By Jess Szabo
On September 24, 2019, Phoenix Media lost Bryson Collins, known professionally as”Big B.” Although “B” is no longer with us here on earth, all those who work for and with Phoenix Radio, the Utica Phoenix, and/or For the Good, Inc would not be enjoying the success we have today if not for his dedication, professionalism, and friendship.
“Big B” was truly a Utica legend, and his legacy will forever be a part of Phoenix Media, especially the radio station, whose studio now bears his name. One year after his passing, co-workers and members of his family reflected on his legacy.
Utica singer-songwriter and Phoenix Radio Program Host Lou Santacroce remembers “Big B” as a dedicated DJ and all around great guy.”I didn’t know him as well as some, but I knew him well enough to call him a friend as well as a colleague,” Santacroce said. “He knew his job and he loved it. He took it seriously, and was always ready and willing to come to the rescue when something was wrong or you had a problem, regardless of the day or time. I sure miss him!”
Rapper, songwriter, and DJ Jonathan Brooks is known to Phoenix Radio listeners as “J Easy.” He credits DJ Big B with both the education and inspiration he needed to launch his career as a DJ. “B taught me how to develop my radio personality and have fun on the air,” J Easy said.“He also taught me the technical aspect of radio, which is extremely important. I find myself looking out for everyone, just like he would.He meant the world to me. He was one of the biggest supporters of my music and radio. He was a big brother to me.” J Easy noted that he would most like people to remember “Big B” as someone who loved both his work and those he worked with. “Big B loved people and he loved to entertain,” he said.“He was heavy on family, related or not. He took so much pride in the station and wanted it to be the best out.”
Bryson’s fiancee, Shimeen Bell, described Bryson’s love for the music and for the radio station as something that was a part of him wherever he went.
“I want the community to always remember his high energy and his love for the station, love for the music in general,” Bell said. “Bryson was like the beat of the music. He embodied the music. When he would listen to music, he would always listen to the little stuff that you don’t hear, like the downbeat and the baseline. He brought the station home with him. The station was definitely his second home. He loved the place. Once he became a member of the 95.5 The Heat team, that was it for Big B. That became his baby. If only you could have seen the amount of time he put into his music. Every evening when he came home from the station, he wanted to make sure he was bringing an even better show the next day than he gave the day before.”
Bell added, “I love him and miss him and his legacy will forever live on. Bryson was not only my love of my life, but he was my best friend. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but one thing that was a sure thing was the love he held for his Shimeen. He was my strength through many hurdles, my motivation when I had very little. Best friends is actually an understatement when it comes to us. He was my protector.”
She noted that Bryson was intrigued with nature, and loved to learn more about anything that caught his interest.
“He was such a wise man, there was not much he did not know, and if he didn’t know something, he had no problem going out of his way to find the answer.
Bell further spoke of what an honor it was to be his fiancee, saying, “My hubby may not have had a million dollars, but he had a million dollar heart.”
Jayden Bell, age 13, is the son of Shimeen Bell and Bryson Collins.
“He was my stepfather, but more like my real Dad,” Jayden said. “He loved everybody. He loved his family. He used to take me to a lot of his parties with him. He taught me how to DJ.”
Travina Laplante-Woods is Bryson’s daughter-in-law. She describes Bryson as the best grandfather and father-in-law anyone could ever ask for.
“I miss his advice, his hugs, the laughter. I miss the life lessons he’s taught me. I miss the help I got from him. I miss just getting random texts or voice messages from him being silly.”
Laplante-Woods said that if she could say anything to Bryson, she would say, “We miss you, Bryson. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. Until we meet again, DJ in peace. We love you always.”
Treveyah Collins, age 9, is the daughter of Travina LaPlante-Woods and Trevor Collins. She is Bryson’s granddaughter. Treveyah remembers her grandfather as the one who taught her dance moves, performance, Djing…and respect.
“He taught me how to be a DJ,” she said. “He taught me how to do a drop for 95.5 The Heat. I miss him because he was my best friend. He’s not here anymore. He’s in Heaven, but one day we will see him again. I wish he could come back.”
Bryson’s stepson, Jamal Davis remembers Bryson beyond his work in music as a funny person who also taught him discipline.
“I respected him for a lot of the things he taught me. Besides a DJ, he was my best friend, my father, and my mentor. He was always proud of me. I was always there for him too. I had his back. I would like to tell him ‘I miss you, I love you, and I will always honor you and your name.’”
Sam Mitchell is Bryson’s sister-in-law. She further reflected on the impact he had on her life and the world.
“Bryson wasn’t a regular person,” she said. “He left his mark on anyone who crossed his path. A beautiful soul was what he had. Bryson played a huge role in our family, making him irreplaceable. So many people think of Bryson and can say how much of a father-like role model he was, and the same goes for myself.” Mitchell went on to describe Bryson’s devotion to his nephew Junie, and his talent for giving guidance and support.
“It’s not very often you meet someone like Bryson,” she noted. “I’m grateful to get to say that I have.”
Kylah Dingle, Bryson’s daughter, described him as her protector and best friend.
“ Bryson was not originally my father. He became my daughter Khloe’s grandfather, and our bond just grew,” she said. Addressing Bryson, she added, “You were someone who understood me and wanted the better outcome for my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you. God gave you the title of Father in my heart. I’ll never forget you.”
As I looked back over all of these words from so many members of Big B’s family and radio station family, none of them surprised me a bit. I was here working on some other projects when Big B was here, so I didn’t get a chance to work with him directly. But I did write one of the first articles that would lead into the Heat Beat column about him. He was always kind, always willing to help you out, whether you were working on a project with him or not. I miss seeing him around the office/newsroom. We need more people like him in the workplace, in the arts, and in the world.