Life sure got a lot more uplifting and sweeter when I met Big Jim Kohler on March 22, 2013. I walked into The Icehouse Waterfront Restaurant in Swansboro, NC to meet a man that lived in my own town and kept busy with his blues each week in my area. What a blessing, I figured out! He made me dance and helped to heal my soul every time I had the pleasure of hearing him with a guitar in hand.
He has been a huge player in inspiring my path back to music. I would go out and listen to Jim play and come home and remember times from my past. It was really incredible. It inspired me to reach out to blues players I had not heard from, but hearing his music it made me miss them. He has an incredible story of survival. He was in a near life ending car wreck when he was 21 years old. He flatlined on the table and by the grace of God came back to us.
Currently Jim is fighting for his life right now and has a long road ahead to recovery. Today he turns 50 and there is an emptiness in celebrating his day with things like they are at the moment. But I want you to know Big Jim has more in him. Kathy, his beautiful bride, has me convinced of this so today let’s all pray!
I say to the Lord, “I believe he has so much more to share with the world right here and I know I want to make sure everyone knows him and his story. So please let him stay and tell it,” In Jesus name Amen.
Since entering the hospital for pneumonia on August 21, 2017 Big Jim has been fighting for his life. He is very sick. His liver is shot, he has COPD and never smoke a cigarette in his life…but played his music in smoke filled rooms for much of his career. NC finally became smoke free in 2009. Today he is breathing with some assistance. In other words, my friend is very sick and is on life support! He has detoxed in these many days since he entered the hospital. I have visited with him a few times this week and he still does not even know about that. They have him sedated. He is an alcoholic and alcohol nearly took his life from us. Not only is that full of the blues, but it is a story we can share. It offers lessons for all of us. It explores the dangers of alcohol and provides a gateway to talking about substance abuse openly with our children while raising money for the people who spend their weekends working hard for our happiness.
This whole scare with Jim has provoked a lot of emotion inside of me and it has even led me into action. I personally can’t stand to see this man, who means so much to me, suffer. This is no way for anyone to live and people have been dying like this in his role for 100 years…how do we stop it? We talk, educate, offer compassion and fun times to all! It truly ignites action in my soul and from that came this crazy idea of starting a nonprofit for our local musicians. I will call this The Big Jim Kohler Foundation. It’s purpose will be to help artist and their families while our musician friends we love rehabilitate their lives and recover from substance abuse. The vision I have for making this happen does not alter the bar scene or music events already in place, it only magnifies them.
I have thought for a long time that it’s time to shake up the music industry especially on the on a local level and I feel like Jim, who is a deeply devoted, however intoxicated, family man is showing me how we can do that. When you also factor in the truths of why we can not celebrate him today there is grave lessons to be shared with alcohol and any other substance abuse. We live in an addicted society. We needed to create and enforce laws to deal with our drunkenness and instead of that being our first sign we have been looking for ways around it. Being around music for as long as I can recall, I have know thousands of musicians. Jim’s story is real, personal and one that can be shared to enrich our communities. We can hold car washes all around town and donate those monies to the foundation. We can host bake sales with the schools and church groups to raise money. We can get together with our neighbors and organize our first ever community yard sale / block party and I will bring a band that will play the event. Then you donate and watch your donations help music makers and bring music to communities that are missing out. What a foundation.
We can bring a concert series to all of our little Private Owner Association neighborhoods, apartment building blocks, apartment houses and even assisted living, nursing homes and cancer rehabilitation centers. We could organize hospital tours and so many other events to keep their rehabilitated players busy and working but in a more conducive atmosphere than in a bar where any stranger who loves you buys you a shot!
Where Big Jim and I call home it is a huge little big town with lots of tiny communities. My plan will bring music to the rec centers and parks and or courtyards of these places.
After brain draining for the past 10 days I think it is at least worth the effort of trying. When I tell you there is a lot happening right now with the Kohler family, it’s no lie. They have two children in high school and Jim’s oldest son just got in town yesterday to be here with his father. Kathy is trying to be by his side as much as possible, while keeping the household going too. She also works, taking care of a former customer of mine, also celebrating a. birthday today. With Jim resting so comfortably these days, the duo will not be gigging so money will be tight for a while. Kathy has been doing what she can to get the family assistance, but day to day needs happen day to day so thankfully there is much happening to help this family too.
