We play the blues. It’s what we do and we love it. Everything from the music of Robert Johnson and Elmore James to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton and anyone named King — B.B., Freddie or Albert. And we pay our musical respects to blues rockers such as John Mayall, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top. The Wilber James Blues Band covers all eras and styles of the blues — from the ‘30s to the present, and from Texas, to Mississippi, to Chicago and, yes, to Canada. Hello, Downchild.
But this sizzling' band serves up selections from a lengthy sonic menu for those whose tastes lean to familiar vintage rock. Performing as the Wilber James Gang these versatile music veterans count among their favourites the likes of Van Morrison and John Hiatt, and to spice things up some classic R & B from Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. A multi-instrumentalist, Wilber slides onto mandolin or banjo to deliver favourites by Steve Earl and John Prine. Did we miss anybody, such as, say, Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan or Traffic? We got them covered too.
Check out our PLAYLIST page.
Did someone mention ZZ Top? Is there anyone who doesn’t like the music and spirit of these three flamboyant and slightly eccentric Texas blues rockers? Well, we love ‘em too — we’ve been playing their music as long as they’ve been around — and it’s why the band has stirred up a musical Texas tornado called FanZZango that has blown into Niagara. If you want some “Top” with your tequila and nachos, these sharp-dressed tres hombres of FanZZango will hit the afterburner, bringing with them cheap sunglasses, beards and fur-covered guitars — performing the hits that ZZ Top has made famous over their 40 years. To arrange a visit from FanZZango, just say the magic word: Party! Or go to www.fanzzango.com
The Wilber James Blues Band/The Wilber James Gang/FanZZango has played major festivals on both sides of the border, and at clubs around Southern Ontario for more than three decades. The band performs at corporate get-togethers, dances, themed events, and private parties — anywhere there’s an audience anxious for a good time and great music. Wilber James also performs solo. For booking information, please see the CONTACT page.
Wilber James McBurney has played professionally since the '60s and fronted his own band since 1986. A talented songwriter, Wilber's a triple threat performer -- vocalist, renowned lead guitarist and harp player. Since his beginnings as a bass player in strip club bands, his talent and passion have earned him a top spot in Niagara's blues scene. His voice and playing are as distinctive and soulful as the dude himself. It’s a vocal sound forged through life experiences that took him to Toronto’s Yorkville music scene where he sat in with the likes of Donovan Leitch and Bob Dylan, did stints with legendary bands of the time such as The Paupers and Motherlode, sharing the stage as the opening act for Downchild, Ten Thousand Maniacs and Canadian blues icon Dutch Mason. He spent time in the U.S. with Florida-based Stagger Lee and the Johnny Sae Show. Back in Niagara, bar patrons of a certain age remember him with such bands as Drivin’ Sideways and the Boogie Brothers. In 1986 he formed the Wilber James Blues Band, and it’s been a part of the Niagara music scene — and beyond — ever since. A multi-instrumentalist — he plays lead and slide guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin, five-string banjo and harmonica — Wilber has also released six self-produced albums. The most recent — Bringin’ It — is available for purchase at the band’s live performances. The backing band members have changed in name and number, but it’s still Wilber bringing his passion and experience to every song, every night. He truly is Niagara’s man of the blues.
Drummer Wayne Daley is the extraordinarily talented 'timekeeper' of the Wilber James Blues Band. Wayne got very good very early and at barely 16 he was an in-demand drummer at bar gigs in Toronto, his older brother driving him to and from the jobs and ensuring he didn’t mingle in the lounges where he was too young to drink. A technically schooled musician, Wayne found his niche in country music through established bandleader Gary Hooper and spent years on the road, touching down in Calgary for three years where he backed some of the country’s major performers such as Gary Buck and Dick Damron, and did shows with visiting stars from the U.S., among them Charlie Pride and Don Williams. He eventually returned east, settled in St. Catharines and got a day job while he continued playing on the weekends. He’d played some rock but never the blues, however when word went out that a spot was open with Wilber’s band he auditioned regardless. While Wilber was initially skeptical a country drummer could play the blues, any doubts disappeared in a drumbeat. Wayne’s clean, driving style, derived from the demands of country music and its reliance on a solid, steady beat, meshed perfectly with the “bluesy” sound that Wilber sought. Time — under Wayne’s steady hands — is definitely on our side.
The other half of the band's rhythm section is bass player Joe Hvilivitzky. Arriving here has taken him, in the words of a somewhat better known bass player, over a long and winding road that began with his first band called The Thundermen, comprising classmates from Stamford CVI. A succession of groups followed, including eight months on the road that were loads of laughs but convinced him he would ultimately need a day job. Joe was there for the early days of rock, but also played the music of the 30s and 40s, spent time in a polka group, was for a short time (one weekend, in fact) part of a backing group for an Elvis impersonator, and — having moved to Alberta — joined a country band. Because of work commitments and new interests, he put music on hold. For 25 years. Retired and back in Niagara, he decided to give music another try, and through the magic of Kijiji he connected with Wilber and Wayne. “What a break to find these guys,” says Joe. “I finally got a chance to play the music I’ve loved for years and our personalities seemed to connect from the start. Just being able to play at practices is fun; gigs are a bonus.”