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L i f e s t y l e

P e o p l e “Listening to blues songs actually makes you feel better,” he says.

“Everybody has their own blues, everybody has their own story. Do you have to live in Mississippi in a shack to play the blues? I don’t think so. Not everybody has the perfect story, but everybody has something that they can relate to, in blues or rock or any kind of music, like happy times or a lost love. You can always relate songs to it. You can always listen to a song and it’ll bring you back some way. Music is about feeling, about sadness or happiness. That’s what’s cool about it.” Walton is currently proving his chops as a member of the consummate

Jersey Shore touring band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Walton’s band recently returned from yet another tour of the United Kingdom, this time opening for Southside, with some dates in Amsterdam sprinkled in among the familiar English pubs and music halls. “We’re just a bunch of guys from Jersey, and here we are halfway around

the world and there’s girls there with Billy Walton Band T-shirts, coming out to hear us, and they want to travel through us to New Jersey to hear these songs. We’re the vehicle, you know? It’s bizarre.” Of course, England can also take credit for “discovering” one of Walton’s

guitar heroes, Jimi Hendrix, who hit it big on the London scene before returning home to dazzle audiences at the Monterey Pop Festival in ’67. Walton shares a musical heritage with Hendrix, but also a technical partnership. He has become good friends with Roger Mayer, the British guitar effects guru who helped create the unique Hendrix guitar tones on “Purple Haze,” and played a pivotal role in the studio for nearly every major player from Hendrix to Clapton, Stevie Wonder to Bob Marley. Walton recalls that Mayer came to one of his shows in England several

years ago and, without introducing himself, asked, “What do you got on the floor?” —referring to his pedals. “I said, ‘It sounds like garbage,’ and he said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

The next day he shows up with this bag of tricks.” When the band launched into Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” at the end of the

night, Mayer walked up to the stage and plugged in the coveted “Vibe” pedal and walked back to his seat, anointing Walton as a worthy descendant of the Hendrix tradition. “I thought, ‘Wow, how cool is that?’ And we’ve been friends ever since.

He can open your ears to music and how you interpret it, how it moves and how it reacts. It’s not just about playing a song.” Music has been bouncing through Walton’s life from his earliest years,

when his father sang in a cappella groups and spun psychedelic rock records on the turntable. Billy began playing guitar at the age of 7, when his Aunt Eileen bought him a Harmony. “I didn’t find playing guitar, the guitar found me. I took my first couple

lessons and learned first-position chords, and then I stopped for awhile, pickeditupa couple years later, andthatwas it, Iwantedtodoit. I sat inmy room for a year just listening to rock albums, just jamming. What a dork.” He soon graduated to playing open microphone nights at a club in

Tuckerton, “playing the blues every week with older cats. They’d kick my butt, but that was a good way for me to learn, to put me in a spot. Kids these days aren’t able to do that. There’s not a lot of places to play, which is a shame.” He counts as his main musical influences: “Jimi, of course; the Three Kings — Albert, Freddie and B.B.; Johnny Winter; Roy Buchanan...

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22 January 2011 | LIFESTYLE


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