LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s not every day that a small Eastern Kentucky band become rock stars half a world away. For Whitesburg-based Wayne Graham none of their journey has been by the book, so why start now?
The band formed in 2010 as a duo between brothers Kenny (guitar/vocals) and Hayden Miles (drums/vocals) as a vehicle for the two to release and record material following Kenny’s completion of recording school. The project, named after the brothers’ departed grandfathers Wayne Miles and Graham Kincer, had a tumultuous first few years with a rotating cast of musicians joining the brothers ranging from high school friends sitting in to at one point having their father Ken Miles on bass and David Prince on lead guitar. However, the band’s fortunes would soon change.
After releasing their first three albums on Bristol, Tenn., based Gold Ship Records, Wayne Graham trekked to Louisville to play their final show organized by the label in October 2015. The group was paired with German outfit The Gentle Lurch on the evening and quickly hit it off, with the Germans inquiring about getting Wayne Graham in their neck of the woods to tour. The band had connections to K&F Records, a label based in Dresden, and even expressed interest in recording material for Wayne Graham to tour on. The sides struck a three album deal, with Wayne Graham releasing “Mexico,” the first album on the deal in October 2016. The band has since released “Joy,” which became available stateside in September 2018.
In the two years following “Mexico” the brothers have toured across Europe multiple times with a full band, the first time around organized by the label and the later by the band, who have since rounded out their lineup with bassist Chris Justice and lead guitarist Lee Owen. Known for his Jerry Garcia-esque playing style from over a quarter century at the helm of Born Cross Eyed, Owen brings steadfast musicianship with an improvisational edge that fits perfectly into the band’s swampy, folk rock sound that falls between Dire Straits, Neil Young and the Rolling Stones.
“Lee and Chris both bring validity to our live show,” said Kenny Miles. “Hayden and I played as a two-piece for so long that we dreaded playing live because we knew it wouldn’t be a true representation of what we sounded like.”
While Justice joined with the group in early 2017, Owen didn’t come along until a bit later, and much like the band’s previous triumphs it came by chance encounter.
The date was Dec. 2, 2017. On a hunch, Owen hopped up from his couch and headed for the Green Lantern after seeing friends of his, including Kickin it on the Creek founder Byron Roberts, post on Facebook about being there for a show. Upon entry, Owen became enamored with the band performing, thinking in his head at the time about how much he’d enjoy playing with them.
Owen later spoke with the band after the show before having to leave, receiving a phone call a few weeks later from Kenny Miles, who at the recommendation of Roberts asked him to join the group for practice. Owen agreed, soon after performing his first show with Wayne Graham on Feb. 2, 2018.
I haven’t been back in (the Green Lantern) since watching them that night,” said Owen. “It’ll be fun going back and playing there with them rather than just being another face in the crowd.”
If You Go
When: 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 14
Where: The Green Lantern, 497 W Third St.