Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wayne Wright Shared The Whole Notes

On Friday (May 9th, 2008) the world lost a great musician and a wonderful human being named Wayne Wright.

Everyone that came to know Wayne Wright would have their own personal “Wayne’s World” story. Peter Pan must have still left some fairy dust on him, because he was always impish and wanted nothing to do with too serious a world. And yet it was Wayne that would always help someone to look at themselves when things kept going wrong. He gave out life lessons, while keeping his wonderful sense of humor.

Wayne was the rhythm guitarist for Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, George Barnes, Les Paul and a host of others. Many people grew as guitarists by being around Wayne. Wayne never considered himself a teacher as much as he viewed his role as a coach. His art was making people listen to themselves, where the melody was going and how they could support the melody at the same time.

Joe Pass introduced me to Wayne and he told us that we’d probably get along well, because we both have an off-beat sense of humor. Wayne made sure he introduced me to lots of great players, such as Tal Farlow, Martin Taylor, Jack Wilkins, Gene Bertoncini and Billy Bauer.

Wayne was surely a character. The last week of his life he was taken off a ventilator system and it was believed that he couldn’t make it past 24 hours, but it was about 3 days later, he woke up and the first words out of his mouth were, “how far did you park the car from here”. Wayne wanted to make a break for it. The very last day of his life, his wife knew she had to talk to him about the inevitable and she asked if there was anything he would care most to be laid out in, Wayne simply said “Surprise me!” That man was just one of a kind.

As terrific a guitarist as Wayne was, that’s not going to be what all his friends miss most. In Wayne we got to see a man whose love for life was truly great, who took such pride in his friends that it almost popped his buttons. We saw too, someone who spoke lovingly of his children Scott and Nancy, of his beautiful granddaughter Jenny and most of all we saw a man that was truly thrilled to have spent his life with his wife JoAnn.

Wayne helped us all pay attention to the whole notes in life and so we’re thankful for having known him and we’ll all miss him so much for that!

1 comment:

Randy said...

Thank you for posting a tribute that succeeds in letting the reader get a glimpse of the man. I have admired his playing, especially with George Barnes and the anecdotes you provide give an idea of the humor and wisdom of Wayne Wright. I find that Jazzipedia embraces jazz' role of lubricating the squeaky and stubborn mechanisms of life so we might just ease through.