March 2008

No Rehearsal Necessary

Author: Erin Clemmons

B-Town Playaz have their act together

Chem-is-try. This is the word Clarence Williams uses to describe his band, the B-Town Playaz. Readers who “religiously” follow the band will be interested to know that the trio got its official start in 2002, as a church band at St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton. The first gig they played together as a threesome was at a church member’s birthday party, and they have been together ever since.

Composed of singer/guitarist John O’Gorman, bass player, Clarence Williams and drummer Jeff Franklin, the band has become a Bluffton mainstay. Playing Fridays at Bluffton Ale House and now crossing the bridge to play at Stages on Saturday nights, the band truly loves what they do. The band plays cover songs from all genres and many eras, and are the self-described “greatest wedding band ever.” They play a huge variety of music, undoubtedly contributing to their ability to engage diverse crowds of all ages.

Each member had a unique beginning that led him to the B-Town Playaz. Lead singer, O’Gorman was originally a member of Deaz Guys, until he bought the Bluffton Ale House and found his time in short supply. Originally from New York, he lived in New Jersey and Charlotte, NC, before moving to Bluffton in 2000. In addition to his jam sessions with the band, he finds time to enjoy fatherhood to two daughters and a son.

When the three began to play at the Ale House, they would call themselves something
different each week. O’Gorman finally came up with the band’s name when he observed a nerdy teenager wearing a shirt that said PLAYAZ and found humor in the contradiction.

Watching O’Gorman work the crowd at Stages is entertaining. He brings a bride at her
bachelorette party on stage to sing “Hit me with your best shot” and plays to the crowd with song choices and energy. While O’Gorman is the lead singer, he says
that he has the best back-up guys ever and that the B-Town Playaz are in one word—talented.

Drummer Jeff Franklin moved to the United States from Canada with a touring rodeo called the Calgary Stampede in 1990. They traveled up and down the East Coast and came to Hilton Head Island for the Heritage Classic for two weeks. Franklin moved here shortly after.

Franklin also played at St. Gregory with O’Gorman before branching off to parties and events. He too plays father to two daughters and a son. Franklin is the contact man for the band and does all of the band’s booking. Over time, Franklin and O’Gorman added a requirement on their booking contract of: one bottle of Don Julio tequila. As a popular wedding band, the pair found that this addition added to the fun of the receptions.

Clarence Williams is a bassist with diversity and experience. After moving to the area from Washington, DC, he and Franklin met in the early ’90s at Big Rocco’s on Hilton Head Island. While the restaurant/bar did not last, their relationship did. Clarence is a fulltime musician and describes the Playaz as “guts, determination and… mayhem.” It is
obvious that Clarence enjoys his role in the band, and the chemistry that the band exudes is clear. Williams’ local pride shows as he sports his Bluffton Bobcats hooded sweatshirt at each gig.

Most impressive is that the band has never held a rehearsal. They depend on each other and continue to read the crowd for their choice of songs. They play weekly gigs at the Ale House and Stages, and additionally at weddings, parties, and special events.

The band’s fame has quickly expanded beyond the Lowcountry, as they are landing gigs from Charlotte, NC to Daytona Beach, FL. Their most memorable experience as a band came at the Water Festival in Beaufort three years ago. In front of a crowd of around 3,000, the band rocked Bay Street and the crowd was electric.

Don’t let the name of the band fool you. The trio is famous not only in our not-so-small-anymore hamlet, but are a HUGE attraction at the Daytona 500. This is one of the highlights of their year and experience as a band. Thanks to O’Gorman’s friend and ex-NASCAR driver Jimmy Foster, the band plays annually at the Ocean Deck on the beach at Daytona. They are sponsored by Miller Lite and have even had fans request autographs on their new leather jackets and beer napkins after the show. Franklin humbly responds that his signature “would surely make the jacket worth less than without it.” Despite their small town beginnings in Sunday morning church services, they have truly spread their wings through the Daytona, developing many followers.

The B-Town Playaz have become famous in Bluffton and beyond because of the fun and energy they ignite, the diversity of their experience and repertoire, and their skillful ability to read and work a crowd. How do they cope with a lackluster audience? Light it up with John Denver’s Country Roads. Or….break out the Don Julio. The group not only electrifies crowds with their music, but they have the heart, passion, and fun-loving appeal that will make loyal fans out of anyone who sees them just once.

To see the B-Town Playaz live, visit the Bluffton Ale House any Friday night or Stages on Hilton Head on Saturdays. To book the band for weddings, events or parties, contact drummer, Jeff Franklin at 843-298-7008.

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