Though I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Hayden one on one, his story grabbed me from the time I first heard of him. Hayden turned 15 a couple of months ago. And in his relatively short music career, he has managed to turn the heads of some of the most well known blues players of our time.
I happened to catch his birthday show at Dino BBQ recently on one of my off nights, and wanted to see how real the buzz was. While there, I ran into radio personality Anita West and she shared the most delightful story about Hayden. “I was at a show at The Tralf one day, and I felt a tug on my leg,” she says. “I look over, and had to look all the way down to see what it was.” There was this little teeny tiny kid trying to get her attention. She says to him, “Hey little man, what do you want?” He says, “I want to be on your show.” She had a good chuckle about it, and basically blew him off. “But wouldn’t you believe it,” she recalls, “8 months later, that little s.o.b. was on my show!”
He showed up with his dad, and a guitar that was just huge on him. She asked him what he was going to play, and he replied “Lenny”, a number by Stevie Ray Vaughan. He played it and killed it. “My jaw dropped!” she says. Anita, one of the strongest proponents of local musicians would go on to book his first set of shows in the local blues circuit.
Hayden is native to Buffalo, but spent some of his early years in Mississippi. That is where he was first exposed to blues and roots music. “My parents had this Muddy Waters cd, and I was always requesting it to be played in the car,” he shared with me. After returning to the Buffalo area, he was drawn to the guitar. “One of my friends had a guitar, and I thought it was so cool,” he remembers. He told his dad, who would soon buy him his first guitar.
He has been playing for about 6 years now, but I found it difficult to keep up with his stories, because there are so many. Jamming with guitar greats, attending the NAMM show with Paul Reed Smith guitars, and all before high school. We just ended up having a great conversation about guitars, gear, philosophy, musicians. I just put down the pen, and mostly listened – very interesting young man.
I couldn’t help but to recognize a certain kind of depth while we chatted. He told me about his experience with Buddy Guy. “It was the first time I played on a stage with a band, in front of 3,000 people.” That show took place at UB Center for the Arts. Buddy asked him, “Do you have your guitar?” he replied “No”. Buddy’s response, Hayden remembers, was something like “A guitar player without his guitar is like a brick layer without his tools”. Buddy then continued “Do you want to borrow mine?” If that wasn’t the shining moment from the evening for young Hayden… he tells me, “What I remember from the Buddy Guy show was a huge, bright spotlight. It was really warm and comfortable. It made the guitar look shiny, and holy.” He described the production details like an old sizzled veteran, with an attention to the details, and a sense of spirituality.
Hayden also had an endorsement deal with Paul Reed Smith Guitars, and represented the guitar manufacturer at NAMM 2014. He was supplied with a limited edition PRS guitar, which he tells me is now his backup. He’s a Strat guy – that’s my kind of guy.
School is very important to him. He has turned down gigs because it would interfere with his schedule. He will be entering his sophomore year at Orchard Park High School in the fall. “I can focus on music and do well in school,” he says with a mixture of confidence and humility.
Watching him play that night, he played like an old vet. Anita told me, “He’s actually a blues player, he doesn’t shred.” His laid back approach, attention to detail, philosophical depth (which is nurtured by his dad), persistence, and the simple love of playing have put him in a position to become a devastating player for years to come.
You can see Hayden perform this Friday, June 26 at Buffalo Iron Works with his band, featuring Daniel Powell on drums, George Olmsted on vocals, and Evan Laedke on keys.
He will also be a part of the lineup for the BPO Celebrates 50 years of The Grateful Dead at Artpark, July 12.
Follow Hayden here: