|"A cultural treasure, who should be kept in New Zealand at any cost" - New Zealand International Festival of the Arts||MARG LAYTON
one has better earned the title New Zealand’s Queen of the Blues
than Marg Layton. For forty years the Wellington-based
singer has been impressing audiences up and down the country with her
authentic and passionate singing, her encyclopaedic knowledge of and
deep feeling for the blues.
Born on a farm in New Zealand’s rural south, Marg began her musical career in the folk café scene that was in full bloom in the late 60s, first in Christchurch, then in other parts of the country. She was a frequent performer at the Capital’s legendary folk haunt, the Monde Marie.
The 70s saw her perform at major folk music clubs, festivals and concerts all over New Zealand, working alongside such pivotal folk figures as Don McLean, Tom Paxton and Odetta, who invited her to join her on stage at the Auckland Town Hall.
A trip to Europe and the United States in 1980 – which included a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the blues, New Orleans, and meeting blues legend Alberta Hunter in Greenwich Village – consolidated her commitment to the blues.
Since returning to New Zealand in the early 80s she has sung the blues – with side-servings of jazz and folk – throughout the country; at almost every major arts, wine or food festival, in theatres and bars, from community halls to opera houses.
Her musical eclecticism has seen her working in a variety of settings. She has swung with top-flight jazz players like pianist Terry Crayford, bass player Paul Dyne and drummer Roger Sellers, and sung with such well-known blues vendors as Darren ‘Smokeshop’ Watson, Dave Murphy, the Windy City Strugglers and Kokomo.
In 1999 she at last released her first album, Trouble and Satisfaction. Produced by well-known broadcaster and musician Nick Bollinger and recorded at Marmalade and Plan 9 Studios in Wellington, it showcased the range of blues styles in her extensive repertoire, from the down-home gospel of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ‘You Gotta Move’ to the uptown sophistication of Louis Jordan’s ‘Trouble Then Satisfaction’; a rustic arrangement of Tommy Johnson’s ‘Big Road Blues’ to the horn-led jump treatment of Ida Cox’s 1924 classic ‘Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues’.
In recent years her regular accompanists have included respected singer-songwriter and Windy City Strugglers’ leader Bill Lake, veteran guitarist Chris Prowse, harmonica and mandolin wizard Andrew Delahunty, jazz bassist extraordinaire Patrick Bleakley and versatile drummer Ian Parker.
Marg Layton continues to sing with an intensity and integrity that reflects her lifelong immersion in the blues.