The Life and Times of Billy Eyler, So Far -
Growing up in the rugged backwoods of West Virginia, music was as much a constant as coal dust and cornbread for Billy. Whether it was a good old-fashioned hutinanny on the banks of Big Wheeling Creek or the powerhouse C&W station WWVA on the radio, melodies and rhythm were more than simple accompaniment for life's daily activities; they seemed the truest purpose of life. With constant encouragement and instruction from Mama, the boy learned to make three chords on a guitar before he could read and write.
The family's move northward to Weirton W.Va. at age twelve brought about many changes and realizations to Billy's approach to playing. He saw first that there are more than two kinds of music; second, that he could play his own sort of music; and third, that some of the pretty young girls he'd recently started noticing really liked guitar players. The lack of friends with whom he could play sports left him free to concentrate on his playing, and it blossomed. He would spend hours copping riffs from Allman Brothers albums, trying to wrench a Duane-esque tone from his flea-market electric guitar and Champ amplifier.
Billy developed a bond with his instrument stronger than any friendship he had known - here was a companion that was always there, always ready to play, always willing to follow his lead. The southern rock heavies he enjoyed led him to a deep exploration of Chicago and Delta blues that continues to this day. The names of the old masters kept turning up on liner notes and in interviews in magazines, whetting his appetite to hear more Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters - names seldom heard that had written the book on the music of the day. To hear "Crossroads" by Cream, and then by Robert Johnson back-to-back was to realize how much of one's own soul a man could put into a simple song.
The early Eighties found him working the excellent club scene on the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania with the Charger band, covering the louder side of top forty, blowing places up with flash-pots and loving every minute of it. What Charger lacked in experience and schooling they more than made up for in energy and dedication. The middle Eighties were a study in the futility of trying to break a makeup wearing, leather clad heavy metal band out of Clarksburg, W.Va. With good talent throughout and strong original material, Hedd First would have made big waves in a major market. Unfortunately, they were playing to mostly deserted cowboy bars that didn't give a damn what kind of band it was, as long as they heard their favorite country songs. Despite their collective legacy, Billy and the boys were simply not that sort of band.
As the decade rolled along, Billy bounced from this project to that, seeking a home for his incendiary brand of blues based playing. A goodly number of opportunities bloomed and withered, among them a group called Epyx, the brainchild of a former Charger band mate. That particular incarnation of Epyx, though short-lived, would bear sweet fruit in the coming years.
In the fall of Ninety-one, he received an invitation to play a show in Philadelphia from Matt Barranti, the other guitar player in Epyx (a fellow disciple of the Brothers). It was a show to honor Duane, and the band played its heart out. The crowd was thin and the pay was short, but the sound was so right he decided to forsake his regular gig with the legendary Loose Ends band to join. With short interruptions and the occasional sabbatical, the M.B.B. has remained his primary gig and source of greatest satisfaction ever since. Come and watch Billy have a better time than anyone at a Matt Barranti Band show near you -
Frank Liam Aisingnow