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Big Sam’s Funky Nation: With Liberty And Funk For All

By Johnny Griffith

Some music is written to be listened to.

Now, before I get the “Well, Duh” response, allow me to explain.

Some music is written to be passively consumed in a subdued, structured, vanilla environment, and then there is music that is written to be not so much listened to…but rather actively experienced. Yes, you hear it with your ears…but you feel it in your soul in such a manner that you almost have no choice but to let the music move you, get you out of the chair, and onto the dance floor. That kind of music isn’t just written from a place of theory and technical proficiency, but rather its written from a place of being…a place where the music isn’t just what you know…it’s who you are, it’s what’s happening around you, it’s your North Star, and it’s your foundation.

This, my friends, is the foundation upon which Big Sam Williams has built his Funky Nation.

If you’ve never heard of Big Sam’s Funky Nation (BSFN), you are in for a rare treat. One of New Orleans best kept musical secrets, BSFN was the brainchild of Sam “Big Sam” Williams, a Crescent City native, dynamically gifted trombonist, and graduate of the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Big Sam came up through the musical ranks in the Big Easy, gigging non-stop for most of his life in and around the streets and venues shadowing the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. Sam didn’t even let Hurricane Katrina keep him from a regular gig…at one point driving 9 hours from San Antonio every weekend for almost two years just to play back home.

Talent, hard work, and persistence will get you on a lot of people’s radars, and Big Sam has plenty of all three. After several years of playing an all-star run of gigs with acts like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Widespread Panic, the Dave Matthews Band and recording with legends Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello on their collaboration, Williams was ready to step outside the box and mix it up a bit. Big Sam drew on his extensive experience and put together a phenomenal ensemble to share the stage with and collaborate on this new force of nature that wasn’t just another brass band from New Orleans. Big Sam’s Funky Nation takes the signature horn sounds of the trombones and trumpet as well as guitar, bass, and keys to weave a tapestry that includes threads of multiple genres and time periods that bring people from all walks of life together in appreciation of not only the music…but the experience.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation will make a stop on their current album promo tour in Tyler at Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q, Thursday, July 12th, for one show only, bringing the funk to the people of East Texas. I recently caught up with Big Sam on the road to get to know him and the Funky Nation a bit better.

Johnny: When did you first develop an interest in music and was the trombone your first choice or did you eventually find your way there?

Big Sam: I developed an interest in music around the age 15. I was in the marching band prior to that, but once I got to high school, I wanted to dig deeper, so I auditioned for New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), and I’ve been rolling since then.

Johnny: Growing up in a city where music is much a part of the fabric of life, was it always in your mind to find a way to make a living doing this thing you love or did the path find you along the way?

Big Sam: The path found me… I had no idea that I would ever be a musician, especially full-time. When you have a calling, you can’t deny it, you better answer!

Johnny: Speaking of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, there has obviously been an all-star roster of musicians to walk the halls there before you. How much did following in the steps of musicians like the Marsalis brothers, Harry Connick Jr., and Terence Blanchard inspire you to take your talent and love of the gig to the next level?

Big Sam: BIG TIME! Those are some heavy hitters, so to think that you’re in the same building that these cats came up in is enough motivation on its own.

Johnny: So you’ve had quite the impressive resume before BSFN, helping found the Stooges Brass Band, performing in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and sharing the stage with a diverse roster that ranges from James Brown, to Dave Matthews, to Elvis Costello. Do you feel being able to interact with and create with such a large range of personalities and styles helped plant the seeds of the Funky Nation?

Big Sam: Definitely! As a musician, you organically create from your experiences with other gigs and experiences in life. All of those ingredients help you create your own gumbo and Funky Nation is my gumbo.

Johnny: So how and when was the Funky Nation born?

