Cover Story

By Brian Soergel

Life has a funny way of delivering setbacks.  Sometimes they can be life-saving.           
In 2005, bassist and Oklahoma native Wayman Tisdale bought a home in Southern California. Although he also hung onto his farmhouse in Tulsa, his West Coast digs brought him closer to the heart of the smooth jazz industry to get more gigs and to take his career to the next level.  Taking advantage of his new environment, the former pro basketball superstar played in celebrity basketball games and in the summer of 2006 performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” direct from Hollywood.

Then, in February 2007, everything changed.

Tisdale had undergone outpatient Lap-Band surgery to take off at least 100 pounds, part of a plan to get healthier.  During his pro basketball days, the six-foot-nine-inch Tisdale weighed 265 pounds, but as he entered the California Surgical Weight Loss Center at West Hills Hospital, his weight had ballooned to 365 pounds. The surgery was successful, but while recuperating at home Tisdale fell and broke his right leg.  While being treated, doctors determined that a cyst in his knee had caused the fall.  Tests showed the cyst was cancerous, and it was removed.  Following a five-month regimen of chemotherapy, Tisdale underwent a grueling eight-hour knee-replacement surgical procedure.

Today, Tisdale says he's 100 percent cured and is looking forward to a full slate of shows in 2008 –– including this month at the 10th Annual Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida –– in addition to the upcoming release of his eighth CD, appropriately titled Rebound.  

“At the end of the day, after breaking my leg and going through what I went through,” said Tisdale, “I thank God that I broke the leg and found out what was going on.  It's still an ongoing process, but man, I'm encouraged and staying positive.”

Tisdale now lives exclusively in Oklahoma with his wife Regina and two of his four children, Wayman Jr. (affectionately known as Bubba) and Gabrielle.

“I'm taking care of things out here on my farm, just enjoying life in the slow lane,” he said.  “L.A. just got to be a little too fast for me.”

Tisdale's oldest daughter, Danielle, graduated from the University of Oklahoma last year.  He is also a grandfather for the first time after his daughter Tiffany, who is attending the University of Oklahoma, gave birth to a baby girl named Bailey.
“It's the best feeling in world to have a granddaughter,” he said.  “Having your own kids is great, of course, and having grandchildren escalates it to the next level.”

Tisdale is taking it easier, but not too easy.  After his cancer diagnosis, he was forced to cancel more than 40 shows, but he made a triumphant return to the stage on Sept. 22 at Thornton Winery in Temecula, California.  He then joined the Dave Koz & Friends Christmas tour and hosted Jazz Cruises, LLC’s smooth jazz-themed cruise in January (he'll also host the full-ship charter again in 2009).  He said he was touched by enthusiastic responses from audiences during his comeback, where concertgoers saw him slightly hobbled, but sporting a new, sleek figure.

“It's important for me to maintain my weight now,” Tisdale said.  “My health is very important to me, especially my weight.  I don't want to battle that, and it's important I keep it under control.”

For the rest of 2008, Tisdale said he plans to tour solo for the most part, skipping the popular package tours.  As part of every show, the bassist plans to talk about his story of recovery.  When he hosts his cruise next January, expect to see a band that Tisdale himself will have nurtured.  This past October in Tulsa, he held the first in a series of what he's calling Wayman's Challenge open auditions to help find an opening act for special performances and to possibly open for Tisdale on tour. The next round is coming up soon...

**The complete story can be found in the April edition of Smooth Jazz NewsSubscribe today.  Receive 11 editions of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (February through December), for $35.

For more information on Tisdale, visit his website at

On tour: on land and at sea

April 19
Seabreeze 106.3 Jazz Festival
Gulf Place Outdoor Amphitheater
Intersection of County Hwy. 30A and Hwy. 393
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
(800) 595-4849

May 17
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival
1107 Jamboree Road
Newport Beach, California,
(949) 729-6400

Jan. 18-25, 2009
Jazz Cruises, LLC, smooth jazz-themed cruise hosted by Wayman Tisdale
Full-ship charter to the Caribbean
Aboard Holland America’s ms Westerdam
Embarkation/Debarkation: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Ports of Call: San Juan, Santa Barbara De Samana, Santo Domingo, Half Moon Cay
(877) 330-5299