“Love the Sinner. Dislike the Haircut.”

Reverend Billy C. Wirtz is a comic genius, gifted pianist and also American musicologist that defies basic classification. “I choose to think the myself together the Victor Borge the the blues,” says the Reverend, however Billy goes way beyond Borge both in border of subject issue (from national politics to society commentary) and, the course, in taste. In fact, no layout is as well extreme, taboo, or undignified because that the Reverend, so long as that garners a an excellent laugh.

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Billy C. Wirtz to be born in Aiken, SC, on September 28, 1954. One of his many treasured childhood memories to be watching the gospel programs broadcasted from the Bell Auditorium in nearby Augusta, GA. In 1963, his household moved to Washington, D.C. Wherein he at some point landed a task at Glen’s Music, a record store i m sorry catered to black color music, consisting of R&B, jazz, and spirituals. “I spent all day long listening come Julius Cheeks, Clarence Fountain, and also the Dixie Hummingbirds. I was in heaven,” claimed Billy. In 1971, that attended a gospel concert featuring, among others, the 615 pound Gloria Spencer, billed together “The World’s largest Gospel Singer” and also the Mighty Clouds of Joy. “It was prefer an epiphany because that me, a revelation to experience something favor that live. That left an indelible impression on me,” added Billy. While functioning at Glen’s the was also inspired by recordings of pianists Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, huge Maceo, and Otis Spann to name a few. He take it up the keyboard while in high school, however it wasn’t till the tail finish of his college job at James Madison college (from which he graduated with a degree in special education) did that play the tool in earnest.

After graduation, as Wirtz to be filling the end applications to begin a career in teaching, Chicago blues pianist Sunnyland Slim came v Virginia top top tour. After attending a performance, Wirtz introduced himself and discovered Slim to be headed come the next gig via Greyhound Bus. Billy volunteered come chauffer the blues legend to the following show and struck increase a lasting friendship. Later, Sunnyland created thanking Billy and invited that to remain at his house if he ever before made it to Chicago – an invitation that discovered Billy heading to the public City come accept. He remained with Sunnyland Slim, learning straight from the master, going to Chicago niteclubs and meeting blues artists he revered as a youngster. This taste of the musicians’ way of life ignited the idea that he himself could make a living playing the piano. His first official blues tape was Sidewinder, a team from his college city of Harrisonburg, VA, and also later was able to hook up v the Charlottesville every Stars, a bigger ensemble with similar blues tastes.

As the 80’s dawned, Billy Wirtz had currently earned the reputation of gift a gifted sideman and became lot sought ~ by plenty of Washington, D.C area roots bands, including the legendary Root boy Slim & the Sex change Band, Evan Johns and also the H-Bombs, and also the initial contingent the the Nighthawks, which had Jimmy Thackery top top guitar. By 1982, Billy had grown weary that the incertitude of freelancing and decided come embark ~ above a solo career. Around the same time Billy declared his self-reliance his first solo LP was videotaped live in a bar in Hickory, N.C., Salvation with Polyester, ~ above the No big Deal brand of Atlanta. In 1988, Wirtz exit Deep Fried and also Sanctified ~ above the Kingsnake brand – a transforming point because that him in many ways. “I think we originally pressed about 2000 duplicates of this prior to leasing it come Hightone in 1989 and it significant my long and productive association v that an excellent label,” stated Billy.

He would stay with Hightone for the next dozen years, release six an ext undertakings: Backslider’s Tractor Pull, turn for the Wirtz: Confessions of a Hillbilly Love-God, Pianist Envy, songs of Faith and Inflammation, Unchained Maladies, Rib Ticklin’ add to a compilation, The ideal of the Wirtz:15 year on the roadway with a 77″ Pianist.

