Wayne Buttery & The Groove Project
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Wayne Buttery & The Groove Project


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Story: Lenny Stoute
Submitted by cashbox on Thu, 06/30/2011 - 11:51

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.

“ 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

"The Orillia Packet & Times"


Thursday's opening concert of the Orillia Spring Blues Festival will be a very special night for local blues man Wayne Buttery. Not only will he and his band, The Groove Project, be the opening act for legendary blues artist and Grammy Award winner James Cotton. But this gig will also be the fulfillment of a life-long dream. Cotton and Buttery kick off the 9th annual Orillia Spring Blues Festival, which runs from April 29 to May 2. Juno Award winners Morgan Davis, Fathead and Jack DeKeyzer, along with other top blues acts, including Loco Zydeco and Ronnie Douglas, will be playing at venues throughout Orillia during the weekend.

As a teenager in the late 1960s Buttery had been playing in a Toronto based show band. On a rare Saturday night off, he and a buddy happened to be strolling by the Colonial Tavern on Yonge Street. What they heard from the street changed Buttery's life. "We heard this incredible music coming through the doors," remembers Buttery. "We had to go in and check it out." On the stage of the Colonial were Cotton, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, all three of whom went on to become blues legends. The band was working their magic with true blues rhythm and rich, piercing harmonica action. Buttery had played in rhythm and blues bands and followed the music of Ronnie Hawkins and David Clayton Thomas and the Shays (later Blood, Sweat and Tears). "I thought I knew what blues music was up to that point," said Buttery. "I was proud to be in an R&B band that played some blues. But this - this was true blues." Buttery and his buddy stood in awe at the front of the stage, and marveled as Cotton wailed away on his harp (harmonica) through the night, "bending" notes like Buttery had never heard before. "This was my introduction to true blues," says Buttery. "and from that time on I couldn't get enough of this music." He sponged up the sounds of other blues greats like Muddy Waters, BB King and Willie Dixon. Unfortunately, there was little money in playing the blues in the '60s and early 70s, so he continued to play in a '50s tribute act to make a living. He played blues for the love of the music.

In the late '70s, Buttery even tried his hand at what he called a real job. He wasn't having fun so he went back to being a musician, starting up a successful big band, playing corporate functions and opening for the likes of Wilson Pickett and Tina Turner.
Living in the growing city of Toronto was wearing him down, and about 10 years ago he moved up the highway to settle at Orr Lake, near Elmvale. He put together The Groove Project and still does corporate bookings, festivals and concerts, as well as solo acts at smaller clubs. "The work up here may not pay as well as the big city, but gigs are more plentiful," he admits. Buttery and The Groove Project have cut a pair of CDs, the latest of which 'Live at Twisters' was recently recognized internationally with a Real Blues Award.

His opening for James Cotton on Thursday will bring everything full circle. "I've seen Cotton many times, but I've never had the honor of working with him," says Buttery. "This is the gig of a lifetime. And I'm going to drink every drop."

Tickets for Thursday's show are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. For more information and a full schedule of Blues Festival acts and venues, call 329-2333 or check out www.orilliaspringblues.com. - Dan Landry

"Blues On Stage"

Indie Release – WBGP-0001

I've been hearing great things about Wayne Buttery and The Groove Project for some time now, but haven't yet had the privilege of catching a live show; until I do I'm happy to settle for "Waiting," the band's debut. With only three covers (two from Little Milton), Wayne and friends have made a strong statement, a collection not so much blues as "bluesy," with elements of soul, R&B, even a little pop to liven up the mix. The result is a breezy platter that ultimately comes across as light-hearted and good-natured.

