I was wondering down Main Street last Saturday night and heard some great music coming out of Deckerz Bar and Grill. It was BigTime and the main thing I noticed besides the great music and shared vocals was that everyone was having fun.
One of the things I loved most about the band is their ability to play to the crowd and their repertoire of songs performed from oldies to country to contemporary. So wanted to find out more about them and spoke with John L. Wilson.
JW: Playing to the crowd actually come from years of being a DJ for me and for my dad Johnny. He taught me that if you’re not getting a reaction from a certain style of song, then you better switch gears and play something that will get a reaction… a positive reaction that is. This is why we try to learn songs from various genres and time periods. As far as the singing goes, it would be very difficult for one person to sing every song within a four hour / 3 set gig. Multiple singers are vital to what BigTime does.
GSH: Who is BigTime?
JW: BigTime is the Party Band for the Party People!!! No matter where we are, whether it’s Deckerz in North Myrtle Beach, SC or Lakefest in Clarksville, Va… people are going to have a great time with us. We’ve got two Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame inductees in the group. They are our newest member Tracy King on trumpet and one of our longest serving members, Bill Hancock, who’s also my brother-in-law, on keyboards and vocals. My sister, Tiffany Hancock sings several songs and plays percussion… she’s also an amateur ghost hunter. That really makes for some very interesting conversations. Our drummer Mike Harriss is the youngest member of the band but has the oldest soul. He keeps us in line and in time. Craig Saunders keeps the bottom end booming on his MTD bass guitar. Our sax man, Craig Cottrell, is a killer vocalist as well who does an awesome Elvis Presley tribute during our shows. Todd Arrington is our guitarist who keeps himself hidden in the back but, when he wants to be heard he’ll jump to front of the stage and just lay down some of the best licks ever to be played on six strings. I sing the majority of the songs, play guitar on a few and do my best to lead the band and the crowd through our high energy show. My dad, Johnny Wilson, is our manager, booking agent and sound man. Big Daddy!!! He’s there to make sure everything goes like it should. He actually started out singing in this band and will occasionally come up on stage to sing a song or two. BigTime would not be here without him leading the charge.
GSH: How long have you been together?
JW: Like so many bands, we’ve had some lineup changes over the years. Johnny founded BigTime in 2003. He asked me to come aboard when he started the band to run sound, sing backup and maybe play guitar on a song or two. But, I didn’t stay very long. It wasn’t a realistic scenario for me. But, a more realistic scenario came about with the first major lineup change in the band and I came back in 2007. Bill has been in the band longer than anybody on-stage logging in 11 years. Tiffany came aboard in 2008. Craig Cottrell is currently serving his second tour of duty with us. I think combined he’s got 6 years in with us. Mike has been with us almost 3 years now. Craig Saunders… about 2-1/2. Tracy and Todd both joined this year. Currently, we’ve got some of the best musicians in the region. This lineup kicks butt and takes names … that is for sure.
GSH: Did you ever think that the band would be successful?
JW: That really depends on your perception of success. For me, being successful is being able to perform for great crowds every weekend, write and record music and get songs on the radio. After a couple of years of doing this, I realized that we were becoming successful at those things… regionally speaking. But, it takes a lot of patience and time, years to achieve. It’s not easy but, if you work hard enough and wait long enough, you can start to see your efforts pay off. We’re seeing it now 12 years after the band began and we feel like we’re really just getting started. I’ve always felt that this band had the potential to be successful as long at the right people were in it and the right chemistry between the band and the crowd was present. It took a while but, I think we’ve got that now.
GSH: Can you share one of your favorite stories from being on the road?
JW: There are so many. I’m not sure if I can pick out just one. The most interesting ones usually involve Craig Cottrell… whether it’s me talking to him on the phone while driving to a gig and the tire on our trailer explodes or if it’s him being rushed to the hospital after a gig because he worked so hard that his heart was beating too fast. We have great experiences. Doing a show with legendary Beach Music icon Clifford Curry ranks pretty high on this list.
GSH: What is the bands’ favorite thing to do in your time off? Do you hang together or need space?
JW: The four of us that are related see each other pretty regularly as we are based in our hometown of Pittsboro, NC. The band as a whole is spread out from Ringgold, Virginia, to Rocky Mount, NC, to Youngsville, NC, to Chapel Hill, NC and Durham, NC. Sometimes a few of us have gone to concerts together. Todd, Craig C. and I went to see BlackBerry Smoke a couple of months ago. That was awesome!!! If we are playing in the Myrtle Beach area and staying overnight, several of us have been known to hit the town to see our friends / competition playing at the various clubs in the area. Tracy and I recently enjoyed a killer show from Jim Quick & Coastline for their next to last show ever at HOTO’s in Cherry Grove.
GSH: What can we expect from a Big Time performance today?
JW: High energy, a good variety of songs from various genres and time periods. You might even witness some injuries. I say that because at a recent show at Deckerz, I was “living in the moment” and got way too excited while standing on top of a picnic table. I jumped off with the intention of doing a split mid air but, instead I did a STOP DROP & ROLL. I skinned my knees and elbows a little bit but, my hat and glasses stayed on… which I thought was pretty cool. I was able to pick up my microphone to sing the next line of the song without missing a beat. Crazy. You really never know what you’re gonna get at one of ours shows. We don’t know either. That’s what makes it fun.
GSH: Where is your favorite place to perform on the Grand Strand?
JW: We’ve played several places in the area over the years and have had a great time at all of them. We really enjoyed playing the Horseshoe concert series for three years straight. We’re hoping to return to that in 2016. Currently, we have been playing Deckerz once a month since April. We love it there and Scott, Amy, Alan and the whole crew treat us well and see the value in having us at their venue. They gave us a chance when others wouldn’t. Our crowds there have consistently been getting bigger and better with every show. For that, we are very grateful to play at Deckerz.
GSH: What is your favorite thing to do on the Grand Strand?
JW: Going to see other bands. For all of us in BigTime, music is a driving force in our lives. We appreciate other musicians and their talents. It’s not unusual to find some of us at the shows of Jim Quick & Coastline, Hip Pocket, The Holiday Band, The Castaways, The Embers, the Band of Oz and any other bands that may be playing in the area when we are here. And the cool thing about that is, we’re also friends with a lot of these other band people. There is a sense of competition there and that is good to keep all of us on our toes. But, I think we all appreciate one another as well. Nobody knows what a musician’s life is like except other musicians. Walking around Broadway at The Beach is exciting as well.
GSH: What advice do you have for budding musicians?
JW: If your heart is truly in it and you are confident that music is your calling in life, don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not worth pursuing. Most musicians that play music for a living barely make enough to get by. I’m not talking about the ones that make it big in New York or L.A. The ones right here in the Carolinas are the ones I’m talking about. So many of these folks give everything they have to write, perform, record, live and breathe music. Music touches and changes lives and if one person out there is touched by a song in a positive way, then that is worth more than any amount of money. However, making money doing it ain’t too bad either. Both are achievable with the right attitude and dedication. But, be aware of what you are getting into. Research the dos and dont’s of the music business.
GSH: What do you want the readers to know about you?
JW: Besides my family, music is my life. I’m not the best musician or entertainer in the world but, I love what I do and my band mates in BigTime love what they do and what we all do together. We’re just one big, slightly dysfunctional, musical family. With that said, new music is coming real soon from BigTime in 2015. Stay tuned!!!