MIKEL JOLLETT | AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT: My favorite Billy story is the time he flew all the way to Louisville, Kentucky, to watch us play one show with the Louisville Orchestra. He purchased three tickets, side by side, because he wanted room to dance. And dance he did — wildly, arms flailing, bent at the waste, a blur of grey bangs and red wine — right there in the middle of this starchy orchestral audience. At first people asked him to sit down, but he ignored them and kept Billy-dancing. And then, like a kind of pied piper of revelry, he turned around and waved his hands in the air yelling, “C’mon! Up! Everybody! Up!” and two thousand people spontaneously rose to their feet and started dancing.
Everything was like this with him. He would show up at Airborne Toxic Event shows with music recommendations (rare John Peel sessions, say), some kind of food (a rare cheese, maybe, or a smoked meat), and a stack of books for me to read (he favored Mickey Spillane and pulp crime novels). We’d all break open some whiskey and, the next thing we knew, he was behind the bar, or we were, or everybody would decide to take the fire escape instead of the door. It wasn’t just that he was a fan. It was that he really believed in music, he was transformed by it. A lot of people come to shows and listen, but man, he really listened. He wanted to talk about the lyrics, the songs, the guitars, what he was listening to, what it all meant — to share his opinions (always strong, always offered up in droves) — and generally just get lost in it all. I think that’s probably why so many musicians loved having him around since that’s the reason we all became artists in the first place.
KURT DAVIS | THE KONKS, BULLET LAVOLTA: I have so many memories of Billy, and they’re all shooting at me like juggernauts. But they’re all the same memory. The firmest handshake I’ve ever encountered, but learned to deflect by only giving him my fingers. Then the whisker-bristled kiss on the cheek, then the spit flying, manic conversation, and the mad cackle.
I always fucking loved Billy and when friends around me didn’t know him and saw him blow into a room like a hurricane, throw money into a jukebox, at a merch table, at the bar buying drinks for people, dancing, drink flying, unwashed, disheveled, but well-dressed, and would look at me with a semi horrified expression: “Who is that?!”
Oh, that’s Billy.
We have Billy to thank for many things: he is the reason there’s music at the Middle East; he’d needed more than one venue for his 30th birthday bash, and wanted something right by TT’s, so asked Joseph and Nabil if he might extend his party there, they said yes. He also brought tons of fucking great bands to town over the years and he had great taste. He definitely lived in the moment and I had to talk him down from raving anger more than once, but goddamn, I’ve never, ever met anyone more generous. I remember him being irate that he’d been cut off at a pub before he’d even had a drink. He was still pissed about it a week later and was launching into the story with fury. He finished and I just looked at him and said, “Billy, come on. . .”