Kayla L. Graham
Hylo Graves (left),  DJ WakCutt (right)

Hylo Graves (left), DJ WakCutt (right)

© Scott Foster

A Honkytonk Transformation


The year was 2016, and DJ Wakcutt (aka Ian Wackett) had just finished a two-hour dancefloor assault at Motion Notion Festival in Golden, B.C. After a rowdy set with a mixture of turntablist tricks, hip-hop classics, and grimy bass music, Ian stepped to the front of the stage, sat down at a steel lap guitar, and ended his set with a heartfelt rendition of “Sleep Walk.”


Attendees didn’t know that at the time, they were witnessing the birth of Buddy Wackett, and a honkytonk transformation. Fast forward to 2021, and, you can find Ian fronting countrified cover band Buddy Wackett and the Floorwalkers, at the helm of record label Shady Groove Recordings, and playing alongside brother-in-law Hylo Graves in traditional country act Long Gone Lonesomes.


Fans of Ian would hardly be surprised. As illustrated by his Mixcloud radio show The Waksmuseum, Ian’s musical tastes and curation are eclectic, classic, and original. If it comes on vinyl, Ian will work it into a set.


“I guess that time [at Motion Notion] would have been the first time I ever played steel guitar on stage,” says Ian. “I’ve always been a big country music fan, and a steel guitar is something I always wanted to learn how to play … the steel guitar you saw on stage is a lap steel, but what I wanted to learn how to play was a pedal steel, and that lap steel was my stepping stone.”


Looking to connect with other players, sometime around 2018, Ian decided to form Buddy Wackett and the Floorwalkers — “playing the honkiest of tonk for saints and sinners alike.” Made up of Ian as alter ego Buddy Wackett, Gary Dreams on bass, Dicky Rymonds on lead guitar, Travis Ryan Stone (Ian’s other brother-in-law) on rhythm guitar, and Rick Nightmin on drums, the Floorwalkers cover a mixture old fashioned of country classics like Doc Watson, Willie Nelson, Hank the first, Bill Monroe, and Wayne Hancock. “I like to lean into the more obscure underground country stuff from the ‘50s,” says Ian. He adds that he likes to find songs to cover by digging for obscure honkytonk 45s.


The weirdo country and “occultry & western” of Long Gone Lonesomes, Ian’s second band, started a little more organically. Knowing that his brother-in-law, Hylo Graves, was an excellent songwriter and an avid music collector and fan, the pair started meeting up and pouring over Hylo’s books upon books of archived lyrics and song ideas. “After a few weekends of recording, we started to develop a formula of what our music is actually sounding like, and we have this cool formula for making music, out of nowhere suddenly we have an album,” says Ian.

“So we started thinking about putting it out. And we tossed around the idea of ‘well, if we want to put it out, we want to control what it looks like and how it sounds, and we do everything ourselves anyway. Why don’t I just start a record label?’”


And then, there was Shady Groove Recordings.


“[Shady Groove] is a means of putting out our own music and being able to control all of the aspects of it, and not have to fork over any publishing rights or anything. Because we just do everything ourselves anyways. And we’re really stoked to have an album out now. It’s something I never thought I would do,” says Ian. “Mixtapes are one thing, but a full album of your own productions? It’s unheard of for me.”


Currently, Shady Groove is poised to release Long Gone Lonesome’s second album, and there’s a lot of material ready to go for the future. Ian says he will keep one eye open for artists he likes, which will fit with Shady Groove's ethos.. The label’s tagline is “Making homespun sad songs that have no business being as good as they are," and as long as an artist fits the occultry theme, Ian is open to releasing other types of music.


As for the Floorwalkers, if there is Stampede in Calgary’s future, Ian (as Buddy Wackett of course) hopes to provide some good ol’ honkytonk to the saints and the sinners on the dancefloor — if not in 2021, then definitely in 2022. Grab your flask of whiskey and giddyup. Soon, Buddy Wackett will be bringing his steel guitar to a saloon near you.