Welcome to a very special Father’s Day Black Music Month profile of two extraordinary gentlemen — a father and a son — who are both proficient band leaders and beloved entertainers. On the eve of Black Music Month, Wednesday, May 31, the PRIDE had the pleasure to sit down with the legendary Jimmy Church and his tremendously talented son Wendell ‘Bizz’ Bigsby-Church for over two hours to explore their relationship. The focus here is on their shared joy of performing and leading a band that these two magnificent musicians share.
Jimmy Church got his start in the music business back in his high school days in the mid-1960s, and found that he really admired the late Jackie Wilson. He modeled his early efforts after Wilson, but soon found success when he developed a love of playing the bass guitar and wisely saw that longevity in the music game would come from holding a band together and managing the business end and taking care of his band members. He saw that success in many settings came from playing the music so it sounded like the record, so he polished the sound and perfected the show — the look of the lady singers and the bandsmen.
Thus The Jimmy Church Band has been a staple of the Nashville and international music scenes for decades. Through the years, Jimmy has maintained a band that has several members who have been with him for a lifetime. He also has cultivated an extensive loyal international following that allows him to travel the world and play for weddings and bar mitzvahs and public and private parties. You can also catch the band, like I did recently, at public events like mayor Megan Barry’s inauguration in the Music City Center and the Metro government 50th Anniversary event on the Public Square.
Jimmy doesn’t brag about his recordings, including his latest or his other historic accomplishments — it takes his son Bizz to tell you about them. And Bizz loves to tell you about his pops, and how he has learned from him, both formally – from what Jimmy directly said to and showed Bizz, and informally – from what Bizz saw and picked up on through observing Jimmy.
Bizz proudly shared a recollection from when he was only three years old. His aunt showed him what was happening on television late one Saturday night, ‘back in the day’ — in the days before Soul Train, when the practice, though illegal, of segregation was still a daily fact of life for us in Nashville. He saw his pops playing his music on TV on Night Train to Nashville, and was amazed and inspired. There was proof that his dad and therefore he could do anything if they worked hard at it and believed in the music.
Eventually teen aged Bizz formed bands and sang at talent shows and for gigs around town in the popular amateur fashion of the 70s and 80s that so many of us did then, before the rise of rap/hip-hop, when young cats would get guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, and horns and play favorite songs on their instruments, and guys and girls formed singing groups backed by these players — it really was a very special time for pop music. Bizz continued to get inspiration and mentorship from Jimmy, and develop his skills at singing and playing and leading a band, but hadn’t really taken it to that professional level.
Later on, Bizz’s mom died, and Jimmy stepped in and took his adult son on the road with him for five years, at first just to run the lights, and so forth. But through a series of events, Bizz was thrust into a frontman role, singing and performing with his idol — his dad, and honing his skills and learning the business on a professional level. Traveling with The Jimmy Church Band, the band that VOGUE Magazine has crowned the #1 band for weddings in the world, Bizz finally decided that he needed to take his craft to a higher level, and after that apprenticeship, in 2011, he founded his own band, Bizz and Everyday People.
Bizz and Everyday People is now one of Nashville’s most popular and in-demand bands for weddings, parties, and club dates, a favorite festival opening act, as witnessed by their opening for the Music City Jazz Festival last month, and opening for next weekend’s Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival. Their gigs at Carol Ann’s and Bourbon Street Blues Bar are always packed houses with many enthusiastic fans and lots of loyal followers.
Find out more about The Jimmy Church Band, the music they play and how to book them, at their website www.thejimmychurchband.com. Learn more about Bizz and Everyday People, the music they play and how to book them at http://bizzandeverydaypeople.com