by Britt Chester

Christopher Allred Photography | @awfullybrittish Winston-Salem blues act has a new musical language

Winston-Salem’s Marvelous Funkshun has quickly become one of the premier acts in the region for roots, blues and funk music. Since 2011, the group has undergone a few member changes “” common for bands trying to hone their sound and perfect the chemistry for both the stage and studio “” but it seems that since this past March, Marvelous Funkshun is performing as a cohesive unit.

Sam Robinson, 30, one of the founding members of the band, has been playing in and around Winston-Salem since he could find a stage to host his talents. Like many of its local musical peers (The Heritage, Elusive Groove), Robinson found a tight-knit community within the local open-mic events and jam sessions hosted at local bars.

“I met (Will Bagley) when he was playing with a friend in 2011, and he and I started playing together after that,” Robinson recalled. Without a band at the time and a relative home base for music, Robinson found himself and his new found music partners scouring the area for gigs. Since Robinson and Bagley connected, the group added Zach Landon, all of whom are still playing in the band. The band’s keyboardist, James Harrell, has since moved out of town, but will play with the act when they tour the area.

“We played around town at Winston-Salem Social Club, Foothills, and Finnigan’s Wake “¦ this was before Bull’s Tavern was even open,” he said.

Bull’s Tavern, located on 4th Street in downtown Winston-Salem, has become a go-to spot for rising blues and funk acts, due in part to its prime location in the heart of Winston-Salem and because shows are always free of charge.

Over the next couple years, Robinson said that the early beginnings and sessions for Marvelous Funkshun were often spent at places such as Ziggy’s where they found themselves playing with artists including Tim Reynolds, one of the guitar players for the Dave Matthews Band.

It was in late 2013 and leading into 2014 that Robinson discovered E-Jay Trice playing at the Ten O One Sports Club, which has since closed and is now Club Snap!

“I saw (E-Jay) playing, and as it turns out, I was a big fan of his relatives, The Lee Boys,” Robinson said. At the time Trice, was playing with another Winston-Salem blues artist, Aaron Gabriel.

“I’ve always liked the steel guitar stuff, and I’ve been on that for years”¦since Robert Randolph and the Family Band,” Robinson added. “I really like playing with Will and Zack, they are really good together, and we’ve gotten really tight with all of our experience playing together.”

But there was something missing, and Robinson believes he has found it with the latest addition to the band.

Trice, 24, seemed to be the puzzle piece that finalized the picture that is now Marvelous Funkshun. All the group was looking for, apparently, was a pedal steel guitar.

“I started playing with them in late March or early April,” Trice said. “I played with them at Bull’s Tavern, and that was my first time being on stage with them.”

According to Robinson, that first show was on St. Patrick’s Day.

Trice grew up in Pierre Part, Louisiana, but migrated with his family to Richmond, Virginia, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. His grandfather, whom he admired and was inspired by, musically, was already a part of a church up there.

“I’ve been playing lap steel since I was about three. I grew up watching my grandfather and uncles play in church, and it’s really just built up from then,” Trice said.

He went on to explain that his church in Pierre Part didn’t have an organ and relied heavily on the lap steel guitar, washboard, drums, and bass.

Trice has been in Winston-Salem four approximately four years, having moved here with his family when his father took a job transfer. They have since returned to Virginia, but E-Jay has found a comfortable home in the Triad.

“One of the things that kept me here was the music,” Trice said. “Growing up in Louisiana, you have a wide variety of blues, zydeco, sometimes you’ll hear indie rock, and you have those individuals that make up wild types of music that really make you feel good.”

He went on to compare Winston’s thriving music scene “” which is diverse and eclectic thanks to the support of local venues and arts programs “” to the memories he has from growing up and sneaking out to his grandfather’s juke joints to hear the backwoods sounds of his region.

“It really isn’t that much different, but there is a difference to hearing everyday zydeco and listening to backwoods musicians play old banjos, accordions, mandolins and single bass drums with a snare.”

Marvelous Funkshun maintains a steady schedule playing area venues, but touring and spreading the word about Winston- Salem’s music scene is at the forefront of the band’s motives.

“In December, we are going down to Florida, hitting Savannah, Georgia, and then the Downtown River Jam,” Robinson said. This past year, Marvelous Funkshun found itself touring from Virginia to Florida, hitting spots in Charleston, a couple BBQ festivals, and Grover Fest in Catawba, North Carolina. !


Marvelous Funkshun will play at Bull’s Tavern, located at 408 W. 4th Street, Winston-Salem, on Nov. 21. There is no door fee, but the show is 21+. Bootleg Dynasty will also be playing. The act will be playing Blue Bourbon Jack’s on Saturday and then Ziggy’s the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26.