Big Sam: BSFN was born in 2001 but I was touring with Dirty Dozen 300 days a year, so it was impossible to pursue my own thing full-time. After I left Dirty Dozen, I got a call from Allen Toussaint and performed with him whenever he had his big band, including the Elvis Costello tour and album “River in Reverse.” I didn’t pursue Funky Nation full-time until 2007-2008.

Johnny: You guys aren’t just another jazz band coming out of New Orleans; your sound is a mix of old and new that isn’t afraid to step outside the box and combine genres with flair, proficiency, and a little extra swagger. How would you describe your music to someone who is about to walk in to their first BSFN show?

Big Sam: Thanks! I would describe it just the way you did! Here’s the thing… some people have a preconceived notion of what “New Orleans music” is… especially when you say it’s a horn band. They think brass band and/or Trad band… but that’s not us. We come to bring the FUNK! Get out of your seat and dance kind of music! If you intend to sit down and drink some wine, this isn’t the show for you. You’re going to sweat and possibly wake up sore the next morning because you’ve never danced so hard before in your life.

Johnny: This tour is in support of the band’s latest album “Songs In The Key Of Funk.” How has the reception to this release been so far?

Big Sam: The reception has been off ‘da chain! The show is different than before now, so fans are getting a mix of some of the classic BSFN catalog mixed with the new and a couple covers. Some of the new favorites seem to be “Apple Pie,” “PokeChop,” “Buzzin,’” and “What’s My Name.”

Johnny: The new album has a definite throwback feel that takes the listener back to threads of the P-funk and R&B sound of the late 70’s and early 80’s. What inspired the fusion of sounds?

Big Sam: This is the sound that I’ve been going for for a minute.. even though “Evolution” was more of a rock album, you can hear where I wanted to go on “Coffee Pot” and “Bad Karma.” Even going back to “Funky Donkey.” We just took a slight detour, but we’re here to stay with the funk! The funk is here to stay. This is a dance album which represents the band perfectly.

Johnny: So for all the first timers who are thinking about making the trip out to Stanley’s to catch the show…what can they expect from a Big Sam’s Funky Nation experience?

Big Sam: Expect to party and have a good time! This music will definitely get you moving!

Big Sam’s Funky Nation is: “Big Sam” Williams (trombone, lead vocals), Drew “Da Phessah” Baham (trumpet, vocals), Jerry “JBlakk” Henderson (bass), Keenan “Butta Cream” McRae (guitar), Alfred “Sgt. Gutta” Jordan (drums), and Kendrick Marshall (keys).

For more information, tour dates, and music check out the Funky Nation on the web:

bigsamsfunkynation.com;

facebook.com/bigsamsfunkynation

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“Yesterday, The Las Vegas Beatles Tribute” Brings Tour To Tyler Sept. 14th


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Capture the raw energy and sheer excitement of the most historical music group of all time, when  “Yesterday, the Las Vegas Beatles Tribute” hits the stage for one night only at Wise Auditorium at Tyler Jr. College on Friday, September 14th at 7:30pm.

“Yesterday” is a full two-hour show rich in memories portraying musical icons “The Beatles.”

“Yesterday” transports its audience to a bygone era of magical innocence. Featuring some of the most finely written songs ever performed, this production is a spellbinding enactment of the best-loved pop group in the history of modern music.

“Yesterday,” encompasses all eras of the Beatles music from the Hamburg days through Shea Stadium and into pop history’s magical Sgt. Pepper’s and beyond, with superior showmanship, flawless voices, and exceptional musical abilities, this is one not to be missed.

Complete with Beatles boots, drainpipe trousers, authentic costumes, musical instruments, and singing songs in their original key, “Yesterday,” performance is spot on in every way.

“Yesterday” is featured with other Las Vegas celebrities on giant LED video walls at McCarran International Airport, welcoming all to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” …Las Vegas! Of all the Beatles Tributes, “Yesterday” is Sir Paul McCartney’s favorite as he asked to come backstage for a photo with the band.

