Meet Willie

Today on “Fun Facts Friday” it’s our band leader’s turn...Yep..The Big Cheese..The Grand Pooba...The Chief High Muckety Muck….Willie Wells. Willie was born in Charleston SC and spent a lot of his adult life just outside of Nashville TN. Willie returned to Columbia when his dad started to have health issues and took over the job of running Bills Music Shop and Pickin Parlor. He moved back permanently in 2015. He had promised his dad that he would keep the shop and band going, which he as done with great success. He has become the “Headache Man” for the band (which is a term musicians sometimes use for band leader and manager) and has done a great job of moving the band forward. He even manages to put up with David and Don in the same band (maybe that’s why he has Tommy in the band, too...for legal advice!) Lets ask Willie some of the same questions we asked the rest of the guys and see what he’s got to say for himself. 

When did you first hear bluegrass? 

I guess the first I remember was when I was in high school but most probably when I was younger. My father was a committed traditional Bluegrass advocate. His musical background of Bluegrass music was all I heard. It was all we listened to at home. Once out of school my musical direction took a big turn to country music. My main instrument was drums, which i played in country and country rock groups for years after that. Back in the early 2000s, I was re-introduced to bluegrass music by none other than my dad. He asked me to listen to some CDs that he had gotten of the group The Lonesome River Band. When I listened to their CDs, it was like a light bulb went off. Since that time I have not looked back and have been hooked on Bluegrass Music! 

Who has influenced your playing style? 

Well, since I was mostly a drummer before coming back to bluegrass, my exposure to bluegrass guitar was mostly my dad. He was a solid rhythm player and I am trying my best to learn to be that, too. When you have a great band around, you it’s easy to do. For me, I love the sound of the vocals and harmonies—the voices are as much an instrument in bluegrass as the rest. I mean listen to Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver do an a Capella number and tell me those are not fine tuned instruments! I love to hear Larry Stephenson sing, too—that high lonesome sound, if done right, can be great. 

What do you love about the music? 

My love for this music is driven by my influences and past experiences. Being exposed to country and country rock has given me a deeper appreciation for bluegrass. I love it’s pure, straight-forward sound and the drive this music has, and as a drummer, some of the rhythms in this music are pretty complex with time jumps and changes. Don’t let anyone ever say this music is easy! 

Who is someone you would love to pick with? 

You mean aside from the guys in the band? They are all great musicians, even if some of them do give me headaches with their jokes. If you mean someone I have not had the chance to pick with, that would have to be Vince Gill. His voice is fantastic! I’d love to sing harmony with him for a bit.