The Cliff Wheeler Band is a four-piece alt-country/southern rock band based out of Lemon Springs, NC USA.
Cumulus Media’s 2017 “Nash Next” North Carolina winner – Music Mafia Radio’s Artist Of the Year First Runner Up – Six #1’s on multiple indie charts worldwide. A new CWB album “To the Bone” is scheduled for release in May of 2018.
At the encouragement of his son and now CWB bassist Garret Wheeler, Cliff wrote a batch of songs in 2016 and brought a group of musician friends together to record a solo album. Along with Cliff, the lineup included seasoned regional performing musicians Gary Orlando on guitar, Kevin Griffin on drums, Robert Watson on slide and acoustic guitars, and Cliff’s teenage son Garret on bass guitar. After four rehearsals the band went into the studio and recorded “Wheeler” in seven days. “Wheeler” was released on April 1, 2017 and soon thereafter began garnering attention from internet based indie radio stations and music blogs around the world along with a few over the air stations.
In July 2017 Cliff was notified that his song “Judgement Day” had been selected by WWQQ FM 101.3 out of Wilmington, NC as a finalist for Cumulus Media’s “Nash Next 2017” competition for the state of North Carolina. The next step in the “Nash Next” experience was a live performance at the finals in Carolina Beach, NC. Cliff was reluctant to continue, but after much encouragement from family and friends decided to carry on. Bringing together the lineup that recorded his song “Judgement Day” which includes Cliff, Gary, Kevin and Garret, they won the competition in their very first live performance as a group. Following this success, they decided to stay together as the Cliff Wheeler Band or as they call it, The CWB. They continue to have radio and live performance success including multiple songs charting in the US and abroad with six indie chart #1’s. They have spent the past nine months on Music Mafia Radio’s Top 30, never leaving the top five. The CWB performs primarily in NC but is expanding into the southeastern US and other areas including a recent show in Nashville, TN. The CWB is currently working on their sophomore album “To the Bone” which is scheduled for release on May the 16, 2018.
Cliff Wheeler – Vocals
This son of North Carolina has been a journeyman player for nearly four decades and has played venues from coliseums to theaters to clubs to backyards across the state and the southeast, and it’s all been good! Cliff began his musical journey playing bass with the hard rock band Knight Heir in the early eighties. A converted guitarist he quickly learned to love the lights of the stage. Always the songwriter, Cliff wrote all of the lyrics and helped with the arrangements for this band’s original songs. After a few years, Knight Heir had run its course.
Meanwhile, Cliff had met a guitarist new to the North Carolina music scene, Gary Orlando. The two joined forces to form MZ Dangerous and several bands thereafter including Synergy and again, Cliff wrote the lyrics and the two together wrote the arrangements. The bands including this combo thrived and found themselves opening for national acts passing through the region and garnering interest from record labels. In the early nineties Cliff and Gary began to go their separate ways musically and Cliff returned to his roots doing one-man acoustic shows with Gary joining him occasionally. The two reunited in the late nineties for a short run with Cliff’s newest musical venture “Twister”, an alt-country band. Although the band met with modest success at the club level and released an EP, it didn’t last and was likely ahead of its time.
Following the end of Twister and being a new husband and father, Cliff took a hiatus from performing and writing. Meeting Robert Watson several years later changed that. Cliff and Robert began performing as Watson-Wheeler doing acoustic shows which they still do today and also with a full band as The FOG Blues Band, a blues rock band covering Texas, Delta and Chicago Blues. Cliff’s time with the FOG reignited the fire to write that had been smoldering for nearly a decade. In the summer of 2016 Cliff went into seclusion on Oak Island, North Carolina for ten days and the songs on Wheeler are the result.
Gary Orlando – Electric Guitar
Gary started his professional musician career on the New Jersey club circuit with the bands Ruffian and The Priscilla Harriet Band before moving to North Carolina in 1985. Soon after his arrival in North Carolina Gary and Cliff hooked up to lead several bands such as MZ Dangerous and Synergy that had regional success. Later, Gary joined Cliff in his first foray into alt country or as they called it “acid-country” with the band Twister which released an EP in the early 90s. Their musical collaboration now spans four decades.
Kevin Griffin – Drums
Kevin is a native North Carolinian and played his first professional gig with the stage orchestra for the play “The Music Man” at the age of fourteen. He has dedicated his life to music. His career includes stints with NBT, Calibur, the Lee County Community Orchestra and the prog rock band Method To Madness which released two albums that were met with critical acclaim. Kevin is also an endorsing artist for Soultone Cymbals. Kevin and Cliff came together when the FOG Blues Band was looking for a replacement drummer. There was an instant bond and the two have been rocking together since.
Garret Wheeler – Bass
Garret was born to play. As Cliff’s son, some of Garret’s first memories are listening to Twister rehearse in the family’s garage. After experimenting with drums, guitar and keyboards, Garret found his true calling, bass. After learning the basics with a little input from his dad, he soon began wowing Cliff’s contemporaries at jams in the barn. His ability to improvise with much more seasoned musicians forecast the future. After a couple of public shows with Cliff to gain stage experience, he spread his wings and formed the award winning power trio Bad Sign. Garret is currently a full time student when not performing with the CWB.