Local musicians honor slain colleague with jam session

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Ben Privott
Ben Privott

Satellite Bar and Lounge will be filled with the sounds of live music Sunday afternoon, as it always is, but this time it’s for a different reason.

Instead of the usual bluegrass jam, members of the close-knit music community in Wilmington will be gathering for a musical tribute starting at 4 p.m. to celebrate the life of local musician Ben Privott.

Privott, a native of Goldsboro, was fatally stabbed early in the morning on April 22 in the Kings Grant area in what New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon called “a senseless tragedy” and “a random act of violence.” A 15-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with his murder.

In the week that followed, as Privott’s family, friends and fellow musicians mourned their loss, they also thought of ways to honor his life and legacy. That’s how the idea for a night of live music in his honor came about.

“He played with so many people in town that we thought it was the best way to remember him and give him a tribute,” said James Doss, chef and owner of Wilmington restaurants Rx and Pembroke’s and Privott’s friend since childhood. “We’re just trying to do something that Ben would like.”

Doss, who helped organize the event, said Privott was a passionate musician who sang as well as played the drums and piano. Following college at Appalachian State, Privott moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to pursue another passion, skiing, before moving back to North Carolina and becoming a figure in the Wilmington music scene. He showcased his talents for various groups, including No Dollar $hoes, Pale Rider, Creekside and Onward, Soldiers.

“He was a very talented musician,” said fellow local drummer Justin Heter, who hopes to play at some point during Sunday’s jam session. “There just aren’t enough good things to say about him.”

Heter said he will be forever grateful to Privott for one thing in particular.

“One memory that stands out for me is that Ben wanted me to play ‘Frankenstein’ for a gig, which is one of the hardest drum solos,” Heter said, referring to an instrumental song released in 1973 by American band The Edgar Winter Group. “It was difficult to learn, but he wanted me to do it, and I’m glad I did. Every time I saw him, I thanked him for making me learn it.”

One of Privott’s most recent musical endeavors involved something very personal. Last December, Privott approached Hourglass Studios owner and operator Trent Harrison, saying he wanted to record a song he had written about his father, who recently passed away.

“He was very passionate about the song, but he hadn’t recorded anything in 10 years,” Harrison said. “He just really wanted to pay tribute to his dad.”

Harrison said they began recording in January, with Privott providing vocals and playing the piano. Though there were a few tweaks Privott still wanted to make, Harrison said they were fortunate to have completed the song and were in the mixing stages when the song’s writer was tragically killed.

“We finished the song last Wednesday, and they played it at Ben’s funeral on Thursday,” said Harrison, adding that they will probably also play it at Sunday’s memorial and will eventually release it to the public.

Though Harrison said he only knew Ben for about a year, he’s grateful to have known him and worked with him.

“Ben was a very, very, talented musician, and I could tell from the brief time I knew him that he was a good guy and someone that would do anything for anyone,” Harrison said. “I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him in such a personal way.”

In addition to Privott’s song being played and his fellow musicians rocking out Sunday, Doss said people will have the opportunity to get up on stage and share memories of their friend. There will also be a slideshow of photos put together by Privott’s fiancé, Sarah Rushing.

“It’s really kind of just an informal thing,” said Doss, adding that he could “go on for days about Ben. He was the nicest guy.”

“We’re really just trying to pay tribute to him and show our love in the best way we could think of,” Doss said. “He was one of my best friends and such a great person. It’s a tremendous loss.”

Satellite Bar and Lounge is located at 120 Greenfield St. in Wilmington. The musical tribute to Ben Privott will start at 4 p.m. Click here to read his obituary.

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