A Nickel Bag of Funk
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A Nickel Bag of Funk

Savannah, Georgia, United States | SELF

Savannah, Georgia, United States | SELF
Band R&B Soul


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"A Nickel Bag of Funk crosses genres"

By Amber Zellner
It all started as a dare to go to the front of Tybee Island's North Beach Grill and sing for the entire restaurant.

Leslie Adelé, a former North Beach Grill bartender, was challenged by her co-workers to perform for the crowd. She recalls the crowd going crazy and asking for more.

This challenge helped Adelé realize she needed to use her musical talent.

She joined forces with some friends and a co-worker from the Tybee Island establishment and created A Nickel Bag of Funk. They will be performing at 10 p.m. Friday at Murphy's Law Irish Pub and at 9 p.m. Saturday at Tantra Lounge.

During a regular performance, all group members hop from one part of the stage to the next to play the keyboard, back to the drums, over to the bass and back up center stage to sing.

Adelé took time out of her schedule to talk to DO.

DO: Why the mix of so many genres of music?

Leslie Adelé: There's only two genres of music - good and bad. We can go from Anita Baker, to Chaka Khan, to Prince, to Maroon 5, to Anthony David. We just have a rich history in music. I went to the Savannah Performing Arts Academy. Tony Clarke, one of the original members, who is a jazz percussionist now, played with Leila Hathaway. With him just being with our band groomed us. He believed in us.

DO: What do you usually write about?

Adelé: I write a lot of ballads. Anything I do is soulful. I have written hooks for rappers in Atlanta. Actually, I wrote a country song four weeks ago because I wanted to. I write whatever I feel like. Life is the best song you can ever write. But it is all in my head. I sing it, and that's how it comes out.

DO: What message do you want to get through to your fans?

Adelé: Try to stay positive. This is why we don't do material that is offensive to people. I want to be positive. We are musicians; we take it seriously. We have worked on this craft - this separates us from jam bands.

DO: What things are challenging in being part of a band?

Adelé: The biggest thing is line-up changes. I am the only girl and I have challenges with the male ego - we fight like family. But in the end, I'd rather for us to stay friends than band mates. Hands down, I work with the best band members. I brag about my guys all the time.

DO: What does music do for you?

Adelé: I physically get high off of it. I completely wrap myself in the music - that's my drug. I crave it. I got to have music - it helps me focus.

DO: What is in your iPod now?

Adelé: I am listening to Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z, Lighthouse, TI, Robin Thicke, Snoop Dogg, Sam Cooke, Prince, Julie Dexter, John Mayer, Prince, Mozart - I listen to everything.

DO: Do you have a life outside of the band?

Adelé: I'd like to say yes, but I'd be lying. My entire world revolves around my music. If you want to see me, you'd have to come and see me play. Now, since I don't bartend anymore, I do have more leisure time. I spend that time with my granddaddy - if I am not singing, I make it a point to go and see him. If you ask my boyfriend this question he'll probably say "No." My band will give me an A-plus - he'll give me a C-minus.
- Savannah Morning News

"Former bartender now performs in front of the bar, on stage"


People get into the entertainment business for all sorts of reasons. For singer Leslie Adele, it all started with a dare and a bet.

Adele was working as a bartender at the North Beach Grill on Tybee Island near Savannah, Ga. It was Independence Day 2005 and one of the grill's regular bands, Eat Mo Music, set the tone for a partying vibe. While mixing drinks behind the bar, Adele was singing along to the music.

"One of my co-workers heard me and said, 'You sound better than the lead singer of the band,' " Adele said. "Then he bet me $50 that I wouldn't go up on stage and sing with the band."

Adele admits she loves a challenge and thought it sounded like easy money. So she asked the band's leader if she could sit in for a song. She came out from behind the bar, went on stage and sang My Funny Valentine.

"The crowd's response was better than I had expected," Adele said. "I ended up finishing the entire set, all the while jumping back and forth behind the bar to mix drinks."

With her bartending days behind, Adele will be performing with her band, A Nickel Bag of Funk, Friday at Twisted Sisters Bar and Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach.

Adele is the lead singer and her genre-ambiguous band, based in Savannah, performs covers and originals. A Nickel Bag of Funk's play list includes jazz, soul, rock, country, punk, R&B, gospel and funk. Her sound is a mix of Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, Miles Davis, Prince and Yolanda Adams.

"We're exactly what you'd expect and none of what you'd expect," Adele said. "People are shocked when they hear us do Nine Inch Nails or a Carrie Underwood song. I love to see the look on their faces. We try to take them on a roller coaster ride when we play."

