Inductee Biography for BILLY WILLIAMS

Billy_WilliamsBilly Williams was born in Muskegon, Michigan. His earliest influences included the big band country swing of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and a lot of early jazz. He moved to Arizona in 1958 at the age of 21 after a stint in the Army. While stationed in Germany, Billy had been playing guitar with some other soldiers in a country swing band called The Crackerjacks. That band included Tompall Glaser, who would later appear on the classic Wanted! The Outlaws album with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. The Crackerjacks had considered keeping the band going after they were discharged, later meeting up in Phoenix where Billy started his long career of performing and shaping musical history in Arizona.

Billy performed at many local nightspots around town and in many bands, including The Versatones. One of their first memorable bookings was at Hansen’s Mug on West McDowell Road. Around 1966, Billy got the job of playing guitar in the country band The Rogues, who were then appearing at the Satin Doll in Phoenix. They later moved to the new westside nightclub, Mr. Lucky’s. Billy played Mr. Lucky’s for a total of twenty years. The Rogues had a few different lead singers during this time, including Virg Warner, Ray Sanders and J. David Sloan.

While Billy was in Luxembourg with The Rogues in 1983, he met a young singer/songwriter from Texas named Lyle Lovett. The two discussed working together, and after returning to the United States they decided to do a demo recording project. In 1984, Billy gathered various members of The Rogues and other local musicians and singers (including one of this year’s inductees, Francine Reed) and together they recorded a lot of great songs. A deal was then made with MCA Records and Lyle Lovett began successful career he continues today, still maintaining ties to many notable Valley musicians (including Ray Herndon, member of 2007 inductees The Herndon Family). Billy went on to produce numerous recordings for Lyle and many other artists. He shared a 1997 Grammy award with Lyle as producers of The Road To Ensenada, which also netted Lyle another Grammy as the artist. He was the arranger and producer for countless acts and also did a lot of recording session work.

Billy’s legend continued to grow and his involvement in our music scene became widespread. Never one to crave the spotlight, he has always been more of a behind the scenes presence. He never really cared about fame, he was always more into just making music. Billy Williams is a big part of our music history and an Arizona treasure.

Billy Williams article