Jazz, blues, R&B and soul—legendary guitarist/vocalist/composer Roy Gaines, who has made a name for himself as a versatile master craftsmen playing music beyond category in a career spanning over seven decades, brings his vast wealth of experience all together in his live performance. Fronting a full size band, the likes of which is seldom heard these days, Gaines recalls the glory days of the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines and Billie Eckstine, with a sound that is both contemporary and classic.
Born Waskom, Texas, Roy Gaines started out playing piano in the style of Nat "King" Cole at an early age and then switched to the guitar when he was only 14. An unabashed admirer of fellow Texan, T-Bone Walker, Gaines met his idol as a youth and modeled his own playing after Walker 's groundbreaking style, later performing and recording with the pioneering electric bluesman. In the fifties, while moving between in LA, Houston and New York, he was a first call jazz and blues session man featured on various releases by Big Mama Thornton, Junior Parker, Bobby Blue Bland, Coleman Hawkins and Jimmy Rushing, the latter whose singing style is clearly a major influence on Gaines own virile, full bodied vocals. In 1958 he appeared with Billie Holiday on Jazz Party, the singer's last public appearance with pianist Mal Waldron and bassist Vinnie Burke. Later work found the guitarist backing everybody from Ray Charles and Chuck Willis to Harry Belafonte, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross & The Supremes.
Raised in Houston, Texas, Roy Gaines displayed an ability for music early on. His mother encouraged music in the house and purchased a piano when Roy was a child. "I played piano from ages six until about fourteen," recalls Roy. "I switched to guitar after I saw how my brother Grady, who plays saxophone, would get all the girls by walking around the club while playing. I said, 'Boy, I want some of those girls!' and made the switch to guitar."
At the age of 16, Gaines headed to California where he found himself thrust into the world of late night bars and touring with Roy "Pops" Milton. He also toured and recorded with blues greats like Chuck Willis and Ray Charles and did session work for Bobby "Blue" Bland and Junior Parker. Roy's no stranger to the Hollywood scene either, lending his talents to the motion pictures "How Many Roads" and "The Color Purple."
In 1996 Gaines released the recording Lucille Works for Me. That release combined with Bluesman for Life (1998) gave Roy the long overdue recognition he deserved. He spent most of 1999 touring the festival circuit.
Gaines received a W.C. Handy award and Living Blues "Comeback Artist of the Year" award in 1999. Roy's New Frontier Lover album showcases versatility as guitarist, singer and songwriter and treats listeners to a variety of originals penned by Gaines over the past few decades.