Any musician will tell you that the toughest time to gig is the week following New Year’s Day – people are either broke from Christmas spending or too tired from New Year’s Eve parties to go out again so soon. Despite the odds, Wes Jeans pulled a full house at Redbone Magic Brewing in Texarkana on January 6.
Coming off a year of touring the country and forming a new band, the 2017 Tornado gave a performance that kept the crowd in their seats. The trio of Wes, Kevin Hanks on bass, and Jack Miller on drums conjures up a sound that’s not unlike Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble or the early Edgar Winter Group.
Wes hails from Marshall, Texas – about an hour’s drive from Texarkana; Jack was born and raised in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, but now resides in Texarkana. Kevin is well-known in the DFW metroplex for his years of rocking the clubs there before joining Vince Vance and the Valiant’s in the 1990’s.
“Wes auditioned me last year and after about two hours of just jamming together, we knew it was the right fit,” said Kevin.
In 2021 Wes lost his longtime bass player, Sid Highgrove, to a full-time job. Lance Lopez filled the void during a year jam-packed with coast to coast gigs. In 2022, Wes joined the Arkansas-based DeFrance for a West Coast tour before coming home to regroup.
The trio is currently working with Blaine and Kim Newman of Funky Frog Studios in Athens, Texas. This will be the 42-year old’s fourth album. His previous albums include Hands on (2000), Forest of the Pine (2006) and Live at Music City, Texas (2009).
“Playing 200 gigs a year will pay the bills, but it doesn’t move the ball forward,” Wes said. “I’m making time for the things that really matter this year – family, recording an album and building my Texas Fuzz pedals.”
With four kids between them, Wes and fiancée Amy White are tackling a home-renovation project to better accommodate their large family. Wes also takes care of his father, who has suffered two strokes and complications from COVID-19 and lives with them.
Throughout his career, Wes Jeans has shared the stage with many artists, including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, Billy Gibbons, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Robert Cray, Warren Haynes and David Lee Roth, to name a few. Readers of Guitar Player Magazine voted Jeans #3 among the Young Gun Guitar Players in the nation between Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Jeans was named East Texas (ETX) Blues Artist of the Year in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He was awarded ETX Guitarist of the Year in 2013 and 2016, and the first ever ETX Music Legend award in 2014.
The journey began when the 15-year-old Wes entered the International Jimi Hendrix Competition held in Austin and placed second among 1,500 other young guitar players. Al Hendrix, father of Jimi Hendrix, told Wes, “In my eyes, you won because you played straight from the heart like Jimi.”
Banking on that endorsement, Wes dropped out of Marshall High School in 1997 to homeschool while he toured and recorded his debut album. At the age of 17 he was performing in Shreveport night clubs.
In 2000 his debut album, “Hands On,” hit the National Blues Chart at #26, and he was being compared to guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn. Besides the recordings, Wes was featured in the 2003 documentary “Solid Bodies: The 50 Year Guitar War,” which can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video.
After receiving a standing ovation during the opening for B.B. King’s 2003 Shreveport show, King asked him onto his bus where he told him: “Son, you keep your head on straight – you are going places.”
According to Wes, that opening for B.B., along with being asked by Warren Haynes to play with Government Mule in Shreveport are his most memorable sets. “I named my oldest son Warren, after Haynes,” said Wes.
“Wes is well known and loved by most of the premier guitarists living today. (Rest in peace, B.B.) Onstage with any of these heavyweights, Wes always played like Wes; solid, real, and dazzling in a complimentary manner. That takes talent, confidence, and humility…a rare combination,” said fellow musician Cody Pappas of Atlanta, Texas. “The single most outstanding thing about Wes that you discover quickly is that he is a sincerely nice person. From our very first meeting (onstage, of course!), I always count him as a best friend.”
If you have a chance to attend a Wes Jeans gig this year, jump on it – there won’t be many of those until he finishes the new album. “You can do a lot of gigs, but when it’s over, it’s over,” Wes said. “If you want to leave a legacy, you have to record.”
If you’re ever in downtown Marshall on a third Thursday, you can see him and other local musicians playing in Telegraph Park. The “Boogie On The Bricks Jam Session, hosted by Wes and Mason McFarland, starts on March 16, 2023, 8 p.m. to midnight, and will run every third Thursday until November. All genres and experience levels are welcome to join them.