Her Tybee Island singing debut more than two years ago didn't lead to overnight success, but Eat Mo's bandleader invited Adele to sing again with the band the next night. It prompted guitarist Justin Boykins, who worked in the kitchen at the North Beach Grill, to approach Adele about forming a band. They were joined by waiter Eric Dunn on bass and two grill regulars, Carnell Hudson on keyboards and Danschial Jackson on drums. They became the North Beach Grill house band and used the restaurant's name as a band name until they came up with A Nickel Bag of Funk.

For about a year, Adele worked as a singing waitress/bartender, taking care of customers while performing on stage. One night when the restaurant was short staffed, she sang from behind the bar using a wireless microphone. The restaurant's management liked having a novelty act. It even caught the attention of actress Sandra Bullock and her husband, Jesse James.

The couple were visiting Tybee Island, where James was recording his Discovery Channel television program, Monster Garage. James invited the band to perform music for the show. The only catch - it had to be an original because there wasn't enough time to secure music rights. At the time, the band had been together only a few months and hadn't started writing originals. But that didn't stop Adele, who penned Let's Go Back 2 Luv in time for the shoot the next day.

The juggling act eventually became challenging and Adele wanted to concentrate more on performing. She started bartending during the day and after her shift ended, she would go to a relative's house nearby to shower and change before returning to perform. In August, she stepped down from bartending to concentrate on music full time.

Adele is the only A Nickel Bag of Funk member who has been there from the beginning. The current lineup has been together five months. A Nickel Bag of Funk is now a family band with her cousins Eric Wilkerson on bass, Javenn Edwards on piano and Jessica Moore on drums. Along with singing, Adele plays the trumpet, drums, piano and bass guitar.

"We like to play a little game of musical chairs if the place is relaxed and loose," Adele said. "Everyone will get up and jump on everything else and we'll keep playing."

Adele comes from a musical family that extends beyond her current band. Her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and many other cousins are also musicians.

While she has always loved music, she didn't follow a direct road to performing. Adele played basketball until a knee injury put her on the sidelines. After college, she spent about six months in Atlanta working for Footlocker and also Hendu Recording Studios. She returned to Savannah and put her elementary education degree to work, but left after a year because tending bar was more financially lucrative. It also allowed her to focus on music.

Now Adele and A Nickel Bag of Funk are focused on the future. The band has mostly played in the Savannah and Hilton Head areas, but is starting to branch out to other markets in the Southeast. This will be their first performance in Jacksonville. Twisted Sisters' co-owner Sunny Gray said the band's music caught her attention.

"They have that sweet, soulful sound that I like," Gray said. - The Florida Times-Union

"Former Savannah High Hoops Star Returns to her Musical Roots"

By Robin Gunn
September 16, 2005
Leslie Gadson hardly looks the part of a music diva in the making, pouring drinks at the North Beach Grill in baggy khaki shorts and a faded t-shirt, with a bar towel tied to her belt loop. Yet one minute she’s opening another Red Stripe beer for a customer and the next she’s on the other side of the restaurant’s patio, singing lead vocals with her new band Nickel Bag of Funk.
What began as a summer job may well be the portal into another career for this former Savannah High and Savannah State basketball starter, who just completed her first year as Assistant Athletic Director for the Appoquinimink Boys and Girls Club in Middletown, Delaware. Since last fall, Gadson, 25, organized or coached athletic programs for over 1,000 children and teens, according to Elijah Richardson, Unit Director for the club. “She has a passion with the kids.” Said Richardson. “We would love to have her full time but with funding the way it is we aren’t in a position to.” That funding uncertainty brought the Savannah native home for the summer where she was hired as a waitress and bartender by George Spriggs, one of the owners of the popular restaurant on Tybee Island.
A dare from Spriggs and a coworker began Gadson’s “singing waitress” gig during the busy July 4th weekend. A local band was performing and the two said, “ ‘Oh, you can’t sing.’ Gadson recalled. “So of course me being me, I said ‘I’ll show you.’ I sang ‘My Funny Valentine.’ Everybody went nuts.”

