Although he now calls Canada home, Maple Blues Award winner David Vest is an authentic, Southern-bred boogie-woogie piano player and blues shouter. Born in Alabama in 1943, David grew up in Birmingham, not far from Tuxedo Junction. He played his first paying gig in 1957, and by the time he opened for Roy Orbison on New Year's Day 1962, he was a seasoned veteran of Gulf Coast roadhouses and honky tonks.
At the age of 17, David went on tour with Jerry Woodard and the Esquires, some of whom later became key members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Muscle Shoals Horns. While still with Woodard, he jammed with Ace Cannon, Bill Black's Combo and the Jimmy Dorsey Band in clubs along the Florida Panhandle, where fellow Alabaman James Harman would soon make his mark.
He had seen Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash in the 1950s. He saw Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, and John Lee Hooker in the prime of their careers. Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter and Hank Ballard, too. About the time he turned 21 he found himself onstage backing Big Joe Turner, who said that David Vest's playing made him feel like he was back home in Kansas City.
He had also worked the southern gospel circuit, appearing on programs with the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers. His first recording featured the last song written by Alton Delmore. David himself wrote the first songs ever recorded by Tammy Wynette, as detailed in Jimmy McDonough's bio of the country legend. He also dated a sister of the Louvin Brothers, toured with Faron Young (who threatened to kill him), backed Red Foley in a show where all the stars got robbed, worked in a theatre with Fannie Flagg and became the first American artist to record an album in Romania, after his appearance at the Sibiu Jazz Festival.
Later David would receive the "direct laying on of hands" from piano legends like Big Walter The Thunderbird and Floyd Dixon. He would tour extensively with Jimmy T99 Nelson and Miss Lavelle White. Katie Webster told him, "I knows it when I hears it."
From 2002 through 2006, he shared lead vocals and frontman duties in the Paul deLay Band, culminating in his performance on an award-winning live CD, which reached the Top Ten on Billboard's national blues chart. During his years in Portland, David won five Muddy Awards from the Cascade Blues Association, including Best Keyboard Player.
After deLay's untimely death, Vest joined forces with Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne and various other pianists, including Ann Rabson, to form the supergroup Northwest Pianorama.
David's many festival appearances include the Tremblant International Blues Festival, Seattle's Bumbershoot, the King Biscuit Festival, the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival, the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival, the Edmonton Labatt's Blues Festival, the Calgary Blues Festival, the Baltimore Blues Festival, Houston's Juneteenth Festival, the Ritzville Blues Festival, the Salem Arts Festival and the New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival (with Miss Lavelle White).
In 2005, an Oregon Public Broadcasting "Art Beat" feature on David Vest was voted a "Viewer Favorite," beating out Pink Martini and other NW notables.
In 2012 he recorded and released East Meets Vest, backed by members of Downchild and Fathead. Holger Petersen of CBC Saturday Night Blues called it "one of the best Canadian blues albums of 2012."
David's piano work can also be heard on Juno-nominated recordings by Bill Johnson and David Gogo.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
JIMMY T99 NELSON