- by John Taylor


We reviewed the first album by this Southern Ontario band of veterans last issue and we were anticipating covering this live set thanks to the Groove Project’s rep. for being a total live party band experience. They are a well-oiled machine that conveys the “let’s have some fun…” credo with mucho aplomb and one has to sit back and give these guys repeat listenings as the level of talent/energy combined is actually quite startling. One would guess they have a lot of house gigs sewn up in their territory for their ability to get audiences worked up and letting go which usually translates into major beer sales. The horn section of Russ Strathdee (tenor/baritone), Paul Robillard (trumpet), John Shand (alto) is very punchy, tight and impressive and I could see these guys offering out their services a la White Trash Horns. I see lead vocals are portioned out between Buttery (guitar), Charlie Hinkel (bass) and Shand (sax/guitar) and I can’t tell who is who, but all tracks sound better than fine. Buttery’s guitar work, as usual, is old school and tasteful playing just the right stuff in a strong support role, propelling each tune onward. “My Baby Got the Love” and “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” are two great tunes and “Life is Like That” is perhaps the best with tough slide from Buttery. It’s mainly fun, funky material for a Friday night/Saturday afternoon party. “Walkin’ the Dog” is always appropriate and “Congo Square” has everyone up and at it. Wayne Buttery and The Groove Project are obviously one of the best live Canadian Blues party bands and if you want to have an instant bash or a souvenir of one this disc delivers a truckload of good time energy performed tight and funky. Four bottles for a treat and a testament from Wayne and The Boys. By the time you read this they’ll have picked up a few thousand more “fans-for-life” at various festivals. - Andy Grigg - September Issue 2004


Another in the 'pleasant surprise' category, this is the debut CD from a group of veteran small town Ontario (Elmvale) musicians who've been playing for pleasure for some years before deciding to embark on a recording foray. It's because of there long term experience, camaraderie and love of the music that this disc comes out so well and as Elmvale is just a hop and a skip from big ol' Toronto the musicians involved have had their share of influences and experiences over the past three decades (most are 40 something). You will however see/hear well-known contributors such as Simon Wallis, a very talented horn man (alto, tenor, and baritone sax), the exceptional Aboriginal blues man, Ronnie Douglas, who contributes dobro on one track and Paul Robillard (trumpet one tune) and with Wayne Buttery (lead vocals, guitar), Charlie Hinkel (lead vocals, bass. Bob Federer (keyboards), Dennis King (lead vocals, drums) and with these three guys handling the singing you get some real variety but 9 of the tunes feature Buttery's vocals (surprise! No Instrumentals which is unusual for a Blues band). 13 tunes in total with 11 being originals and interestingly enough the 2 covers are both Milton Campbell numbers which are perfectly suited to Buttery's voice which is the epitome of Bar room Blues voice; big, rough 'n ready and verging on a bear growl (in a good way!) Each band usually has a distinctive strength / talent that makes them unique and with The Groove Project it's Bob Federer's knack for dressing up every song with perfect keyboard support which actually embellishes each vocal. I've heard it said that great musicians have a knack for making those around them sound great and Federer is a real pro at that. "Life Is Like That" the Little Milton tune, is the opening track and it's done up superfine with excellent Hammond, funky bass, great harp solo (courtesy Steve Thomas) and a superb baritone sax solo from the dependable (and then some! Simon Wallis. It's a perfect opening track; one must always make a great first impression on a CD. "I Said, She Said" is a strong original again with great contributions from several players combining to give a fine end result. "Waiting" is a slow blues with plenty of atmosphere and character. "Are You Doing It Alone" is my favorite track and I believe if you did a 'blindfold test", 9-out-of-IO would think this was a track off an album from Georgia / Alabama band. "No way that's Canadian Blues... it's too down-home and too damn cool I", would be the typical response. It smokes and it's a natural groove that'll have you cranking up the volume. Song-writing doesn't come easy and when 1 listen to Wayne Buttery's classy "It's Enough To Break Your Heart", I'm impressed by his knack for putting together all the right parts from words to arrangements and almost all his compositions click big-time. This is a very fine Canadian Blues band and a CD that easily makes it into the top 10 of Canadian Blues releases. 4 bottles for an impressive debut disc from a great band (and friends). - Andy Grigg - November Issue 2003


LIMITED EDITION - Indie/2012 EP Release
LIVE AT TWISTERS - Indie/2003 CD Release
WAITING - Indie/2001 CD Release

