Utica’s Black Music scene will miss Phoenix Radio DJ
By Cassandra Harris-Lockwood
Though I didn’t know Bryson for very long I sure knew who he was, and that was at the top of Utica’s contemporary Black music scene. Hip Hop was not very familiar to me when I started the radio station but I understood it as a powerful art form that consumed the consciousness and character of Black culture and the commitment of Black DJ’s.
I had not been a part of Utica’s bar scene during the 80’s or house party scene during the 90’s and into the 00’s where DJs were so prevalent. They defined birthday parties, anniversaries, family reunions or just plain fun in homes, in parks or in clubs and bars, they were there spinning tunes and scratching and blending. But the stories were numerous and legendary about Big B and his skills. Most especially the heyday of WPNR at Utica College and Bryson was always acknowledged as the top DJ among DJs.
I also learned that Hip Hop had become the most popular music genre on the planet. People of all ages and across generations in town acknowledged Big B as the top DJ in Utica and the surrounding area. People still marvel at his ability to create magical mix tapes especially for them and his impeccable skill to please and move a crowd with his selections. It was understood that had Bryson gone to any other market he would have risen to the top and been a standout there as well. We were lucky to have our Big B.
Bryson also immediately understood the power of the radio medium and set a standard for those who were there and those who have come after. He knew the unique significance of Black folks having the ability to speak with an independent voice to and he protected it with a serious bearing.
I did a lot of watching and listening when 95.5FM the Heat started up. I watched the leaders and the DJ’s as they came along and came and went. Some were cruel. Some were kind. Many didn’t last but, when the dust settled, it was Bryson who maintained and sustained the operation. He was attentive, reliable, skillful, funny, talented and he was a confident leader. He was our Head DJ and Studio Manager and his passing created not only a devastating loss in so many hearts but a hole in the technical operation of the radio station. To say he is missed is an understatement.
I miss Bryson’s artistry, his humor, his handsome smiling face, his strength and reliability, his intelligence, his leadership skills and his resonant, smooth and powerful voice. Bryson was a standout on so many levels that it’s really impossible to quantify his loss.
The Collins family and loved ones still grieve and so do we here at Phoenix Media. But we carry on because he would want us to do that. In his own words, “Radio don’t stop.”
Big B Included in Oneida County Black History Archive at Hamilton College
We are all very proud to announce that Bryson Keith Collins will always be remembered as a local Hip Hop legend. With the donation of his original turntables by his nephew and Phoenix Radio staff DJ, Alex Pollard, he will be included as the focal point of the developing new Hip Hop exhibit of the Black History Archive on the Hill.
Christian Goodewillie, curator of Special Collections of the Burke Library writes, “The Fillius Jazz Archive and Special Collections at Hamilton College is pleased to accept the donation of one of Collins’s turntables, which will be preserved and made available to students and scholars studying Hip-Hop and Utica’s Black history.”
Community participation please
The college is interested in adding to the collection early ephemera, such as event flyers and posters, mix tapes, and oral histories from participants in the Utica Hip-Hop scene. Relevant papers, visual materials, and a sampling audio recordings (preferably oral histories/period mix-tapes; commercial recordings, locally produced or by local artists; and finally, this collection will be a discrete part of the Oneida County Black History Archive, which is itself a collection within the Central New York Manuscripts collection.
The public can contact Phoenix Radio with information about any materials intended for donation.