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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Catfood Records Artists Kay Kay Greenwade Passes After a Long Illness



ODESSA, TX – It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of blues singer Kay Kay Greenwade, who died on Monday, July 9, at age 56 in an Odessa, Texas, nursing home. She had endured several health issues after suffering a stroke in 2006, including diabetes and a brain tumor, and was unable to resume her career. Funeral services will be Saturday, July 14, 2012, at Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Odessa. Several members of Kay Kay and the Rays, the band she fronted for many years, will be in attendance. (Attached is a color photo of Kay Kay Greenwade for your use.)

Linda "Kay Kay" Greenwade was a life-long resident of Odessa, Texas, who was born there on August 31, 1955. She is survived by two brothers, Ronald Greenwade and Gary Greenwade, and a granddaughter, N’Sha Lynn Price, all of Odessa.

“Kay Kay was an amazing talent and a good friend,” said Bob Trenchard, head of Catfood Records. “You had to hear and see her live to realize how powerful she was and the effect she could have on the crowd. I have talked to several former band members and all of us agree that while it is sad to think of what could have been had we been able to continue working together, we are glad to have had the opportunity to work with Kay Kay and know her.”

Kay Kay was a gospel singer who was a choir member and an in-demand soloist before she began performing secular music with Kay Kay and the Rays. Last November, Catfood Records released a 15-track compilation CD, The Best of Kay Kay and the Rays, to immense critical acclaim. The retrospective included tracks from all three of the band’s recorded catalogue: Kay and the Rays Featuring Abner Burnett (1999), Texas Justice (2001) and Big Bad Girl (2003).

“The song ‘Big Bad Girl’ says, ‘she was six feet one with three inch heels.’ That was Kay Kay, the big woman with the big voice who could bring the crowd to its feet cheering,” said the album’s liner notes. “The music of Kay Kay and the Rays was a fusion of soul, funk and blues. The lyrics were often social commentary.”

The band’s lyrics pulled no punches in jabbing at powerful corporations, politicians or superficiality. Songs such as “Junk Blues,” “Stop the Killing” and “Lord Save Me from L.A.” took dead aim at social and political injustices. And the tracks “Lone Star Justice,” “Enron Field” and “Texas Justice – Billy’s Story” all resonated with truths that often provoked outrage from certain people in power (even provoking feature stories on the controversy in both Houston and Corpus Christi newspapers) in the Lone Star State, while endearing them to the crowds of people who cheered their live shows and bought their albums.

Aside from their songs with powerful messages, Kay Kay and the Rays also exemplified the best of classic soul, blues, gospel and funk on such tracks as “No Mama’s Boys,” “Hey Big Boy,” “Don’t Have to Tell Me,” Hold On to What You Got” (featuring a killer duet with Kay Kay and Johnny Rawls trading verses and layering harmonies in the best tradition of Stax Records), “Love Me Baby” and the R&B chestnut, “They’ll Come a Time,” that closed the set. The Best of Kay Kay and the Rays showcased a band of immense grit, soul and musicality, with a dynamic rhythm section, funky guitar work and punchy horns, led by a singer who was one of the best of her generation. Throughout the album, Kay Kay was sexy, soulful, tender, sassy, playful and gutsy – often within the same song.

Kay Kay and the Rays were formed in 1997 by keyboardist Abner Burnett and bass player/songwriter Bob Trenchard in Odessa, Texas. Abner was told about a talented gospel singer he needed to hear by the owner of a club in town called Sam’s Blues and Barbeque. Kay Kay Greenwade auditioned and soon the name of the band was changed from The Abner Burnett Blues Band to Kay Kay and the Rays.

The group began playing clubs on weekends in West Texas and recorded their first album, Kay Kay and the Rays Featuring Abner Burnett (more or less a demo for clubs) in 1999. Not long after that, they were discovered by the great soul blues singer Johnny Rawls. When Burnett moved to Mexico in 2000, Bob Trenchard became the leader by default. Bob had opened a large Odessa nightclub and named it Kay Kay’s Blues Club earlier that year. The band drew capacity crowds when they played the club, with eight musicians on stage - including four horns - backing Kay Kay.

Johnny Rawls produced the band’s next album, Texas Justice, in 2001, which gained the group national attention. For the next three years the band toured regionally and nationally, gaining increased popularity. They played top venues like the House of Blues in Boston, Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego, Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco and Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago; and did four tours from Texas to Florida, traveling all the way down to Key West. The 2003 performance of the band at the WC Handy Festival was broadcast as an hour long program on PBS stations across the country.

Also in 2003, the band released its Big Bad Girl album, produced by multiple Grammy winner Jim Gaines, which received rave reviews, resulting in the Big Bad Girl CD hitting the top ten blues radio charts. During Easter weekend in 2004, Kay Kay and the Rays played at the five day, sold out East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Australia as part of a tour there to rave reviews.

Family tragedies caused the band to break up a few months later after tours to Florida and California. The music on The Best of Kay Kay and the Rays is a wonderful reminder that Kay Kay and the Rays really were a “seamless blend of soul and funk” as they were described by Blues Revue and that Kay Kay Greenwade had “established herself as a leading light of contemporary blues” as noted by Living Blues.

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