Big Nasty
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Big Nasty

Band Blues Funk


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"Big Nasty"


There is a low rumble being heard around the South Sound these days. A long time sleeping giant of the Blues, seems to be awakening. The multi-awards winning R&B band, Big Nasty has gone from playing an occasional reunion gig to actively seeking engagements. Big Nasty was last active about fifteen years ago and played regularly throughout Western Washington, with Tacoma as their base. The band is made up of long time veterans of the NW Blues community. The band was known for their instrumental prowess, slinky rhythm section, and striking stage presence. Big Nasty is fronted by the Chanteuse of the blues, the 1995 BB award winner for best female vocalist, Shelly Ely.

After a few opening instrumentals, Shelly takes the stage and captivates the audience with a wide ranging songbook that includes the funky “Small Potatoes” (written by Portland’s own Lloyd Jones), the Tommy Johnson standard “Big Road Blues”, and mesmerizing “I Rather Go Blind.” Shelly sounds like a young Janis Joplin.

On lead guitar is the fabulous Jho Blenis. Another multi BB award winner, Jho is the founder of the band Bump Kitchen and occasionally holds down the lead guitar chair for Little Bill and the Blue Notes. He is a songwriter, sometime vocalist, and a guitar player in the school of Joe Johansen and Rich Dangel.

A native of Onalaska by way of Mossyrock, Clifford “Buck” England, is an original member of the WBS Hall of Fame band.
From his early days as a member of the road band Clayton Watson and the Silhouettes, the teen band George Barner and the Corvettes, and Little Bill and the Blue Notes, Buck has traveled the many roads and back alleys of the NW. Most recently, he has been playing in the classic organ style trio with Butterbean and most recently with HipBone. Buck is the master of the Hammond B3 and still carries two Leslie cabinets with him on the road for that “Dave Lewis” NW sound. To this day Buck’s reading of “David’s Mood” remains the definitive version.

On drums and stage MC is Michael Kinder, cofounder of the classic Tacoma rock band, Gabriel, and mainstay of the long running Blues Brothers Revue. Mike is an innovative vocalist who is known for his version of Johnny Adams “Body and Fender Man” and other blues standards.

Rounding out the rhythm section is longtime Tacoma musician Terry J on base. Terry provides the funky bottom for the band with his looping bass lines.

- Pat Lee (Weekly Volcano 2009) - The Weekly Volcano

"Buck England - Bluesmaster"



Buck England is a passionate man. He is passionate about his main instrument, the Hammond B-3 organ, he is passionate about his Leslie speakers, he is passionate about gardening, he is very passionate about his lovely wife, Quirina, but most of all, he is passionate about music. Some people, like every soundman in the NW, think he is just cranky, but his friends say he just wants everything to be exactly perfect, all the time. According to Buck, this is not an unreasonable assumption. Buck and his long time friend Little Bill still argue about whether Buck was fired or quit the Bluenotes. As best as I can figure out, Buck has been thrown out of the band so many times, he deserves to be a lifetime Bluenote. Buck claims that he has mellowed out since his heart attack, but I have seen club owners and fellow musicians cower in fear when he walks by. I remember a time when I was helping Buck load his equipment into The Central in Pioneer Square. For some reason, against advice, I thought I could push both of Buck’s Leslie speaker cabinets uphill to the club. My plan worked fine until the wheeled cabinets decided to simultaneously go different directions. Well, I could only stop one, and the other took a minor detour out into the street. I knew I was in trouble but I had no idea how much. Buck would not speak or look at me all night and would just look at his cabinet and shake his head. To this day, years later, Buck will be glad to show you the scars on his Leslie and complain in infinite detail about lack of competent roadies. As I said before, Buck is not cranky, just passionate.

Writing an article about the career of Clifford “Buck” England is a daunting task. He has had so many adventures and seen so many changes to the music business, and surprise, has opinions on everything, that it is difficult to condense his life into a few paragraphs. Buck started out on the great NW teenage rock ‘n roll dance circuit in the ‘50’s, started playing the blues with the Bluenotes in the early ‘60’s, joined the psychedelic revolution in California in the late ‘60’s and then retired back to the NW to preserve his health and sanity. After a number of years out of the music business, Buck then returned to his roots by rejoining the Bluenotes and has since gone on to playing all over the world in various combos in his search for perfection. Buck has won more awards than you can imagine. He is a member of the the WBS Hall of Fame Band, he has won best keyboards, he has won Blues Master of the year from the Tacoma Blues Festival, the Joe Johansen award, and an award from Canadian Fraternal Order of Celestial Musicians. These stories could easily fill a book, so please bear with me as we just touch on just some of the highlights.

Clifford was born in Morton, a small town in the foothills of Lewis County in southwest Washington in 1942. Buck’s parents were involved farming, construction, lumber, and horses. Buck grew up in Mossyrock and Onalaska and from the beginning credits his Father as the major supporting influence in his musical career. His music teacher, Quevy Thomas, would come by every Monday and would teach barrelhouse and stride piano to young Buck. He soon discovered rhythm & blues by listening to the radio (the Wolfman Jack show) on the ridges outside town. Buck started playing with his cousin, Joe Johansen (lap guitar) on Sundays at Grandmas and fondly remembers learning Bill Doggett’s version of “Hold It” in the key of “B”. Buck first started playing in public for the local PTA with his sisters but quickly moved to the piano chair at the age of 15 with local teen sensations, Clayton Watson & the Silhouettes. Clayton was as big as it gets in Lewis County backing up Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Bowen, & Buddy Knox on their local tours which were booked by the legendary Pat Mason of Seaside, Oregon. Buck bought an amplifier and contact mics and would hook them up to the pianos at the gig. After a bit, he was able to afford his first electric piano, and purchased a Wurlitzer. Buck remembers their manager booking a date in Klamath Falls, Oregon as a concert with Fats Domino, Larry Williams, & Little Richard. While the Silhouettes sounded like those giants of R&B, they certainly didn’t look like them or more importantly, weren’t them. At the last minute, the manager said that all three were sick and Clayton and the boys played the gig. By this time, Buck was also checking out the other touring bands and immediately became a fan of both Little Bill’s band & the Wailers out of Tacoma. He particularly remembers being amazed by the talents of Richard Dangel & Rockin’ Robin Roberts. In 1960, Buck graduated from high school and joined The Corvettes out of Olympia which featured Big George Barner on vocals. The Corvettes toured the NW ballroom circuit and played extensively in Ellensburg at CWU. Tiring of playing Litt - Washington Blues Society


Big Nasty - 1995.



Big Nasty has been around since the early 90's, in various forms. They have reunited in the last couple of years to feel that "magic" again. The chemistry is undeniable. They feel it, and you'll feel it. All the way to your funky little toes. The musicians are each the gold standard in their respected craft. They are not only a great dance band, but are "musicians' musicians," and drop the jaws of the best in the audience.