Bill’s Ozark Mountain roots have deeply influenced his renditions of both Irish and American folk tunes. Since at least the 18th century his fraternal pioneer forebears have played folk music on banjo and guitar. However, his maternal roots stem from Ulster Irish Catholicism.
My love affair with music began in earnest during the fourth grade of grammar school when the instrumental teacher first approached me (she would in later years recruit me to sing in a La bohème production at TSC). She wished to make of me a clarinet player. I said I preferred the trumpet. She said it was the clarinet or nothing. I passed on her offer. This was my first poor career decision. The following year she offered me the coveted trumpet (later I learned baritone horn and French horn). So began my lessons. During the winter holiday day show of that same year, I sang my first solo: The introduction to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. The part came with tin foil ears and a red nose. Like all of the other male children, I sang in the boys’ choir of the school. Mrs. Smith was our vocal instructor and she took quite a shining to me for some odd reason. The following year I was given my first real solo, the first verse of “Rise Now, Oh Shepherds”, a tune so obscure that I dare anyone to find it on the internet. The most notable student to grace our grammar school stage was Ernie Kovacs who, while yet a student, portrayed Old King Cole, but that was decades before my arrival.
Above: Dad back on the farm at age 16 or so, later with his bands and with Mom.
My childhood home was my prime source of musical influence, for my father was a gifted country singer and guitarist with quite a good reputation in local circles. I have fond memories of Dad and his band rehearsing in our home, and fonder ones yet of Dad singing children’s songs to us. He was a local legend of sorts. Wherever we drove in the family car, people would honk their horns and wave his way. Dad, a bronze star recipient and Sgt. Major, came to New Jersey area to instruct ROTC candidates at Princeton University. Later, he became a radio disc jockey and a union musician who played in the local clubs, most notably The Frontier Room, his band being the house band in its early years. In time he set aside his guitar and instead emceed, helped manage the venue and, most importantly, booked the big and little names who filled the weekly bill at the venue. He put down his guitar because the union kept hounding him about his drummer’s negligence in paying his union dues. You don’t have to be in the union to sing, so he quit. Hell, I’m not sure why a drummer has to join a musician’s union for that matter (rim shot, please). Back then country music was not cool, but they filled the large room on a regular basis. Dad had ties with Ernest Tubb in Nashville and it was Tubb who provided most of the headliners who played there. During my teen years I washed dishes on show nights and had the pleasure to hear and meet backstage many of Country & Western music’s biggest stars.
Below: My junior year of high school; Joe Kramer and me in the mid 1970s
Cheers and God Bless,
Bill is a retired high school teacher of English, a published author, and a performer of traditional Irish music who has traveled extensively in Ireland, primarily in the North. Born and raised in New Jersey where he now lives with his wife and our children. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy cum laude from The College of New Jersey, this in addition to graduate work in English education at Rider University. He is a deacon and elder of his church. Having devoted many years to youth ministry, he now simply sings in the choir. He is a long-running participant in and a former site coordinator for the Geraldine Dodge Poetry teacher’s program, and is also a leadership team member of The National Writing Project at Rider University. Bill has served as a trustee and as former president/vice president of The Friends of the William Greenhouse, and remains an active member of the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee to his township’s planning board.
©2018 and all prior years