They don’t make them as real as David Vest anymore. The son of an Alabama sharecropper, the longtime Victoria BC resident is still going strong some 50 plus years since he first stepped on stage with the likes of Big Joe Turner. Long revered as one of the great boogie-woogie piano players, Vest is a five-time winner of Canada’s national Maple Blues Award for Piano Player of the Year. He is also a prolific songwriter. He wrote the first songs ever recorded by Tammy Wynette, and his tunes have been covered by artists ranging from Paul deLay to the legendary Downchild Blues Band, whose cover of Vest’s “Worried About The World” reached number one on the Roots Music Report blues song chart.
Although he’s a Maple Blues Award winner who now lives in Canada, David Vest is an authentic, Southern-bred boogie-woogie piano player, blues shouter and world-class entertainer.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1943, David grew up in Birmingham near 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 Swampers. 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 by 1958. He saw Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, and John Lee Hooker in the prime of their careers. About the time he turned 21 he found himself onstage with Big Joe Turner, who said that David Vest’s playing made him feel like he was back in Kansas City. His first recording featured the last song written by Alton Delmore. David himself wrote the first songs recorded by Tammy Wynette, as detailed in her recent bio. 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 in Romania. David received the “direct laying on of hands” from Texas piano legends like Big Walter The Thunderbird, Katie Webster and Floyd Dixon. He toured with Jimmy T99 Nelson and Miss Lavelle White, when he wasn’t jamming with Arnett Cobb, Milt Larkin, Jimmy Ford and Straight No Chaser in Houston.
From 2002 through 2006, he was co-leader of the Paul deLay Band, reaching the Top Ten on Billboard’s national blues chart with The Last of the Best. David’s many festival appearances under his own banner or with other artists include Bumbershoot, King Biscuit, Waterfront (Portland), Winthrop, Edmonton, Calgary, Tremblant, Trois-Rivières, Baltimore, Houston Juneteenth, Ritzville and New Orleans Jazzfest.
His first Canadian recording, East Meets Vest, was named one of the best blues albums of 2012 by Holger Petersen of CBC’s Saturday Night Blues and earned a Maple nomination for Recording of the Year.
In 2014, newly signed to Cordova Bay Records, he released Roadhouse Revelation, which went to Number One on the Roots Music Report chart for Canada and won a four-star rating from Downbeat.
2016’s Devestatin’ Rhythm brought another record of the year nomination, and in 2018 Cordova Bay Records released David Vest, which led to a Songwriter of the Year nomination and David’s fifth Maple Blues Award for Piano Player of the Year.
He was a featured guest performer in the acclaimed play, Life, Death & the Blues, starring Raoul Bhaneja and Divine Brown, joining the production in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton.
Time has done little to diminish David’s energy, skill and creative drive. Working solo or with his band, he continues to bring audiences to their feet and to demonstrate why he has been called “one of the greatest living boogie-woogie piano players.”