After not much prodding from several friends I went to Bambooz Tiki Bar in New Bern, NC last month to see a band I never heard a thing about. Many of my friends, on the other hand, are a part of guitar man and music maker, Bill Lyerly’s story. Impressed by his playing, I was drawn to his rock edge with strong riffs of blues persuasion. Following the show, I asked Lyerly if he’d be interested in an interview. He was more than gracious and offered me much time to ask lots of questions about his history in the music business from his childhood through the current day.
Hailing from Lenoir and Pitt Counties, Lyerly was born and raised in Kinston and Grifton, NC by a family that appreciated many styles of music including country and jazz offerings. Influenced by British rockers, at age 11 and not long after receiving his first Beatles album, “Meet the Beatles,” Lyerly picked up the guitar, took lessons from his father for about a month before starting his first band. Being a natural with ten fingers and six strings, he was teaching students of his own by the time he was 12.
Lyerly performed in bands through high school and college. He left college behind in his last year to pursue his music dreams which panned out pretty well for him. However, when discussing his life and how the times and music scene has changed, when asked what advice he would give kids today, he was quick to say, “I would encourage them all to stay the course. The music business is a tough nut to crack, there are a lot more bands on the scene then when we were breaking out and the competition is rough.”
In 1975 he co-founded one of the down east areas most popular country rock bands Super Grit Cowboy Band. After a few years of hanging his hat there, he got the call all artists hope to get in 1980 from RCA Records, offering him a recording deal. That relationship opened many doors, but would eventually put Lyerly at the crossroads in his career, when meeting the demands of the label became too much stress and strain on his freedoms for playing the music he loved.
Believing in his music, accepted an offer with Roy Dea, an old school engineer from Nashville who formed a small label, LSI. Lyerly release an edgy progressive rock n blues release entitled, “Higher Ground.” Lyerly was not the only one who went with Dea. Gary Stewart also went with Dea and quickly the two performers became friends.
Besides performing with Stewart, he has also shared the stages with many other greats of rock, blues and country. Among those it seems, Bo Diddley, left the greatest impression on Lyerly. He remembered Diddley as not only a great guy, very personable and down home, “But,” he said, “When we took the stage, we just locked in and found an instant groove and WOW.” Also to his credit, he has played with REM, Paul Rodgers, Gregg Allman, Eric Burdon, Levon Helm, John Mayall and John Lee Hooker.
When I asked Lyerely about his Discography after hearing many of his recording in these few weeks, he explained, “I left RCA in 1984 under mutual agreement. I did my first blues effort in 1990, From The Old School on the Broadcast label. Later in 1998 I hooked up with Riviere International Records, where I met with and started working with, Engineer, Benny Dellinger. We did Case of Jones which was later repackaged with extra songs and entitled Railroad Station Blues. Then came Cobalt Blues. Riviere Records disbanded so I did Requiem Mess on Broadcast Records and followed with Motel Room Blues on the Ripete Blues Label. I went to London in 2007 and picked some songs I had written from previous releases, had those remastered at Abbey Road Studios. Those songs were pitched to a Basque label in Spain called Gaztulopeka Hotsak. They signed me and released the Abbey Road tracks as Too Hurt to Cry.”
One of the sweetest surprises in his career came with his visit to Abbey Road. He walked in as a visitor, hoping to leave with a souvenir, say a like a piece of letterhead or something simple. Instead he was invited to remaster his CD catalogue. Speaking of the experience, he explained details of the studio and their day to day operations that I never knew. He said it was one of the coolest experiences to walk in to where his favorite band once recorded.
Following the current abroad, Lyerly found out quickly that European audiences appreciated his style and were open to more from the American music maker. It seems many artists with deep ties to the history of American music know great success in Europe. It has been productive enough that Lyerly spends three quarters of the year living in Spain and touring through Europe.
He returns to the states for three or four months each year to take care of business matters, visit with friends and family, as well as performing to audiences while he is here. He returned in November, 2014 and has been busy playing all over the state. Also while visiting home he went into the studio recently and threw down some tracks for a new live recording. He is plenty excited about this new recording too as he explains, “It’s REALLY live too- no overdubbing- recorded with two microphones (binaural) in one day much like Johnny Cash or Buddy Holly recorded, only with cutting edge technology.” Live at Deveraux will be available for purchase later this week.
Currently he is wrapping up his tour with a final few shows. Back by popular demand after last month’s show, Lyerly will be performing at Bambooz Tiki Bar this coming Friday, March 6, with Take Two opening the show at 8 PM. Tickets are available at the door. Lyerly and Band also have one more show in the Greenville area on Saturday, March 7 and will conclude their visit in the Triangle area next week. For more information please visit his website at www.billlyerly.com.
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