The Billy Crawford Band will take the stage in Jackson Park Friday, Aug. 29 as part of the Jackson Park Summer Concert Series. While some might argue that Blues guitar is rooted in Mississippi, Texas and Chicago, Crawford, a man of the mid-south might disagree. The city of Bristol, on the Tennessee/Virginia border, claims itself as the birthplace of country music, but is also the home of Billy Crawford, who was raised playing bass in church, then gaining an early hard-rock pedigree on electric guitar.
Crawford, who grew up in East Tennessee, had a taste for hard rock at an early age.
Influenced by musicians like Randy Rhoads, Ritchie Blackmore and Gary Moore, he was initially influenced by B.B. King and Elvis Presley. “If I saw B.B.’s name in the TV Guide I would beg to stay up and watch Johnny Carson with my Dad, to see him with Lucille,” Crawford remembers. Eventually Crawford went on to find himself a new influence — the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vaughan’s work seeped into Crawford’s head and heart in 1984, and two years later found musicians willing to play that style with him.
In 1997, Crawford led a band to a win at the Piedmont Blues Competition, in Winston-Salem, N.C. It earned Crawford and the act a trip to Memphis for the International Blues Competition. While Crawford’s band didn’t win the competition, they did attract attention. He remained loyal to his band until Deborah Coleman entered the picture new, unknown and just signed to Blind Pig Records. “It felt right,” he remembered. “She had just finished her debut recording and had an extensive U.S. and European tour scheduled.” Coleman took the gig and toured 18 states in 12 weeks.
Over the next six years, he recorded four albums with Coleman, working with legendary producer Jim Gaines and top players from across the country. When the band wasn’t recording, it was on the road, touring in 20 countries. While on this tour, Crawford had the opportunity to play with the late Vaughan’s band, Double Trouble. “I felt after the first time I played with them that it had come full circle,” Crawford said.
He came back to Bristol after learning of his wife Michelle’s pregnancy, leaving the road in fall of 2002, but that didn’t stop Crawford from playing. “I still love the guitar. I play and practice every day,” Crawford said. “It has never gotten old for me. I’m still excited about creating sound out of silence every time I perform!” Along for the ride with Crawford are singer/guitarist Rex Boggs, sax man Jay Corder, bassist Robert McClain, drummer Keith Chinault and on occasion, Hammond B3 player Jacob Tipton.
The concert series is co-sponsored by the Fine Arts Center for the New River Valley and the Town of Pulaski. The concerts are held in Jackson Park located across from the municipal building from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The concerts are free and open to the public. People are advised to bring a lawn chair or blanket. Donna Jones/Main Street Bistro will be providing concessions. Pulaski Theatre is the rain location for the concert series, times remain the same. Call the Fine Arts Center for the New River Valley at 980-7363 for additional information or visit http://thebillycrawfordband.com/event/904721/40277516/pulaski-summer-concert-series.