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The Band

Jim Conway has assembled an astonishing array of talent to galvanise the ranks of his new dream band. “Big Wheel” boasts an absolute all-star line up of musicians who share Jim’s passion for Blues, Jump and Swing. Big Wheel features the talents of Jim Conway, Don Hopkins, Jess Green, Stan Valacos, Andy Byrnes and R. P. White. Each member of ‘Big Wheel’ is uniquely talented and stylistically distinctive and while they each draw from a wide source of influences, collectively they exhibit an instantaneous and uncanny empathy.

This fusion of diverse inspiration is evident in the Big Wheel’s mostly original repertoire that draws on 30’s swing and boogie, 40’s and 50’s rhythm and blues, Caribbean, Latin and New Orleans stylistic elements. It’s little wonder that their inaugural CD, Little Story received an ARIA nomination for Best Blues Album in 2004. From its humble beginnings in Jim Conway’s lounge room, Big Wheel had the magic, a distinctive sound that jelled from the start.

Over the past five years the band has performed at many festivals including Port Fairy Folk Festival, Bellingen Jazz Festival, Wangaratta Jazz Festival, Brunswick Music Festival, Illawarra Jazz Festival, Woodford Folk Festival, Narooma Blues & Roots Festival, Kiama Jazz Festival and Balmain Acoustica. Over the last year, one of the bands major projects was to record their long awaited second CD, Share This Life.

Phil Punch

Band Members

Jim Conway: Harmonica, backing vocals
(Backsliders, Conway Bros, Captain Matchbox)

Jess Green : Guitar, Vocals
(Jess Green Trio)

Don Hopkins: Keyboards, Vocals
(Gumbo Fever, Dr Don’s Double Dose)

Andrew Byrnes: Drums & Percussion
(Hughie & The Swing Thing, Psycho Zydeco)

Stan Valacos: Bass, backing Vocals
(the Young Olympians, Tom Baker Tribute Band)

R. P. White: Sax, backing vocals
(Renee Geyer, Russell Morris, Deltones, Shirley Bassey)


Band Members Brief Biographies

Jim Conway (harmonica, Backing vocals) is a highly accomplished harmonica player whose distinctive style is well known to blues, jazz and country music enthusiasts. His extensive career includes national tours with American blues man, Brownie McGhee, The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, Circus Oz and The Backsliders.

Don Hopkins: (keyboard, vocals) Don Hopkins, who is well known in the Sydney blues scene, has performed professionally since the early seventies. Don’s blues drenched vocals are backed by a virtual history of blues piano styles. Ragtime, Boogie Woogie, Stride, Jazz, & New Orleans R&B. Artists covered include Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, Jerry Lee Lewis, Doctor John, Leadbelly, Huey Piano Smith... with many well known songs given the Don Hopkins treatment.

Jess Green: (guitar, vocals) Winner of the 2006 Jann Rutherford Memorial Award (to assist in the professional development of an outstanding young female jazz musician) Jess Green’s career is set to climb. A first class honours graduate of the Canberra School of Music, ANU, majoring in guitar, she has composed original scores for theatre and studied and performed in Europe. Jess has performed her original compositions with her own bands (including the Jess Green Trio) at many established Australian Jazz venues and festivals, including Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival, Devonport Jazz Festival and Palmer St Jazz Festival (QLD) as well as playing at Blues/Funk/Rock venues and festivals with Big Wheel and other bands.

R.P. White: (Sax and Vocals). Born in Missouri USA, R.P came to Australia in the early 70’s. Originally a bass Trombonist, he also mastered trumpet, sax Guitar, bass and most other ‘pop’ instruments. Versatility is a key word describing this musician’s full-on career. In his own words; “I have been in everything from the Las Vegas Symphony to the Six-pac Bottle-blow Jug Band, a career that’s taken me from relative obscurity to complete oblivion.” R.P. rates his involvement with Big Wheel as ‘a pure delight.’

Stan Valacos: (db bass, backing vocals) is a highly respected musician in Jazz, Blues, Brazilian and other music circles. Born in Sydney, Stan learned classical guitar as a child and later studied how to drink and play Jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, although it did take a while to learn how to do it at the same time, thanks to the Oz Cats, led by the talented Ron Falson. Much revered by his peers, Stan has played with just about everyone including Ian and Nigel Date, George Washingmachine, Dave Paquette, Cathy Harley, the Barnard family (including Bob, Adam, Tony and Rebecca), Geoff Bull, Matt Baker and others too numerous to mention… And Loving It!

Andrew Byrnes: (Drums & Percussion) Andrew’s career begins back in the early 80’s with Sydney band “The Moffs”, as they toured the country and released 3 singles, mini album, and an album with citadel records. 1989-93 saw Andy freelance drumming with many different outfits including rock, funk, Latin, Spanish, Greek, Russian, Indian and fusion music. He has toured the USA with “Bob Armstrong” and has studied Indian Tabla intensely. In 1993 he toured nationally with pop group “The Clouds” and in1994-96, worked full time with swing outfit “The Harlem Shuffle” and “Psycho Zydeco”. Since early 2003 he has continued to tour and work internationally. with the live Australian Electro Dance band Loonaloop, the "Genre hopping troubadors of modern electronica" .