With a little help from his friends, Snuzz takes his curtain call

by Ryan Snyder

With a little help from his friends, Snüzz takes his curtain call

Sometimes the hardest thing you can do is accept help from others, even when you need it the most. Veteran songwriter and noted sideman Snüzz knows all too well, since that’s exactly what he dealt with when first informed that some friends and fellow musicians wanted to throw a benefit show on his behalf. Snüzz (born Britt Harper Uzzell) was diagnosed not long ago with Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, an extremely rare form of lymphatic cancer of the non-Hodgkin’s variety, and like so many full-time musicians, doesn’t possess the necessary health coverage for the kind of treatment his disease necessitates.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not. I’m not going to have people gathering to give me money.’ I had a lot of trepidation and it just felt creepy. I know that the people who would come to a show like that would be mostly musicians because I never really have been a musician of the people,” said Snüzz. “They’re the ones who are least in a position to donate to me. They’re like I am; all trying to survive on original compositions and probably uninsured themselves.”

It look a little poking and prodding and a whole lot of letter writing from his supporters before he finally got on board. Dubbed Snüzzfest, the initial event was organized by his friend Catie Braly and former bandmate Django Haskins, currently lead singer of the Old Ceremony.

The event took place at Chapel Hill’s Local 506 in September and took in nearly $7,000. Now only a week before he’s set to begin chemotherapy to combat the disease, Snüzzfest West will take place at the Blind Tiger this Sunday and will be the iconic local figure’s last public appearance for quite some time.

“Over the week after I said no, I got shitloads of e-mails from people who were trying to talk me into allowing it to occur. The gravity of getting so many letters just made me cave in and I’m really glad I did. It’s bee a great, spiritual healing thing for me,” Snüzz said. “I can’t articulate how beautiful that expression has been. I don’t think I deserve this and if I do, I kind of question why I’m singled out to receive this amazing gift.”

It won’t come without a bit of aplomb, however, as literally dozens of close friends and associates will gather once again to lend their emotional support. One letter that helped to convince him in particular came from the former Squirrel Nut Zipper’s guitarist Tom Maxwell, whose leukemia-battling son was given his own benefit show where Snüzz played.

“Tom wrote me the most amazing, articulate letter about allowing people to help you,” said Snüzz. “If anyone knows about it it’s him. It’s important for those who want to help just as much as it is for you.”

Maxwell and Snüzz don’t have the richest professional or personal history, but a keen mutual respect exists, one that he shares with several of the artists on the Snüzzfest West bill. That sentiment is echoed with the appearance of Whiskeytown co-founder Caitlin Cary.

“Caitlin gave what I thought was probably the most amazing performance of the night at the first Snuzzfest and she’s going to be doing the same song,” said Snüzz. “Caitlin’s another that I was never close with, which makes it even more amazing that she would just offer up her services like that.”

Not entirely familiar with the cast of the show beforehand, he met the news that singer and guitarist Greg Humphreys would appear with an emphatic “Oh, hell yeah.” Snüzz said that Humphreys, who founded Dillon Fence and Hobex, has long been a profound influence on him.

“I’ve always admired his chameleonic efforts to switch his music up,” Snüzz said. “He’s got one of those soulful, dirty, scratchy voices. He’s a great singer and I just love that dude.”

The night will also include performances from Athenaeum, Walrus and former Ben Folds cohort Robert Sledge, but not all on the bill have that kind of rich musical history behind them. Charles Smith, who goes by the name Big GMC, is a mentally-challenged friend of Snüzz’s whose spoken word art he hopes people will afford a chance.

“His angles of observation are everything a good song should be. His songs can take you through a whole gamut of emotions; it’s touching, it has humor and elements of exhilaration and sadness,” Snüzz said. “Those who get his stuff love it, but those who don’t might wonder if I’m participating in poking fun, which of course I’m not.”

Snuzzfest West will take place at the Blind Tiger on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. Suggested donations are $10.