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Wayne “The Train” Hancock Knows How to Sling some Rhythm

Photo Credit: Victor Barajas, Jr.

Fluent in rockabilly, blues, old-school country and Western swing, Wayne “The Train” Hancock backs it all with an undeniable rhythm. Whether he’s singing about murder, cheating, or heartbreak, you’re going to want to head to the dance floor and sway along. Hancock’s latest release, Slingin’ Rhythm (October 2016), is evidence this retro rocker is still on top of his musical game. Backed by a killer band, it’s 12 tracks of beautifully produced and perfectly executed toe tappers that give a gracious nod to the past while managing to feel fresh, and above all, fun.

Slingin’ Rhythm, like Hancock’s previous albums, was produced by fellow Texan Lloyd Maines. Maines, a talented musician and songwriter in his own right, even took a turn on Dobro on Hancock’s cover of “Thy Burdens are Greater than Mine.”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hancock said of working with Maines. “You’ve got to have a good producer because they can see things that you can’t. Songs all start sounding the same after about six or seven hours in the studio. He knows what he’s doing, and I’ve been working with him since, I guess, 95.”

Except for the bassist, Hancock was backed by his touring band in the recording studio.

“That’s my road band that’s on the album,” he explained. “We record live on our records. People always say they find our live shows a lot like how our album sounds. Of course, when you see a live show, there’s always going to be a little more energy to it. In the studio, it’s a pretty good deal if you can make your records sound almost like your stage show.”

Hancock pulled this band together about two years ago, and he’s very happy with the sound.

“Over the last several years, I’ve been touring with a two or three piece band,” Hancock commented. I’m over 50, and I thought, ‘I’d like to have a five-piece band.’ I’d never had one.”

Hancock uses all means available to recruit his players.

“I’m not a bible thumper, or nothing,” Hancock laughed. “But when I want players, I use all the things I can use to get them. I put the word out I’m looking, and then I pray a lot, you know. I pray for my players. It works really well.”

Hancock, who was stationed in Hawaii while in the military, prefers the sound of the Hawaiian style, non pedal steel guitar. Current band member Rose Sinclair is an expert.

“I actually hired her before I heard her,” Hancock admitted. “I was thinking, ‘oh my god, what have I done,’ because I’ve done some stupid shit like this before. You hire somebody, and then you get them, and they’re just terrible. And, of course, Rose wasn’t. She’s really good.”

Hancock loves that lap steel sound.

“It works really well with the blues, and I play a lot of blues,” he commented. “I lived in Hawaii for a while a long, long time ago. I did some service time over there, and I was stationed there for four years. I got to meet a lot of really cool people and play with Slack Key bands. I got that Hawaiian bug and carried it back and incorporated it into the music.”

Growing up, Hancock was surrounded by music, much of which still influences him today.

“To give you an idea of our record collection, my mom was born in 1927; my dad was born in 1923. He lied about his age and joined the navy in ’41 before Pearl Harbor hit, so they were both World War II era people,” he explained. “We had all the big band guys. Glenn Miller. We had Tommy Dorsey. We had Jimmy Rogers. We had Hank Thompson. I think we had some Hank Snow. So I grew up listening to big band swing. Growing up, I always wanted to have a big band with horns and everything.”

But it was his sister Becky’s high school field trip to Nashville that set him on his current path.

“She brought back this Hank Williams record. I’d never really heard of Hank Williams. I mean I’d heard about his name,” Hancock recalled. “I heard that Hank Williams’ record, and I thought, ‘I could do that.’ I could yodel back then. Nobody else was doing it. And when you’re that age, and you really find something that takes you away from whatever hell you’re going through as a child with school or whatever, it becomes your place of refuge. I really got into Hank Williams for years and years. I love Hank Williams’ music. If I hadn’t found Hank Williams, I probably would have been doing Hank Thompson or Jimmy Rogers. They kind of have like style voices. Anything like that kind of feel, you know.”

Hancock laughed, “I remember people telling me when I was a kid, ‘well you should play rock and roll. There’s money in it.’ Funny, it seems like that’s what we’re doing anyway.”