Rob and Marcus Hall never dreamed their banjos, love of the N.C. State Wolfpack and a YouTube video would land their band at the university’s 125th anniversary celebration in Reynolds Coliseum.
A few months ago, Rob strummed a tune on his banjo while his brother, Marcus, began making up lyrics poking fun at UNC-Chapel Hill. An hour later, they sent a video of themselves singing the tongue-in-cheek song “When Jesus Comes Back” to bandmate Greg Tart.
“We were just making up a funny song to make Greg laugh. He emailed it to some friends, and before we knew it over 40,000 people had watched the video,” said Rob, 35. “When my aunt in Atlanta told me that a friend had randomly sent her a link to our video, I knew that something special had happened.”
Many people left comments on the video, including Carolina fans “talking smack” and accolades from fellow State fans. One devoted fan wrote that he wanted the song played at his funeral.
Lifelong love of the Wolfpack
Their band, Old Man Whickutt, has been playing bluegrass at festivals, retirement homes and elementary schools for the past few years. They took the name from a children’s book that Rob and Marcus grew up reading.
Because the band members all have day jobs and families, playing music is something they fit in whenever they can find spare time. Tart and fourth member, Craig Thompson, still live in Raleigh, but Marcus Hall lives in Charlotte and Rob Hall lives in Greenville, N.C.
The members are all Broughton High graduates and are bonded by a shared love of the Wolfpack.
“Every time our band performs, we have a newspaper clipping of Lorenzo Charles making his dunk to win the 1983 National Championship with us. Lorenzo even gets his own chair when we play,” said Marcus, 37.
Basketball great Charles was killed in June 2011 when a bus he was driving ran off I-40 in Raleigh. He was 47.
When Marcus and Rob were born, their parents sent out birth announcements with Mr. and Ms. Wuf on the front and took them home from the hospital to red-and-white nurseries. Their father, Bobby Hall, played football for N.C. State and took the boys to as many games as possible. As they got older, they even got the chance to be ball boys for the basketball team.
Tart also grew up going to State games with his father, and they would often give the referees a ride to the football games. “I usually got to ride with cheerleaders in a golf cart on the field during half-time,” said Tart, 37, whose dad also played football for the Pack.
Dream come true
When university officials saw the YouTube video of “When Jesus Comes Back,” they decided the band would be a perfect addition to their upcoming celebration.
“Old Man Whickutt was chosen because they are big supporters and friends of the Pack. We thought they would generate a lot of pride and fun at the celebration,” said Brad Bohlander, a spokesman for N.C. State.
“For us, playing at Reynolds Coliseum is better than playing at the White House,” Rob said. “This is the coolest opportunity we’ve ever had and probably ever will.”
The band also sees the song as a way to share their devotion to Jesus though music and humor. They recently made a studio recording of the single, and it is now available on iTunes.
Before practicing or performing, the band always prays together and often talks about how to use their music to spread God’s word.
“It’s been wonderful to sing about two things we love: N.C. State and Jesus,” Marcus said. “We have found a way to make people laugh and share our spirituality all in one song.”