by friends.)

So, you may be asking yourself about me—‘what are you doing here?' Well, simply put, I was kindly asked, and gladly accepted. I was fortunate enough to strike up a "kindred spirits" conversation with your fearless hero—this magazine's Editor-in-Chief David Robinson—along with Michael Fremer (leading authority of Stereophile magazine and practically all things audio) at the recent Blues At The Crossroads blues festival in Salina, Kansas, which is less than an hour down the road from Manhattan. Both Fremer and Robinson have magnetic personalities, and it was Robinson who extended his gracious offer to have me make whatever contribution I might be able to for this long-standing and well-reputed periodical, Posi+ive Feedback.

And there you have it. Maybe I can offer a fresh perspective—from a lifelong musician's point of view—regarding the musical aspects hidden within the digital heaven of "high-rez" and wide-open grooves of 180 gram vinyl tracks we have chosen for our ears to live in. To be sure, there is an entire new world for me to explore—I'm relatively new to some of the latest technology and terms. I am, however, on pretty solid ground when it comes the musical elements—the sonic content held within the various genres of music that I've had a lifetime of experience with— jazz, blues, pop, rock, funk, R&B, reggae, etc… Hopefully, I can also provide some level of insight into the performing artists' terminology, philosophy, analysis, theory and application that we musicians encounter when processing the only two categories of music Duke Ellington subscribed to—good and bad.

Wayne Goins with Henri Musslewhite, a portrait:  Salina, KS, 2017 (photograph and processing by David W. Robinson)

Thanks for listening and letting me join your elite readership—we'll get down and deal with the music in the next installment. Catch you later (deep in the groove) and in the meantime, keep on swingin'.

Wayne Everett Goins

Manhattan, Kansas

November 12, 2017

All photographs courtesy of Dr. Wayne E. Goins, unless otherwise noted.