Big Sam's Funky Nation at Two Sisters Kitchen
As Sam Williams' music career soared, so did his weight, fueled by post-gig snacks of burgers and eggs.
That changed the day he and some friends were weighing themselves for fun. "Everyone's weight came up except mine," Sam says. "So I bought a scale that went up to 500 pounds, and I saw my weight."
Today, the man who meets me at Two Sisters Kitchen is trim-waisted and powerfully built, biceps dwarfing the table as we lean over the menu (they have us at the cornbread, sweetly listed as dessert).
Sam allows himself one piece, but foregoes the rice on a plate otherwise crowded with mustard greens ("fresh and clean," he says, "and not too salty"), perfect-seasoned baked chicken, and two creamy yams.
He'd earned his nickname, Big Sam, by age 12; so tall (nearly six feet) that it was impossible to stay on his school's basketball team. "I was too big to play with my age group," he says.
He found a new endeavor in his school's band - specifically, in the trombone. "I like that you can bend the notes, slide into them," he says. "From day one I developed a love for that instrument."
He learned to sight read, refined his skills, found mentors at Heritage School of Music and NOCCA. Through a friend, he met Dirty Dozen Brass Band trumpeter Efrem Towns, who eventually offered him a spot in the band for a three-month tour - starting the next day.
Would you hesitate? Would you find valid reasons to say no? Sam took the job and never looked back. "Everything was in the right place at the right time, and I was ready to work," he says.
Sam's recent weight loss shows in his funky restless dance moves - bounding up and down the stage, engaging the audience - that have become one of his concert signatures.
Another trademark is his muscular trombone, loud enough that in smaller venues, the sound guy actually turns off his mic. And this is where you see that, height or not, Big Sam was destined for music - his greatgrandfather was ragtime cornetist Buddy Bolden. "He was known for his sound, you heard it across the river," Sam says. "It was handed down to me."