Since that weekend, Gadson’s singing role has expanded, being called up to sing as she took orders for jerk chicken or mixed margaritas behind the bar.
“I’d be in the middle of serving somebody a drink and they’d say ‘Leslie!’ The customers were very cool about it, they loved it! And everybody that worked there loved it because people tipped more.”
Gadson’s musical roots trace back to her family. “Everyone in my family plays an instrument. It is not an option—‘you will play a sport and you will play an instrument.’”
She attended Savannah High School’s arts magnet program, the precursor to the Savannah Arts Academy. “I was a band nerd the first half of my freshman year. I played trumpet and drums in the marching band and the concert band. In the Bluelight Jazz Band I played trumpet and piano, and was allowed to write some compositions for that band. That was all in the first four months of my freshman year. Then basketball season came and kind of shut that down.”
As a 13-year-old freshman, Gadson tried out for basketball and made the first string. “I was the youngest one on the team. I got a little bit of good natured ribbing for that. The first game against Beach High School was really my break out game. It was like, the crowd, I am digging this attention, I am gonna play sports, all these people cheering for me, I like that!”
Gadson generated inquiries from nearly a dozen college basketball recruiters before a senior year knee injury cooled their interest some. Two subsequent injuries and knee surgeries eventually ended Gadson’s “hoops dreams” that took her first to the starting five for Savannah State in 1997-98 and then to University of South Carolina-Spartanburg the following year. Although initially dejected by the impact of the injuries on her life plan, Gadson now looks back on it as “a blessing. I was pretty arrogant my freshman year. I talked a lot of smack coming in. [Being injured] was a humbling experience; I am very thankful for it. It made me realize what was important. Getting my degree was more important.” USC-Spartanburg not only maintained Gadson’s athletic scholarship but added a supplemental academic scholarship. In 2001 Gadson earned a degree in sports medicine with a concentration in elementary education.
Gadson credits her mother, Dr.Carletha Youmans, Assistant Principal at Charles Ellis Montessori Academy, as the inspiration for her education minor. “She is very big on having a Plan Q, not just a Plan B,” said Gadson. “She’s like Pat Reilly, she likes to go very deep on the bench..” Youmans introduced her daughter to a wide range of musical influences—an eclectic list that includes Gustav Mahler, Janis Joplin, Cannonball Adderley, Nina Simone, and Etta James.
Gadson’s singing style mirrors her diverse interests, swinging from a smooth, low vocal opening a George Benson cover to an Ella Fitzgerald-like scat. When the band gets into a funkier mode Gadson sings loud and raw on Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good.” Her interaction with the crowd and her energy are a big part of the palpable chemistry among the band’s five members, and more than compensates for the occasional missed note. As Gadson jumps in time to an instrumental bridge it’s easy to imagine her shooting a three pointer from mid court.
In late August Gadson and drummer Tony Clarke pulled together some friends to form the five-piece Nickel Bag of Funk. “We come together, we clown, we have a good time,” said Gadson. “Tony’s dad says “How great y’all would sound if you ever actually rehearsed.” A lot of it is, you come to the Grill and the waitress sings. I’ve actually gotten stopped at the gas station—“You’re that singing waitress!” I honestly think if we rehearsed it would ruin it.”
Says Spriggs, “The quality of music we’ve gotten here lately has pushed the bar up. You can’t be Joe Schmoe to play here. You’ve got to be good at your craft.”
“Quite a bit of people come to hear [Gadson] specifically. I like it. As they play together more they’ll get together even more.”
Gadson is keeping an open mind about her future, which depending on funding up north and interest in the band, could include returning to Delaware or staying in Savannah--performing, doing some waitressing, and substitute teaching, which she has done in the past. As for more shows at the grill this year, Spriggs plans to have bands through the month of September and perhaps into October, “Depending on if I get a cry of “Music, music, music!”
- Savannah Morning News


Streaming EP for Myspace & Facebook

Shake That Leg
Baile' Lover
I Wanna Break Up
We Run This City
The Last Biscuit



A Nickel Bag of Funk started at a small table at The North Beach Grill on Tybee Island in 2005. The first show was played on July 4of the same year under the name The North Beach All-Stars. It was decided that the group needed a name that fit the spirit of the individuals involved. Since everyone was a fan of hip-hop, there was a re-discovery of the Digable Planets tune... and it fit.

Our musical style is an eclectic mix of jazz, soul, rock, R&B, gospel, and most importantly the funk.

We've been featured on the Jesse James cult TV hit "Monster Garage" on the Discovery Channel, in full-page features in The Savannah Morning News and The Florida Times Union, and have been personally requested to perform for movie star Sandra Bulloch and best-selling author Dr. Bertice Berry. We can also be seen at various venues throughout the southeast on the Funk U! Tour. The Funk U! Tour also afforded us the opportunity to perform at the Monte Carlo Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Leslie Adele's singing style mirrors her diverse interests, swinging from a smooth, low vocal opening on a George Benson cover to an Ella Fitzgerald-like scat. When the band gets into a funkier mode Adele sings loud and raw on Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good;” her interaction with the crowd and her energy are a big part of the palpable chemistry among the bands members" (Robin Gunn, "A Diva in the Making" Savannah Morning News; September 16, 2005).

A Nickel Bag of Funk was voted Savannah’s Best R&B/Funk Band 2008 by the Connect Savannah Reader’s Poll and won the 2009 Rock' N on the River Battle of the Bands sponsored by Rock 106 in Savannah, GA; competing as the only "non-rock" band they swept the competition by winning best bassist, drummer, vocalist, and finally battle champions.