Goodbye, Brother Bill

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Bill Perry passed suddenly on Tuesday. Arguably Orange County’s most talented and famous native-son musician, Bill was known for his blackdirt-gravel voice, his guitar-style that somehow melded Robert Johnson with Jimi Hendrix, and, most of all, for the invariably warm, genuine way his face lit up whenever someone anyone would greet him offstage.
Forget about the fact that Bill could roll out guitar licks that recalled the early pre-Monterey “Red-House” days of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, or that he invoked Delta Blues greats when he growled out both traditionals and his unique originals.
Billy was a guy, the guy, who conveyed, unfailingly, a genuine pleasure to see you. Whether he was enjoying his quiet bowl of soup at the Barnsider, or stopping down at The Caboose to have a quick beer, he always made the time to chat with his friends and fans. For us bartenders, Billy brought a pleasant ease to the evening whenever he’d drop in. All stress simply left the room. He had a bad word for no one. He asked for nothing, and he was generous with both his talent (often pulling down a guitar and playing for us when all he really wanted was to sit quietly) and his love.
I remember him insisting, a couple years back, that Holly and I come (as his guests) see him play with Bo Diddley (Bill knew my blues-jones all too well) at the Air National Guard Hangar at Stewart. Pulling in on my rat bike, it felt like old times again, when me and my buddies would follow Bill on our loud, greasy bikes to gigs upstate or out on The Island . He always treated us like brothers.
While so many of us are missing our Brother Bill, he left us a bit of him that cheats mortality for all of time: his music.
Bill may have shed his earth-suit and joined so many of his blues contemporaries upstairs (one can imagine the welcome he’s receiving, Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Lemon Jefferson slapping him on the back), but he’s still here as well, growling and jamming on albums like “Greycourt Lightning” and “Love Scars,” which he gave us for all of time.
While the flag in Sugar Loaf flies at half-mast, we’ll play our Bill . loud.
By Jay Westerveld
Sugar Loaf

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