A musical force equipped with the soulful vocals of Janis and the guitar slinging skills of Stevie Ray, Carolyn Wonderland reaches into the depths of the Texas blues tradition with the wit of a poet. She is a true legend in her time.
Carolyn grew up the child of a singer in a band and began playing her mother’s vintage Martin guitar when other girls were dressing dolls. She’s gone from being the teenage toast of her hometown Houston to sleeping in her van in Austin amid heaps of critical acclaim for her recordings Alcohol & Salvation, Bloodless Revolution, and more recently, Miss Understood.
Along with the guitar and the multitude of other instruments she learned to play – trumpet, accordion, piano, mandolin – Wonderland makes use of her whistling skills, quite a unique art and spectacular talent, to throw in a whistling solo on occasion.
Her vocal proficiency was well-established before she reached the age of twenty. She absorbed Houston influences like Little Screamin’ Kenny and soaked up the Mad Hatter of Texas music, Doug Sahm. The ‘Lone Star State’ was as credible and fertile a proving ground for blues in the 1980s as existed, especially in Austin with Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Angela Strehli, Omar & the Howlers, and Lou Ann Barton. By the following decade, Austin’s blues luster thinned, but Houston, always a bastion of soul and R&B, boasted the Imperial Monkeys with the effervescent Carolyn Wonderland as ruler of the jungle.
In the early 1990s Wonderland & the Imperial Monkeys were invited to Antone’s, a live-music gig in Guadalupe Stree, Austin. There, they were treated like royalty with the singer as the queen of hearts in the club’s post-Stevie Ray Vaughan stable, which included Toni Price, Johnny and Jay Moeller, Sue Foley, Mike and Corey Keller, and the Ugly Americans. Carolyn felt so comfortable in that bar that, when the band called it quits a few years later, she set her sights on Austin at the start of the millennium.
Living in Austin renewed Carolyn Wonderland’s focus on her multiple talents; underlining luxurious vocals with fine guitar work, trumpet, and piano, as well as that remarkable ability to whistle. A series of discs began with Alcohol & Salvation in 2003 and her music featured in television series such as “Time of Your Life” and “Homicide”.
Her circle of musician friends and admirers broadened to include not only Ray Benson, but also Eddy Shaver, Shelley King, and Bob Dylan. She began co-writing with other local musicians, like Sarah Brown, Ruthie Foster, Cindy Cashdollar, and Guy Forsyth; sat in with Los Lobos, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard; recorded with Jerry Lightfoot; and toured with Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter. She also became a member of the all-girl “Sis Deville” and the “Imperial Crown Golden Harmonizers”.
Carolyn Wonderland – Guitar & Vocals
Kevin Lance – Drums
Robert Duane Perkin – Bass