Vintage Music: Wayne (at drums) and (still) good buddy Jody Dyer jamming at age 14.  Both loved the music then as they do now…

Singer/songwriter Wayne Hamilton has been performing music of one kind or another since his childhood years.

Born in Washington, DC and raised “inside the Beltway”, Wayne started working in rock & roll bands as a drummer, singing lead and banging out R&B rhythms for dance audiences all over the DC Metro area.

In the days before digital recording, electronic samplers and synthesizers, he learned the value of a steady beat and a strong voice.

A VERY early picture of the Tor-Kays. Seated at drums Wayne Hamilton, lead vocals; Standing, L-R: Tom Germaine, bass, backup vocals; Ernie Bickers, lead guitar, backup vocals;  Kirk Bressler, rhythm guitar, backup vocals. Kneeling: Mike Dattilio, tenor sax, backup vocals. Not Pictured: Bill Lowe, tenor sax, baritone sax, backup vocals.

When he went off to Emory & Henry College in the southwestern corner of Virginia, “soul” music was all the rage, and the lessons learned in his high school years helped him put together a blue-eyed soul group with powerful horns and tight vocal harmonies.

L-R: Jody Huskey, Ken Bondurant (tenor sax), Wayne Hamilton, Harvey Perkins (cornet), Heath Jones (lead), Klaus Carr (bass). Not pictured: Bill Lamb (trumpet), Harvey Johnson (bass).

Surrounded by string-pickin’ musicians in the southern Appalachians, he learned to play the guitar and the sounds of the then-popular folk movement. He met Pete Seeger and Elizabeth Cotten, who inspired him to begin writing his own songs. He also received formal training as a tenor and sang in the college’s touring choir.

Wayne later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Theatre Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he also worked in what was then the only 16-track commercial recording studio in the state. He sang radio jingles, did voiceover work and wrote backup vocal parts for many commercials. He continues to write, perform and produce music and voiceovers for Internet, radio and television commercials.

After finishing his degree work, he began a career as a college theatre professor and actor/singer, performing in and directing a wide variety of musical and non-musical productions. Wayne taught in the Speech and Theatre department at VCU, in the Music department of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland and was the Director of Theatre at Mount St. Mary’s College, (now University) in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the oldest independent Catholic college in America, founded in 1808. He was also on the theatre faculty at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities before he left the teaching profession. Throughout those years, he performed and directed professionally when his teaching schedule allowed.

Wayne as Rutledge in 1776

Wayne joined the Minnesota Association of Songwriters (MAS) in 1998. During his first year in MAS, he was awarded twelve “endorsement” songwriting awards by that group, all of which were included on his debut CD in 1999, titled Lucky That Way. Shortly after releasing that collection, Wayne founded the local chapter of Just Plain Folks (JPF), an international music networking organization, in early 2000. JPF named the Twin Cities Chapter as “Chapter of the Year” and Wayne as “Coordinator of the Year” in its 2000 JPF awards. JPF nominated Lucky That Way as “Best Traditional Folk CD” in 2001; the title cut was also nominated as “Best Traditional Folk Song.”

In 2006, Wayne released his second solo CD (titled The Present). His third solo CD, titled You Never Knew, was released in December of 2014. In August of 2015, Wayne partnered with co-writer and guitar wizard Doug Millaway to release a five-song EP called Smallest Sign. This was the debut release for their Two Tone duo. A seven-song collection titled We Know, developed with seven different co-writers, was released in April of 2016. In 2017, he released Love Grows, another seven-song collection of solo and co-written originals. He continues to write songs and jingles while marketing all of his CDs. He also performs regularly in the Twin Cities region’s active acoustic-music circuit.

Wayne served as President of the Minnesota Association of Songwriters for nine years (2007-2015, inclusive), where he is a Lifetime Member and active volunteer. He has served on the Boards at the History Theatre in St. Paul for seven years (2011-2017), the Minnesota Blues Society for two years (where he is a Lifetime Member), and the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association (MBOTMA) for two years (2019-2020). Wayne is a member of ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), the Songwriters of Wisconsin (now defunct) and the Minnesota Music Coalition (now defunct). In December of 2008, he was named as that month’s “Folk Spoke” by for his community support for and involvement in acoustic music.

Wayne with personal hero and folk great Tom Paxton.

Wayne was a finalist in the New Folk Songwriting Contest at the Minnesota Folk Festival for three years running (1999 – 2001), in the Highway 61 Folk Festival for two years running (2001 – 2002) and in the 2001 UNISONG International Songwriting Contest. More recently, he was a finalist in the Wisconsin Singer-Songwriter Series (WSSS) 2016 songwriting contest, won two awards in Songwriters of Wisconsin’s 2014 songwriting contest and was a finalist in the songwriting competition at the 2014 Great River Folk Festival. In addition, the Amsterdam, Holland office of TBWA ad agency used his song titled “Lucky That Way” in a 2005 commercial for Holland Casinos for a year on television stations throughout the Netherlands. Playwright Lance Belville included one of Wayne’s songs the last play he wrote (Cowboy and Widow) before passing away in 2020.  CATV stations in Metro Minnesota and seven other states are airing Wayne’s music videos, including a Christmas show taped in 2011. That show and many other performances are available on YouTube

Two Tone, founded in 2013, provides a special brand of musical fun for listeners.

In 2017, Wayne and performance partner Doug Millaway (a fellow MAS member), who work together as TWO TONE, won the prestigious Cultural Star Award from the City of St. Paul and the Minnesota Music Coalition!

When he’s not working on new music, Wayne is researching and writing what he calls “web books” on a variety of topics:
First On Stage – A Collection of Historical Firsts in American Musical Theatre
History Theatre:  The first 40 Years – A chronology of shows from 1978-2018
Burn Brae Legacy:  A chronology of shows from 1968-2001

On Stage at the St. Croix Journey Folk Festival, 2005

Wayne has played in many of the acoustic venues in the Twin Cities area, and has toured to cities like Atlanta, DC, Los Angeles and Dallas. He performs at house concerts all over the USA. Most importantly, the songs and the audiences keep Wayne close to the music he loves to play and sing. Wherever there’s a song and people to listen, that’s where you’ll find him.