What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Apparently, that includes Big Sam Williams’ trombone.
The West Coast Tour for Big Sam’s Funky Nation started on a really bad note. The New Orleans band’s van was burglarized Wednesday in Las Vegas, where the tour began. Big Sam Williams’ trombone, Seizo Shibayama’s guitar and JBlakk Henderson’s bass and amp were stolen, along with personal items.
The stolen gear was quickly replaced by the BAC Music Center of Kansas City. Williams called Tahoe Onstage after doing a soundcheck at Crystal Bay with the new gear.
“That was my baby,” he said of his 4-year-old custom trombone, one of only two of its kind. His had a saint design, a unique shape and finish.
He said the horn is worth $6,000, Henderson’s bass is valued at $1,500 and Shibayama’s electric Tokai guitar at $2,000. The gear was not insured.
All told, stolen items and damages totaled more than $10,000. A GoFundMe account has been established to replace the equipment. As of Oct. 20, $4,477 had been raised by 100 donors in five days. Here’s a LINK.
Henderson bought a new bass Friday in Reno at the Guitar Center before the band’s performance in the Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room.
Williams said it was one of the few times he’s ever left gear in the van, which he had driven from New Orleans. After the first show on the tour, he said the band members were exhausted and hid their instruments under seats before retiring to their hotel rooms. Shibayama took one of his guitars to his room.
“We were getting ready to go to Lake Tahoe in the morning and when we got to the van I said, “Aw, man,'” Williams said. “I was hoping they were just going for a iPhone charger or something like that, but they took everything.”
The thieves took CDs, the van’s speakers, Williams’ Krewe du Optics custom sunglasses and even couple of trombone mouthpieces from the glovebox.
“Nobody could have seen it from the outside,” Williams said. “There was a big-ass rock and they just smashed it through the window. I think that they were just trying to see what was in there and they got lucky.”
After police reports were filed, the band members spent the day at visiting pawn shops.
“I was hoping, and being optimistic, that we would find it in Las Vegas that day because my horn is a pretty unique horn,” he said. “If somebody goes into a pawn shop or Craigslist or anywhere, somebody’s going to say, ‘That’s Big Sam’s horn.’ I am hoping they didn’t throw it into the trash somewhere.”
The Kansas City music store BAC sent this message on Instagram: “We hate hearing when an artist has their horn stolen … But we will always bend over backwards to help out our BAC Family! @funkybigsam will have a horn tomorrow for his gig!”
Williams said he and the band members were downtrodden because they’d been “playing with that gear for years.”
However, they will play on.
“We are going to finish out the run, but we really want to get back,” he said. “But we are going to get the job done.
“That’s the beautiful thing about the music. Once you start playing, you forget about all of that. Once I get on stage, I am going to do what I do and it’s the same thing with Seizo and JBlakk and the whole crew. Once we start playing music, we forget about all the negativity.”
In June, Big Sam’s Funky Nation was named Best New Orleans Band by the writers at Where Y’at Magazine.
Sadly, traveling musicians are vulnerable to vehicle thefts. Dave Mason’s guitar was stolen the day before a recent show at South Shore, Tinsley Ellis’ van was burglarized several years ago in San Francisco, and in May bluesman Guitar Shorty had his van, trailer and all his gear stolen in San Francisco.
Last year, thieves stole thousands of dollars in instruments from a Pasadena school band before two huge weekend events — including a performance at Disneyland.
Related story: Big Sam explains how he got his big sound. LINK