Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feature: Bill Nance

A Blues Club Bio of Bill Nance.

By Scott Bucholtz.

Welcome To The Machine: Mr. Bilco, Keyboardist extraordinaire, Bill Nance. Born in Charleston far enough back to truly be a product of The British Invasion and Motown. He actually saw THE Ed Sullivan show. Seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan to a musician is like seeing Babe Ruth call his shot for a baseball fan! A fourth generation performer, tuned in and turned on by his older brother and sisters. His guitar playing older brother, Joe truly whet his appetite for ear candy. Bill says he was the two or three year old who would play records at 6 a. m. at full volume while changing speeds to create different sounds. I can identify with that, my Dad loves to tell how I would get up and practice the drums in the middle of the night. Where there is inspiration….

“Welcome My Son, Welcome To The Machine… What Did You Dream?”.

Self-described as straightforward and wacky, a quick perusal of the Facebook page for William Prohaska Nance reinforces that. He lists favorites such as Family Guy, The Office, South Park, The Simpsons, Star Trek, Star Wars… a favorite quote is “No offence, man, but you suck”. He’s been known to bother dogs (his “kids”) with a Tenor Saxophone. This is a guy who has also said that he would like to be Bugs Bunny and that he “brakes for doughnuts”. That, I can understand.

Bill will tell you that his proudest accomplishments are his own Bilco Amps. Probably much to Bill’s chagrin, this won’t be an ad for Bilco Amps. Although, he will tell you “my gear gets better gigs than me”. He has stories to prove it. One cool fact: Billy Preston’s final performance was on Bilco gear. I’ve heard that his stuff is great and I’m sure that it is. But, I’m a drummer. What do I know about amps? I just hit $#*+!!! Bill, on the other hand, starting with Erector sets and Lincoln Logs, has always loved to build, manipulate and fix all sorts of machines. Years later a conversation over dinner with virtuoso Eric Johnson inspired him… wait, I said I’m not going into details about amplifiers.

Now that I have had the opportunity of playing a full gig with Bill, I don’t think I would call him a keyboard player. He is a MACHINE. Not only does it sound like he knows every song, he’ll play every part, if necessary, AND some parts that come from who knows where! Bill lives by the credo: “Quest For The Tone”. If I may, I’ll suggest taking that a little further and quote ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons: “TONE. TASTE. TENACITY.” Bill has been performing since 1974. He says that he got serious about it in 1981. While he has never had any intention or desire to be a ‘star’, he’s certainly had extensive personal experience with ‘stars’. But, when asked what his goals are he simply states: “to have fun playing with good musicians, regardless of their name”. He says, “treat people like you want to be treated”. He does.

Some of his early bands were Early Morning, The Source and Duchess (with John McKelvey). Later, it was Bill Driscoll and Hot Pepper (remember “The Boucan Room”?) and Ninth Row. Then he played with Bobby Alvarez, John Ethridge, and Wayne Mitchum, which continues occasionally to this date. He wants to note that he “went country” and joined Country Junction with Marvin Lanier and Hap Robinson whom he calls ‘masters’. Not only has Bill played (and recorded) with anybody and everybody who has ever seemingly been in the Charleston area, he shared stages with many household names. As I mentioned earlier, he’s broken bread with Eric Johnson. He was on a first name basis with Michael McDonald (ask him about it). He’s opened, worked and hung with the likes of Sammy Hagar, REO Speedwagon, Johnny Winter, Eddie Money, Charlie Daniels, Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult and Robin Trower. A personal favorite was the late Jeff Healey, whom Bill said was a “wonderful guy”. A highlight that Bill recalls centers around a night on tour with Eddie Bush when they opened for The Jeff Healey Band. Following Bill’s band performance, Jeff stopped by before going on stage and said, “well, we had planned on doing a good show anyway. But, now we HAVE too! You guys were awesome!!”. Then he proceeded to walk out on stage and repeat that message to HIS audience before he even played a note. You can’t buy that kind of respect.

An appearance by Bill provides instant credibility to any event or performance. Having been told about the Lowcountry Blues Club by many different people, he first came to bear witness about 2 ½ years ago. His presence at a Jam Night always elevates the evening. His list of favorite jammers starts with Wayne Mitchum, Dan Wright, Jerry Ray, Jon Hagar, Quentin Ravenal, Melissa, Billy G, Louie D, myself (thanks!) and “SO many others, some of which who’s names I don’t even know”. He uses the words “excitement” and “surprises” in the same sentence when discussing the magic that is Jam Night. Some of his favorite Jam Night songs are “Shaky Ground”, “Cissy Strut” and “Strange How I Miss You”. Better yet, he expressed a desire for more Allman Brothers!!!

A few of the artists that deeply inspired Bill are Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic and “anything with the Funk Brothers”. He particularly referenced “Red” by King Crimson and the “righteous” Steely Dan classic “Deacon Blues”.

Currently, Bill performs with The Shane Clark Experience, Michael Davis, Sgt. Submarine (Beatles tribute) and The Krays. In fact, you can catch Bill in action this weekend on Friday with The Krays at Dockside on Edisto or on Saturday at Wet Willies with The Shane Clark Experience. Obviously, he is available as a hired gun and when you’re lucky, can be found at Home Team on Wednesday nights.
“So, Welcome to The Machine.”

As always, there are a number of great shows to choose from this weekend. On Friday night, June 17, Highway 17 is at the new Moonshine Saloon, Old You will be elevating the Vendue Rooftop, while I’ll be with The Jonathan Robinson Trio at the West Ashley Outback. Heyrocco is at the Village Tavern in Mt Pleasant, and Captain Kirk is at Skynyrd’s with Starling.

On Saturday night, Johnny Mac and the BootyRanch are at Jimbo’s Rock Lounge. As always, Plane Jane will be at a Wild Wing CafĂ© near you. Finally, don’t forget about Sarah Cole at the WA Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ next Tuesday.



Check your favorite local paper for more shows happening this weekend, and join the facebook site "Charleston Live Music" for highlights...

June's featured artists are Howlin' Wolf (1910), and Scott Holt (1966), both born in June.

Join us on facebook (Lowcountry Blues Club) and twitter, and check out some of our recordings from the Wednesday jams at

It's time to pay your dues for 2011 if you haven't already done so. Just come out to a jam, and give us $10 for an individual, $25 for a band or family, or $100 for a corporate membership. Or you can mail dues to The Lowcountry Blues Club, P.O. Box 814, Isle of Palms, SC 29451.

LMW, June 16, 2011

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