Funky Big Sam gets even funkier, set for Lake Tahoe

Crystal Bay
Funkadelic meets Prince meets Band of Gypsys with Big Sam Williams, Jerry Henderson and Drew Baham.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Sam Williams was destined be big.

His size comes from his mother’s side of his family and his large sound is from his father’s side, which includes great-grandfather Buddy “King” Bolden.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation returns to the Crystal Bay Casino’s big venue, the Crown Room on Friday, Oct. 14. Jelly Bread will play the Red Room after-party jam.

King Bolden played cornet at the turn of the 20th century in the original jazz band (see link below). His blues-based dance music was was legendary in New Orleans, where his fans called him “The King.” Great-grandson Sam Williams is a trombonist, who also lives in New Orleans. He has a rock and roll bent to his sound and his shows inspire a dancing audience.

Big Sam Williams was an adult when he learned about Bolden, whose horn was heard for miles but was never recorded.

“That’s where I got my big sound,” Williams said. “I’ve known about him for a minute. I am trying to put my own stamp on the world. … He was small. My size comes from my mom’s side of the family. The Boldens were on my dad’s side, so I picked up my mom’s traits.”

Williams began playing trombone when he was 12 and at 15 started jazz. His favorite band was the New Orleans group the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which he joined when he was just 19.

He offered advice to aspiring musicians.

“Keep working hard and stay true to yourself,” Williams said. “If somebody says you’re not good enough to try something, just brush them off. People can feel if your music is genuine. Do what makes you feel good.”

Williams, who also played with the Stooges Brass Band, left the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and started his own group. Big Sam’s Funky Nation has released six albums since 2003, the most recent being “Evolution” in 2014. A new one is in the works. It will be funkier than its predecessor, he said.

“We are all (the band members) writing and I am collaborating with some other folks, too,” he said. “Hoping to have it out by first quarter of next year, fingers crossed.

“’Evolution’ was rocked out. I was listening to a lot of Jimi Hendrix. … People were not dancing as much, that’s why I going back to that straight, full-force funk. Giving people that feel-good music. Something that they can dance to nonstop until the end of the show.”

Williams formerly used pedals with his horn to emulate guitar sounds.

“My trumpet player (“Da Phessah” Drew Baham) still uses pedals,” he said. “I started to miss the natural sound of the trombone. I use pedals for my band Big Sam Trio.”

Jerry “J. Black” Henderson is the Funky Nation’s bass player. New to the band since its 2015 Crown Room appearance are Japanese native Seizo Shibayama, formerly of Papa Grows Funk, and drummer Alfred Jordan.

“As always, expect a good time,” Williams said. “High energy with a lot of good vibes. If you know some of the songs, some of the music, we try to change some of the arrangements to put a fresher take on them. The album has more of a rock edge. Now there’s a hint of a rock edge but there’s more of a funk/hip-hop kind of vibe to it, too. It’s just extra funky now.”

  • Big Sam’s Funky Nation
    When: 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14
    Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
    Red Room after-party: Jelly Bread
    Cover: free

Read about Charles “Buddy” Bolden, the first jazz “King.” LINK

Original Stooges Walter Ramsey, left, Big Sam WIlliams and Drew Baham reunited for a show at the Crystal Bay Casino in 2013. Ramsey is the band leader of the Stooges. Williams and Baham are with Big Sam's Funky Nation, which plays in the Crown Room on Oct. 14. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Original Stooges Walter Ramsey, left, Big Sam Williams and Drew Baham reunited for a show at the Crystal Bay Casino in 2013. Ramsey is the band leader of the Stooges. Williams and Baham are with Big Sam’s Funky Nation, which plays in the Crown Room on Oct. 14.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Here’s Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s “Feet On The Floor,” which was released last year.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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