“Wrestling is Real. It’s The remainder of the That’s Fake”

Pete Backof the Baltimore’s City record recently stated that experienced wrestling is just one of America’s aboriginal art forms and even walk on come quote French literature critic, Roland Barthe’s comment on the phenomenon – “the great spectacle the suffering, defeat, and justice.” In keeping with his assumed phase identity, Reverend Billy could not aid but be attracted to this sport, a modern-day morality beat of an excellent versus evil. “I need to admit i was fascinated to the allude of talking my means into the industry. In 1989 i even ended up being a manager for around six months because that Diamond Dallas Page. I loved inciting the crowds,” he said. After ~ leaving management, he returned to the ring together the residence band because that TBS’s (Turner Broadcasting) Monday Night Wrestling, a three-month stint which accorded him part publicity, particularly after a clip of a performance was shown on the Jay Leno Show. “Granted, because that a spell, it to be a gas. But then it acquired to it is in a grind. And also besides that, the pay to be lousy,” stated Billy.

Billy quickly would have actually yet one more iron in the fire – writing. “I guess: v it every began around 1993 when I to be living in Nashville and documented the pass of thomas A. Dorsey,” that said. A blues scholar that the an initial order, Billy pointed out that Dorsey in his youth had actually written some racy blues songs prefer “It’s Tight prefer That,” yet after he adopted religion, was likewise able come pen few of the biggest gospel hymns ever, including the oft-recorded “Take mine Hand, precious Lord” and also “Peace in the Valley.”

At the time, Billy never thought the the isolated obituary was going to lead almost everywhere professionally, yet a possibility encounter that same year with Bob Doerschuk, then editor the Keyboard magazine, would certainly soon reason him to reconsider. Due to the fact that Billy was constantly blazing brand-new trails, crisscrossing the unified States, Bob argued that he contribute a continuous column entitled “Road Stories,” which, indigenous Billy’s description, seemed to be along the same lines together the so late Charles Kuralt’s television series specialized to local human being interest tales. As soon as Doerschuck left Keyboard in 1995 to become senior editor that Musician magazine, he invited Billy come reprise his former duty with regular installments come the “Backside” section.

Billy proceeds in this pursuit, freelancing and also making contribute to Allmusic.com, Blueswax.com and also the Charlotte Observer. If this flurry of task isn’t enough to keep him occupied, the has likewise proffered a book-length manuscript Don’t Eat at Joe’s to a publisher.

Sit On my Faith. The True Story of a Honky Tonk angel Touched through Reverend Billy

Goateed and copiously tattooed, the is the antithesis that anyone’s ordinary principle of a preacher. Yet, as his name implies, Billy frequently employs this phase persona to collection the step in a song. Prefer an itinerant revivalist in a carnival tent, he’ll start slowly and also gradually develop to a rapid fire torrent, together if he to be whipping the congregation right into a frenzy. Accentuating the lyrics with wild hand gesticulations and exaggerated facial expressions, he becomes a comedian, twisted televangelist and barrel residence piano player rolled right into one. Just when the group senses the he’s about to explode in some massive spasm, he’ll write himself and also segue into a slow-moving blues number while asking the assembled multitude to pardon him because that being “overcome by the spirit.” Naturally, his fans, the “faithful,” are accustomed to this denouement and even scream “Amen” however not before egging the on to even more histrionics before that ultimate crescendo is reached. “Testify, Billy, testify,” lock cry, and the Reverend Billy, gathering stamin from your exhortations choose a hurricane from heat waters, is always willing come accommodate them.

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When remote Pig records approached The Reverend through the idea the filming a DVD and also recording a live CD he was both intrigued and also excited by the possibilities. The result, Sermon from Bethlehem, records Billy in ~ his schizophrenic best, careening nonstop through a an option of old comic favourite (“Roberta,” “Granny’s at The Wheel”, “Mennonite Surf Party”, “Grandma versus The Crusher”) and soon-to be-classics (“Female Problems”, “Do The Toleration”, “The King and also I”) as well as knocking out some of the smokinest blues and also boogie woogie piano this side of Sunnyland Slim.

* parts of this story are borrowed from Larry Benicewicz’ write-up “But serious Folks,” released in the BluesArt-Journal