Many of the bands and the players in our music community are collecting tips and giving it to The Kohler’s. It is amazing how many tip jars I have seen out there in one night fill up…so that wave of cash will help keep this family running on track with day to day bills. while we figure out what is happening with available assistance programs for the family.
Limited Engagement is securing the gigs that the Kohler’s have booked at the Red Room in the months ahead and will offer those nights pay to the family. I will be reaching out to The Red Room about organizing fundraising nights for those gigs.
A GoFundMe page has been set up and these contributions will provide Kathy the money she needs to keep the house afloat…pun totally intended and allow her to stay with her husband more and worry about the bills less in this difficult time. It will also help in meeting their children’s needs. To contribute to this fund and help the family now please click on this link:
I reached out to GEM Productions and Bailey Evans attended my Call To Action meeting for this idea of helping Jim and musician’s at the Harvey Mansion last week. We hope to organize several fundraising events in the year ahead to help develop the foundation.
Beyond my “Jammin’ For Jim” campaign which will last until his birthday next year and offer many music events to gather donations so to get this foundation off the ground, I am seeking communications with potential board members including a lawyer and accountant who could contribute to such a major undertaking. I know this from the response I have generated so far…I have the whole music community behind me.
I also know, as an observer of people and one who dwells near the seedy and poor sides of life, we live in a scorned society. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as an acceptable way to deal with “Shit” when in reality, we know it only adds to the problem. So often I feel people who are already hurting end up stuck in their sorrow because they don’t see a way out. If we can give musicians a hand in finding the way out of darkness, much like the way their music helps guide me to the lighter side of living…then it will be a great mission accomplished.
When you live life as a music maker in bars all over, you are more likely to offered as much alcohol as you’d like; and some nights more. It’s not uncommon to be offered drugs freely either. What a thrill…to get the singer high or shoot up with the guitarist, or snort a line with the bass man. And it’s all fun and games and great and cool until I have to go hold my friend’s hand and pray for a way so that no one suffers like him again!
Last weekend I caught up with Limited Engagement last weekend when they rocked the crowd outside at BruTopia located at 1201 Highway 70E, New Bern, NC.
This band is fairly new on the scene. They offer all the fun party sounds that make you want to dance. The band features James Ford on guitar and vocals, Freddie Scungio on drums and Billy Mobley on bass guitar. They offer a fun mix of popular tunes that makes dancing easy. The band will be live on the deck at the DoubleTree this weekend , Come out from 5-9 pm on Saturday to enjoy some supper and fun music while you dine on the patio, weather permitting. Should the weather ruin the outdoor fun join the band indoors at Christoph’s. They serve the great food while the band dishes out the fun sounds.
Ford and Scungio are also the rhythm keepers for Big Jim Kohler, so when Kohler fell ill it seemed to be the thing to do to save Jim’s income was offer venues Limited Engagement so they could secure the Kohler’s income.
Arson Daily played last weekend here in town and at Crossbones Tavern located at 114 E 5th St., Greenville, NC. What a fun time enjoying original rock sounds with New Bern connections rooted in each band. Zach Durham the singer and guitarist for the rockin trio was raised in New Bern. Currently the band is teaming up with other originals act around the state and playing in new venues throughout NC. To keep up with the band via social media check out their facebook page by following the link below:
You can keep up with their upcoming shows and band news and merchandise by visiting their website:
What I did not mention about Arson Daily is that they were closing out the a series of nights, headlining for shows with more original rock from New Bern by way of Bearfoot Monty. First they played Live at the City Laundry in New Bern on Friday night and where I first caught the band. Then they opened the night in Greenville on Saturday. I love this young group of unique rockers. They are working hard pushing shirts and collecting donations to record their first EP. To keep up with this band you can find them on facebook at
On Sunday afternoon I rounded out the weekend of great music by calling a meeting with fellow citizens, music lovers and performers at Harvey Mansion on Sunday where we gathered for good conversation, good music and inspiring ideas for better helping our area musicians. Live on the patio with the soothing sounds was Justin Castellano. He offered music from 5-8 pm while many came out to meet with me and offer ideas in how we can rally for Big Jim. Castellano and Kohler spent many of nights jamming around this town, so I wanted him to be a part of the news of course. What I learned is that our entire music community is awesome and they all deserve this effort!
