About Gaines & Wagoner

Chris Wagoner and Mary Gaines have been in-demand private instructors, session musicians and performers in the Midwest for over three decades with tours spanning the US and Europe. Together and separately, they are founding members of several of Wisconsin’s favorite musical groups, past and present: Harmonious Wail (vintage jazz), The Common Faces (original “folk-soul”), The Bob Westfall Band (original “jazz-grass”), The Moon Gypsies (original Americana / Roots-Rock), The Stellanovas (“cafe jazz”) and Graminy (original “class-grass”). Regular work with other ensembles and artists has included: Randy Sabien’s “Fiddlehead” Band, Salt Creek (progressive Bluegrass band based in Milwaukee), The North Country Drifters (Western Swing), The Best Westerns (Western Swing), Honor Among Thieves (Original Rock) and performance and recording with singer- songwriters, Carrie Newcomer, Tret Fure, L.J. Booth, Whitney Mann, Josh Harty and Blake Thomas.

For five years beginning in 2008, Gaines and Wagoner, along with technical producer, Andy LaValley, hosted a music and talk show called “Mad Toast Live” that was recorded for podcast and broadcast on WORT 89.9FM Listener Sponsored Community Radio in front of a live audience at the Brink Lounge. Special guests ranged from singer-songwriters to jazz artists, rock bands to polka bands and everything in-between. As President of the Madison Music Collective, Wagoner hosted and produced the MMC’s “Jazz on a Sunday” series featuring regional and national jazz artists as well as Madison’s own great jazz talent.

Gaines and Wagoner have been the recipients of several WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) nominations and awards over the years for their work with Harmonious Wail and The Common Faces, and several recent MAMAs (Madison Area Music Awards) for String Player of the Year (Violin and Cello), Specialty Instrument (Lapsteel), Best Male and Female Vocalist, and a Lifetime Career Achievement Award. as well as session work on numerous recordings that have received MAMAs for Album of the Year (Harmonious Wail, Graminy, Beth Kille, Mark Croft, The Moon Gypsies).

Their multi-instrumental recording credits include a “who’s who” of local, regional, national and international artists ranging from 8 albums with Rounder Recording Artist, Carrie Newcomer, and recordings with Wisconsin favorites, Willy Porter, Peter Mulvey, Jim Schwall and Beth Kille to work with producer Butch Vig on sessions with Smashing Pumpkins (on their Multi-Platinum album, “Gish”), Freedy Johnston (“This Perfect World”, “Right Between the Promises”), U2 (Butch Vig remix) and British pop-rock group, EMF, and a long list of other local and regional releases too numerous to mention, as well as fourteen albums with past and present performing ensembles of their own.

From 2015-2017, Gaines and Wagoner recorded incidental music for the award-winning PBS and BBC series “American Epic” with producer, Duke Erikson.  Distributed by BBC and PBS and released in June, 2017, the series shines a light on the evolution of roots music in America. Artists on the soundtrack include Taj Majal, Jack White, Elton John, Los Lobos, Beck, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Stephen Stills, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, American Epic won the Discovery Award and Audience Award at the Calgary Film Festival, the Foxtel Audience Award at the Sydney Film Festival, Best Overall Picture in the Tryon International Film Festival and was nominated for Outstanding Music Direction at the Primetime Emmy Awards. 

Mary Gaines

Mary Gaines was originally a jazz-guitar major at the University of WI-Stevens Point but truly found her musical voice studying jazz cello at the UW-Madison under the tutelage of the great Richard Davis (bass player with artists ranging from Sarah Vaughan and Eric Dolphy to Van Morrison). Mary has been performing on bass and cello for 3 decades with husband, Chris Wagoner, in a great stylistic range of ensembles but is also known for her amazing voice (past recipient of MAMA awards for Best Female Vocalist and Instrumentalist of the Year).

Chris Wagoner

Chris Wagoner grew up in Iowa surrounded by a very musical family.  Starting out on piano and saxophone, he was smitten by the violin in 4th grade (thanks Tom Schilke!).  While studying music formally in college at the UW-Madison with Tyrone Grieve and jazz studies with Joan Wildman and Richard Davis, Wagoner was already playing blues, rock, jazz and country gigs in night clubs and honky-tonks all over southern WI.  Wagoner became a music book author in 2008 with the publication of “The Hal Leonard Fiddle Method: Book 1”.