From musical beginnings to Kansas


I’ve Gotta Wear Shades

That night Steve gave me a cassette with 4 songs on it. I had 3 days 
to learn the songs and go to the audition. I really did my homework, 
and 3 days later I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I walked 
into the rehearsal studio where Steve, Mike and Tim, as I later learned,
had spent endless months of auditioning people to finish up the lineup 
of the band. Steve introduced me to the guys who gave me that look
like, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

Mike and I talked about that meeting recently. Mike had a very heavy 
English accent and I was from the hills of East Tennessee. We had a 
good laugh because neither of us could understand a word that the 
other was saying. 

Pleasantries behind us, they set about the task of weeding out yet 
another waste of time. After playing 3 of the 4 songs and Steve putting 
me on the spot by asking me to improvise in a section of a song, the 
audition was halted and I was asked to leave the room. I was sure I 
had blown it with the improv. As I recall that moment, I played like a 
blundering idiot!

To my total surprise, the guys asked me to go to lunch and offered me
the job! It was another one of my “most gratifying moments.”

I Think I’ve Been to This Movie

Right away, I was put on salary and the band went to work, writing 
and rehearsing the music for what would become Streets1st. For 
the first few months, I was totally in awe!  Here I was playing with 
Steve Walsh, one of the greatest voices in all of rock and roll, and truly 
a major influence in my career. If the truth be known, I have probably 
played and sung “Carry On” more than Steve has!  Remember, 
I was playing 4-5 sets a night, 5-6 nights a week and “Carry On”
and “Down the Road” were tops in our set list.

We finally reached the point where we thought we were ready to 
showcase for the labels. Except this time it was different, it wasn’t a 
question of “will we get signed,” but “which label will we sign with.” 
That really took a lot of pressure off! After showcasing with almost 
all the major labels, we finally signed a deal with Atlantic Records
I was a happy man! I was thinking “big house and sports car.”

For reasons I’ll never understand, after what I thought were two 
great albums, the band still hadn’t achieved what I thought we would 
achieve. Instead, we lost our deal with Atlantic. The records we did,
in my mind were great, but didn’t get the recognition that they 
deserved. And once again, the band was breaking up and I was 
contemplating my future. Any sane individual would have given up 
and thrown in the towel, but NO, NOT ME! 

Once again, I packed up my stuff and moved back to Tennessee. 
Tim moved to California, Mike moved to New Jersey, where his 
wife’s family lived, and Steve got a gig touring with Cheap Trick
playing keys and singing backing vocals!  How ironic was this?! 
One of the greatest singers in the world, playing in a supporting role. 
Sometimes there is no justice in this world!

(continued on next page)

© 2004 Billy
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