Wayne started out as a “boy singer” in New York nightclubs at age 16. “I wasn’t very good,” he freely admits, “but you’ve gotta start someplace – and I grew up with this music inside me – in my heart and soul – and treasure it enough to gladly do whatever it takes for me to live inside the music. You see, when I was growing up we couldn’t afford a piano (and we had no room for one, anyway). so I just learned to play the human voice.”
Persistence paid off as Powers eventually studied in New York with renowned vocal coach of the day, Fred Steele, who was widely credited with helping to restore Tony Bennett’s voice. Wayne continued to hone his craft, performing in stage musicals, reviews and in nightclubs after relocating to the Midwest – and eventually, the West Coast.
After arriving in L.A., Wayne landed a job with Henry Mancini and, soon after, fulfilled another dream by establishing his network TV career. But Powers was still pulled to return to his roots, augmenting his comedy and acting work by putting together his “Hoi Polloi,” band with a uniquely joyous sound that dazzled audiences in some of the top west coast nightclubs, showrooms and jazz festivals.
“Wayne Powers and his band, Hoi Polloi, were a knockout … one of the BEST shows I’ve seen in a long time! Get yourself to a Wayne Powers show. The guy is really terrific!” -Myrna Daniels, L.A. Jazz Scene
The sound was reminiscent of Louis Prima, “Fats” Waller, Louis Armstrong and others who were among Wayne’s major musical influences in creating this unique band. They released one CD, “Plain Old Me.”
It was recorded live in-studio, enjoyed national radio airplay and garnered rave reviews.
“Think of the infectious charm and musical wit of ‘Three Guys Named Louis’ – Armstrong, Prima and Jordan. Their upbeat approach personified.” – Jazz Times
Today, Powers has further matured in both voice and approach. While he still revels in a swingin’-hard, wild jazz romp, (“Powers sings, mugs, scats and fairly bounces off the stage” – L.A. Jazz Scene), he’s equally at home immersed in the most poignant ballad or “saloon song.” In fact, a new album is currently in the works, (Wayne’s first in over 20 years), with a focus on that genre.
Whatever the style – up, down or sideways, Wayne is known for his rare ability to convey musical and emotional authenticity in every tune he sings – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Powers explains, “I’m so very blessed to have met, known and even worked with some of the genuine greats in jazz. The core wisdom they all shared in one way or another, however, was best summed up by the great Carmen McRae. One special night in her dressing room between shows, she confided to me, ‘If it ain’t the truth, it ain’t worth messin’ with.’”