The Mississippi Tornados is a band composed of USM faculty members Andrew Wiest, Kevin Greene, Miles Doleac, Sam Bruton and Chad Daniels, as well as Jay Orsdol, husband of USM History Department’s Heather Stur.
They came together to play for the love of music, but are now booking shows across Hattiesburg.
Wiest said the band started as a group of men who simply wanted a chance to get together and jam. After about two years of playing at home, the group booked a gig at Keg and Barrel. The name, Mississippi Tornados, however, had yet to be born. “We called ourselves ‘Don’t Know Jack,’ with Jack taken from the letters of our first names,” Wiest said. “We were playing our sound check before our first gig, and then that big mama of a tornado hit Hattiesburg, cutting right past the Keg and Barrel. So then we knew that our name had to be changed to the Mississippi Tornados,” said Wiest.
Now, a year and a lot of tornado damage later, the Mississippi Tornados have played about 15 shows. But, Wiest has not kept count. “We are a bunch of older guys who realize that we aren’t going to become rock stars, so we are in this for the fun of it,” Wiest said.
Recently, the band played as the opening act for Bucky Covington at Southern Miss Activities Council’s Spring Concert, and USM students are showing the Tornados some serious love. Gemarco Peterson, a junior kinesiotherapy major, is a member of SMAC who was impressed by his first encounter with the band. “I really enjoyed their music,” Peterson said. “When they did their sound check I was very impressed and excited for their full performance before Bucky’s.”
Hannah Haulsee, a freshman public relations major, saw the Mississippi Tornados at another off-campus venue. She was encouraged to attend the performance by Wiest whose class she is currently taking. “They had a ton of energy,” Haulsee said. “You could really tell they were enjoying themselves and having fun.”
Haulsee did not recognize every song played, but this fact did not affect her enjoyment of the show. “Everyone around was dancing or swaying to the music. It was a good atmosphere for students to hang out and listen to some good music,” Haulsee said.
As to what is in store for the Mississippi Tornadoes, Wiest mentions that their next scheduled show is March 1. The band is expected to play songs that are proven crowd pleasers, such as Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” made popular by The Band. “‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ is a cool song and was my favorite,” Peterson said. “Before the concert, I had never heard the song.”
Southern Miss faculty is known for imparting useful and interesting information on their students, but for several professors, this education now goes further as they attempt to spread great music across the Pine Belt.
Check out the Mississippi Tornados on Facebook for more information.