The Kendall Wall Band
The Kendall Wall Band was formed in the fall of 1983 to host The Black Swan`s Saturday Afternoon Blues Matinee in Toronto. The residency was offered to bassist Gary Kendall, who quickly enlisted friend and longtime collaborator, drummer Cash Wall as the band`s co-leader. Guitarist Richard Smyth and harmonica player, Bob Adams a.k.a Cadillac Eddy were added quickly to complete the band.
To help strengthen their sound they began to accept engagements outside the Swan and soon became part of the small but vibrant Toronto blues scene. In their second year Bob Adam's was replaced by Jeff Baker on harmonica. By this time all four members had begun to trade off on lead vocals with Cash Wall taking the larger share.
The Black Swan changed hands 1984 and in what proved to be a good decision, the new owners expanded the budget to allow the band to bring in a special guest artist to help bump up the appeal of the Blues Matinee. The new format worked, KWB would open the afternoon, the 2nd set would feature a special guest and the afternoon would wrap with a jam session including all musicians in the house. The Black Swan`s, Saturday Afternoon Blues Matinee became a go to destination for blues fans and it wasn`t long before lineups formed every week and the club had to start charging admission and issuing v.i.p passes for crowd control.
The key to the success of The Kendall Wall Band`s Blues Matinee was the high caliber of the guest artists performing with them. The list read like a who`s, who of Canadian and International Blues. Pinetop Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Donnie & Hock Walsh, Morgan Davis, Jack de Keyzer, Eddie Shaw, Marcia Ball, Eddie Clearwater, Little Willie Littlefield, Carey Bell, Tom Lavin, Walter”Wolfman”Washington, Lazy Lester, Jerry Portnoy, Danny Marks, Jerome Godboo, Ellen McIlwaine, Kathy MacDonald, Chris & Ken Whiteley, Harrison Kennedy, Diana Brathwaite, Dutch Mason, A.C. Reed, Chubby Carrier all appeared with KWB, and this is only a partial list.
As their reputation grew as a band that could headline, open shows and provide top notch backing for blues artists traveling without their own bands, club owners and promoters began calling. At The Bermuda Onion KWB was hired to back up Luther”Guitar Junior” Johnson, Honkin` Joe Houston and Big Jay McNeely. Albert`s Hall brought them in to back Phil Guy and Cash McCall. Blues & Cues put the band with Eddie Kirkland. After accompanying Snooky Pryor at The Pine Tree the experience was so positive they started booking their own shows with him at Pop The Gator in Kitchener and Albert`s Hall in Toronto, a relationship that lasted for years. Harbourfront Centre placed them with Lovie Lee and Winnipeg`s Brent Parkin who returned with Big Dave MacLean to play The Silver Dollar Room with KWB as backup. The Beaches International Jazz Festival recreated the Black Swan Matinee vibe by placing KWB on the main stage with Mel Brown, Rita Chiarelli and Tony Flaim. They also opened shows for Charlie Musselwhite and Tinsley Ellis at the Apocalypse Club in Toronto. .
Wall, Kendall and Baker were the mainstays of the organization, with the guitar chair being the wild card. Richard Smyth, who stayed the longest was followed by Mike McKenna, Teddy Leonard, Kevin Higgins and Chris Burgess. They all had their time with the band and made impressive contributions. When the budget would allow they added Martin Alex Aucoin on keys and Larry Bodnar on tenor sax.
The Kendall Wall Band made two attempts at documenting their music by recording. Studio sessions that stretched over a number of months in 87/88 and a live recording at The Horseshoe followed a couple of years later. Both suffered from fiscal limitations and were never mixed or mastered properly. The recordings were manufactured without the mastering process onto cassettes and were used as promotional demos.The multi-track tapes were stored and forgotten about until years later.
The studio recording has been rescued, edited, remixed and mastered. This time the entire process was done correctly allowing the music to shine. Although 25 years after the fact the release of these “almost lost” recordings on CD and digital download will finally allow The Kendall Wall Band to take their rightful place in Blues History. Their time was before Blues Society’s became popular, Blues Radio was minimal, Blues Awards were not on the radar and the current Blues network didn`t exist. The release of The Way We Was on 47 Records and the accompanying documentary should bring this legendary band up to date with blues fans around the world.
It was an exciting and productive decade for this group of dedicated blues musicians. To find out where the members of KWB ended up after the band played their final show go to “Where Are They Now”. The story continues.