TANGLED ROOTS (Wayne Buttery & Roly Platt) - Indie/2010 CD Release
REFLECTIONS (Russ Strathdee) - Indie/2006 CD Release



Wayne Buttery and the Groove Project is a dynamic, entertaining collective with a big soulful sound. Their bluesy, engaging music just makes you want to jump up and move. Individually these artists have appeared or performed with a who's who of soul, blues, R&B, and jazz including James Cotton, Wilson Pickett, Dutch Mason, Matt Minglewood, Ronnie Hawkins, Dianne Heatherington, Dinah Christie, Buffy St. Marie, Marty Robbins, The Oakridge Boys, The Bellamy Brothers, Jennette Brantley, Joey Hollingsworth, The Majestics featuring Shawne & Jay Jackson, Tony Flaim, Gary U.S. Bonds, Curley Bridges and many others.

WAYNE BUTTERY & THE GROOVE PROJECT were formed in March of 1998. Wayne reunited with former organist and keyboardist from the late 60's and 70's, Bob Federer. Bass player and vocalist Charlie Hinkel was next to join forces with Wayne and Bob. Dennis King accepted an invitation to become the band's drummer after wrapping up another musical project. Their first live performance as a quartet was in May of 1998.

After performing in Ontario's Simcoe County in the Georgian Triangle for almost four years it became evident that it was time for the next phase. So in February 2001 along with some musician friends like Mike Roberts, Ronnie Douglas, Steve Thomas, Simon Wallis and Paul Robillard the band began production of their debut CD entitled WAITING. The response to date has been positive with plenty of radio airplay on blues broadcasts worldwide. John Taylor of Blues On Stage magazine wrote: The title track is a heartfelt ballad of heartbreak, stunningly effective in its straightforward simplicity. Maple Blues magazine's John Valenteyn writes: "Waiting", the title song (by Hinkel) and "Are You Doin' It Alone", with its acoustic intro, (by Buttery) are the best. "Waiting" is a well-written tender ballad done as a duo by Hinkel & Buttery and "Doin' It" is a mid tempo blues with a nice vocal and slide guitar parts. John Swartz of the Orillia Packet & Times explains: The band put together a very polished album, one that deserves to be in your collection.

Shortly after the release of WAITING, four new members were added to the band's regular line-up. Trumpeter Paul Robillard, Russ Strathdee on tenor and baritone sax, John Shand who played alto sax, guitar, bass and vocals plus Larry Kurtz on harmonica and vocals,

LIVE AT TWISTERS is the band's second CD offering and features a sold out live performance recorded on December 1, 2002 at Twisters Roadhouse in Orr Lake near Midland, Ontario. Wayne and the guys had some fun recording mostly cover material on this live performance CD with the only non-cover being a John Shand R&B original entitled My Baby Got The Love.

Bob Federer now lives in Berwick Nova Scotia and although we still collaborate to this day for recording purposes he is no longer a regular performing member of "The Groove Project"

Taking Bob's place was Mark Rutherford, a consummate pianist and keyboard player who's contributions were well documented over his almost seven year rain as keyboardist. Unfortunately, Mark lost his thirteen-month battle with leukemia on the Morning of Friday, December 31, 2010 at approximately 3:10 a.m. Mark will be truly missed by all who knew him.

Since the untimely departure of Mark Rutherford, "The Groove Project" has been performing with one of two keyboardists. Louis Lefaive, who is a fine entertainer in his own right and who also filled in for Mark while he was in hospital and/or recovering from his chemotherapy treatment. Louis can often be seen on live "Groove Project" performances. More recently Peter Boynton: piano, organ, keyboards and vocalist, has been sharing the "The Groove Project" keyboard duties with Louis.

These days "Wayne Buttery & The Groove Project" performs at events as a quartet, quintet and everything up to an eight-piece band with the core consisting of drums, bass, keyboards and guitar. Other musicians are added for performances as required. Full instrumentation includes drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, guitar, harmonica, saxophone and trumpet.