Rebecca: How did the band originally get together?
Billy: The Moving Sidewalks were up and running while Dusty and Frank were playing in a band together called American Blues. The Sidewalks detoured in 1969 thanks to the keyboardist and bassist taking on military service leaving the band looking for solid a rhythm section. Frank and I found each other and things took off like a rocket when he suggested we enlist his former band mate, Dusty Hill, to play bass. We got together to see what might shake and immediately knew it was the right combination — we just locked in and took it from there. The first real gig: the Knights of Columbus Hall in Beaumont, Texas, marking February 10, 1970 as that initial moment. The rest, as they say, is history or, shall we say, hysterical.
Rebecca: How old were you when you first grew your signature beard?
Billy: We were never averse to some chin fuzz but the lengthy whiskers kind of found their way around 1972 or ’73. They’ve been good to us so we do our utmost to take care of them.
Rebecca: Tell us about being inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
Billy: What a great night that was! Keith Richards, our Rolling Stones buddy, inducted us and that’s as good as it gets. We got to play along with Keith and the entire Paul Schaffer crew and it couldn’t have been more memorable. If they ever invent a time machine, we’d set it for March 15, 2004 and aim it straight for the Waldorf Astoria in NY to do it all over again.
Rebecca: How has your music changed over the years?
Billy:That’s hard to say because we’re still the same three guys playing the same three chords but technology changes and, of course, we’re constantly chasing new ideas to set down in the “whatever” One might say we’re still funky after all these years but, of course, we’re probably better at it now ‘cause we’ve had some practice.
Rebecca: If 3 other artists could join your band for a gig, who would you pick and why?
Billy: Keith Richards ‘cause, you know, he’s Keith. His spirit and good nature are infectious and the man can play. Jeff Beck because we’ve toured with him; he’s just an unparalleled musician… innovative and loose as he wants to be. He makes it radically “beyond”. You didn’t say living or otherwise so here’s where we’ll give a nod to Jimi Hendrix with whom we toured back in our Moving Sidewalks days. He was a really warm guy, a bit on the shy side yet far ahead of anyone who ever came before or since. We owe him so much; we’d love to a get a chance to pay him back in some way. Rock on…!
Interview by Rebecca Berman