“Yesterday” has toured Japan seven times and performed worldwide on five continents. With superior showmanship, flawless voices, and exceptional musical abilities, this band is finally coming to East Texas and is not to be missed.

Here’s what the press has said about “Yesterday’s” performances:

“Don Bellezzo portraying John, bobbing with Lennon’s cheeky mannerisms, had a voice that was so accurate, it sent chills down my spine.” – Union News, MA.

“Outstanding vocals during Nowhere man. Everybody clapped and swayed with Lennon during ‘Revolution.’ McCartney sang ‘Hey Jude’ as the audience joined in the chorus and began waving lights in the air.” – Rockford Register, IL.

“‘Yesterday,’ which just opened at the Tropicana, is an explosion, a wonderful blast from the past. A thrilling and reverential tribute to the Fab Four, ‘Yesterday’ gets it right!” – New York Daily News.

“The audience jumped to their feet giving these four lads a standing ovation even at intermission.” – The Independence, IL.

“‘Yesterday’ was spot on in every way. By the time they reached the encores, the packed house was on their feet dancing and singing!” – Atlantic City Press.

“Yesterday, The Las Vegas Beatles Tribute” will be performing one show only at Wise Auditorium at Tyler Junior College on Friday, September 14th. Doors open at 6:30pm and show time is at 7:30pm.

Reserved seat tickets are $25, $30, and $35, inclusive of all credit card and ticketing fees.

Tickets are available online at markbellpresents.com or by calling the “Yesterday” tickets hotline at (817)896-3652.

For more information visit markbellpresents.com or facebook.com/yesterdaylasvegasbeatlestribute.


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Bibeau in Concert August 25th


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Bibeau has a rare Tyler show booked at Click’s Live on Saturday, August 25th with our Louisiana brothers, Anxiety, the mod blues band, Matt Coats Trio and the fantastic female duo from the Dallas area Sweet Chaos (who recently opened for Bowling for Soup). Help break 500 people in attendance! Tickets will be available at the door for the low rock ‘n roll price of $7. Must be 18+ to attend unless accompanied by a parent/legal guardian.


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Bands

Upcoming 10th Anniversary Season at Old Firehouse Announced


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The Old Firehouse is an intimate, smoke-free and alcohol-free “coffeehouse” that has made a name for itself by bringing national folk musicians and their all-original music to Edom’s unique listening room and stage. Info can be found at theoldfirehouse.net or by calling (903)852-2781.

Concerts are typically scheduled each month from October through April and can be found at theoldfirehouse.net, along with links to samples of the music.

For the 2018-19 season, Old Firehouse will once again be offering Season Tickets for all nine Acoustic Music Concerts. By purchasing this season ticket, you will receive: admission for one person to all nine Acoustic Music Concerts, reserved seating of your choice that will remain yours throughout the season, one “bottomless” cup of coffee at each concert, freedom from having to remember to buy concert tickets month-to-month, advance ticket price for all concerts, and 20% discount on concert series merchandise (hats, t-shirts, tote bags, bumper stickers).

The cost per ticket is $111 (includes sales tax). Once the season begins, these tickets may no longer be available. Checks may be made out to “The Old Firehouse” and mailed to: The Old Firehouse, 8241 FM 279, Edom, TX 75754.

If you do not want to purchase season tickets, admission prices for concerts are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, and events are on Saturday evenings beginning at 7:30pm with doors opening early so the audience can enjoy coffee and desserts that are always available.

Scheduled this season is:

  • October 20th: Tony Ramey
  • November 10th: BrownRandy & Friends (Neal Katz & Connie Mims)
  • November 24th: Beth Wood
  • December 8th: Terri Hendrix
  • January 19th: Andy Gullahorn
  • February 2nd: Beyond the Pale
  • February 23rd: Tom Kimmel
  • March 23rd: Jacob Johnson
  • April 6th: Edie Carey

If you would like to sponsor any of these concerts, please contact info@theoldfirehouse.net.

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