Rick Huff has a show tonight a Snapperz Grill & Steam Bar which is located at 3710 Arendell St., Morehead City. Live music plays from 7-10 pm. The grooves are fun and familiar and food is fresh and delicious.
Also making an appearance in Morehead City this evening at Tight Lines Brewing Company will be the incredibly talented singer songwriter based out of Richlands, Hank Barbee. His show will begin at 7 pm and conclude at 10 pm. The show is free and his music is awesome. TLBC is located at 709 Arendell St., Morehead City, NC. To keep up with him and his band The Dust Parade, click on the Hank Barbee Tab above and check out his website.
New Bern’s own jazz ensemble, Casablanca will offer a performance to folks at Cru Bar & Wine Store/ Beaufort Coffee Shop located at 120 Turner St. Beaufort NC. Music starts at 8 pm and this show is free.
I remember a bit over a year ago walking into the Dirty Bird during open mic night and took a couple of pictures of this young girl named Tiffany Elaine. After I shared them, she returned to New Bern and I took some more. This little bit of work inspired this girl to grab hold of her dreams and SING! She will be returning to New Bern and playing on the patio tonight at The Harvey Mansion. Come out and make Tiffany Elaine and her guitarist Jimmy Kennedy feel welcome as the offer the music under the tent from 8-11 pm. Located at 221 S Front St., New Bern, this show is free.
Live on the patio tomorrow at the Harvey Mansion come out and enjoy the rocking jams of Wick Wickline who will give it up from 8-11 pm.
Live on the patio this Sunday Dan Jam Phillips will be “Jammin’ for Jim” and collecting tips during his gig this Sunday at the Harvey Mansion Circa 1810 Bar & Restaurant . Come on out and listen to Dan jam with friends during the dinner hours of 5-8 pm.
Getting back on track with happenings for tonight we find our friends at Bernaroo offer us a night of great music with Kate Rhudy live tonight at The Brown Pelican located at 411 Broad St., New Bern, NC. Music starts at 7 pm and the jams go til 10 pm. Come out and support this young star on the rise.
Live at the City Laundry located at 901 Pollock St, New Bern, NC offers a jazz jam featuring the talented crooner and band leader John Van Dyke and here are all of the details:
Friday September 1st Pro Jazz & Blues Jam with John Van Dyke and the band
Singer John Van Dyke will host a jazz jam session featuring some of our area’s finest players. The band will be swinging the blues and standards. Always a fun, high energy show! Musicians who wish to participate are encouraged to contact us so we can put you on the guest list. 7:30 pm show Tickets $10.00
Last but not least tonight, New Bern, we offer the Wannabees live at Triple Play Restaurant. located at 111 Williams Rd., New Bern, NC. There will be $5.00 cover charge for the music and the band plays 8:30 pm til 12:30 am. This classic rock band is awesome. They offer songs you know and they give from the heart. Larry Swinson. guitarist and singer for the band reached out and wanted me to let me know the band would be collecting donations for the Kohler’s so be sure to be on hand as they kick things off Jammin for Jim.
Now then those are not the only gigs to tell you about. If you have a Facebook account there are plenty of other events going down. Each week I ask where everyone is playing in the days ahead…here is what the fine folks told me this week:
Once again if you have Facebook you can search the many music events happening throughout the state by clicking on:
That is all my news and music that I found for your dancing pleasure. I hope you get out and enjoy the sounds of live music sometime soon. I am dedicated to making sure you know where to go to find it. If you like this blog please sign up and get an email each time we publish. I appreciate my readers, the musicians and the venues who all do a part in keeping live music alive! Thanks for keeping me informed!
Please take kindness with you today and hug strangers. Don’t forget that life is short and could end in a moment, so make sure you take time to enjoy the dance. Party safely people! We love having you here with us! You rock, so don’t roll the car! Rely on sober friends, call a cab or sign up to Uber around!
Send all of your event invites to me on Facebook, so I know where you are playing in the days ahead. I can be found on Facebook by following this link:
I also read emails daily. You can send those to: