This month let me introduce you to an icon of Russian rock’n’roll. They call him the Russian Killer. Those of you steeped in rock’n’roll historical knowledge will know the 1950s super star that the word “killer” conjures up in your mind. It’s no coincidence …………
Denis Mazhukov is a genuine legend on the music scene over here. Let me take you back to the early days ………
In 1997 Jerry Lee Lewis made his debut performance in Russia, performing in Moscow. And the support act at that concert, performing before JLL came on stage, was Denis Mazhukov. Denis’ style has always been hugely inspired by the Great Man, which was why he was chosen as the warm up act on this night. In a post-concert interview, Jerry Lee said, “Denis, you played just like I did when I was young.”
Since then, Denis has steadily increased his big following in Russia. Not only Russia – over the years he’s performed many times in the USA. Most of his USA gigs have been in New York, Memphis and Denver. And the label of the Russian Killer, inspired by the “Killer” nickname for Jerry Lee, has stayed with him. Denis’ repertoire includes inspiration from other sources too. He plays many numbers in the “boogie woogie” style: He’s performed at many boogie woogie music festivals in Europe over the years.
Plus he has other musical influences. One is Chuck Berry. In 1997, Denis played with Chuck Berry at the International Film Festival in Moscow. And when Berry returned to Russia a few years later, he again got Denis to play with him.
He has his own group, “Off Beat”, who have been with him since he began performing in 1994. With his band he started his career playing the Moscow clubs and as time went on the crowds got bigger and the venues more prestigious. His repertoire of songs is huge (predictably Jerry Lee songs play a large part in his play lists). Here’s some of my personal favourites that he does:
Great balls of fire, whole lotta shakin’, high school confidential, roll over Beethoven, blue suede shoes and don’t be cruel.
He began playing piano from the age of 6. I should add that in Russia, piano playing is much more a part of Russian culture than in the UK. More homes have pianos over here than in the West. Or at least that certainly was true at the time Denis was growing up. Interestingly his background learning as a boy was playing in the classical style. It was later as a teenager that he got the rock’n’roll bug, which then became the musical passion of his life.
Mazhukov concerts include the wildness reminiscent of the early days of Jerry Lee. Standing up, playing with the hair on his head all over the place and the occasional leg hitting the keyboards; yeah, it’s the spirit of the Killer inside Mazhukov !
Take a look at this Spirit yourself: Go to youtube and type “Denis Mazhukov – the Russian King of Rock N Roll” in the search engine box. The killer is alive and kickin’ – in America AND Russia !
In my article next month, I’ll be covering a very special concert in Moscow dedicated to the great man himself, Jerry Lee Lewis. Stay tuned …………