The inspiration for the band’s name comes from Bobby’s uncle “Big John” McManaman, who was a pioneer in Canadian roots, country, and bluegrass music and is the reason Bobby Nicholas went on his own musical journey.
Born in Spring Hill Nova Scotia in 1934, John developed a passion for acoustic music at an early age. Eventually, he would find himself in Ontario working at his trade and fulfilling his love for creating and playing music. McManaman founded the first recorded bluegrass band in Canada and is in the Canadian bluegrass hall of fame. He was a very accomplished musician and singer and made countless television appearances playing fiddle and banjo.
Bobby remembers fondly the time he was able to spend with his uncle learning music and listening to stories. Back in the day, bands and sidemen used to be uniformed, and Nicholas remembers asking Uncle John why he was always dressed differently to which he replied, “They can never find a shirt big enough to fit me.” Nicholas recalls the best times of his teenage years were playing music and sharing a few beers with his uncle, and John’s genuine laughter and zest for a good time, along with the late night jam sessions ‘till all hours of the morning ending with Uncle John’s signature quip, “One more, for old time sake.”
Big John was a giant in Bobby’s eyes but a gentle soul and a great human being and family man. He was with his wife Jackie for 57 years until his passing on Christmas Eve 2014.
A musical icon is gone, but his memory lives strong in his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, all the many people whose lives he touched with his music, and in the band that is his namesake “BIG JOHN.”