Billy MacPherson is a ‘song and dance man’. A musician dedicated to the thrill of live performance and the pleasure his audiences derive from his vast catalogue of songs spanning the last 60 years and beyond. A ‘piano man’ who can play you any tune, from the best of the Beatles on through to Oasis, without missing a note.
Before the historic pandemic that we are living through, you might have found him in one of our many pubs on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, singing his heart and rocking his prized piano keyboard, from which he weaves his own special magical brew of sound and beats and orchestration.
A songwriter who shares and expresses his love for “Music Mountain”, this home of music and friends he found coming to Huntsville a few years ago. A singer who sets his voice soaring through the octaves, reaching over the pub noise, chatter and libations, to touch and move your heart, should you take the time to listen.
Like so many local musicians, Billy Mac—his performing name—misses live venues and particularly the camaraderie and fun he so enjoys in playing for others. His schedule was jammed with pub and concert dates, and Billy was working tirelessly in preparations for touring his 2020 five-song EP, Tracks. In fact, the year seemed to be one of endless possibilities for Billy, who has worked his whole life learning and excelling at his piano and singing skills. Always a creative person, he was thrilled that his songs were on local radio, but more importantly he was so looking forward to playing his tunes to friends and audiences throughout the area.
Never one to sit idle, Billy has refocused some of his boundless energies on painting, mostly landscapes, during the shutdown. He has also initiated a very successful Facebook Live show, where he shares songs and tells stories from his home studio. Humorously, some folks have mistaken him for the huge Bob Dylan poster that hangs at his back. Of course, it makes sense that Dylan would be an influence and inspiration to Billy who has played his own style of rocking, swinging, blues, pop, and jazz since he began to understand the piano way back in the early sixties.
Billy Mac taught himself to play by playing (and practicing), learning by ear and intuition, exploring the keyboard and finding the notes that matched the tones he heard on record and through singing phrases over and over again. In these days, where every song is easily available with detailed lessons on YouTube or some lesson plan on the Internet, it is difficult to appreciate the challenge of undertaking such a task, especially on the piano, which needs some flourish to play with any sort of cool panache. That Bill took on such a journey probably tells you more than any adjective could of the man he was in youth, and of course the man he matured into.
From his earliest experience, Billy Mac poured himself into playing, either as a single or in bands he formed and in the lifelong friendships he made. Lounges and Legions, through weddings halls and a Howard Johnson residency, Bill Mac plied the trade, learning more and ever more about what makes folks happy. Along the way he has collected songs and arrangements, and mastered the gift, the craft of moving a set in pace with an audience’s reaction, mood, and temperament. Generally speaking, most people want to have fun when out on the town and hanging with their friends, but if you are at a Billy Mac show, he might anticipate the feel of a room and take the listeners down some interesting roads. Billy knows the tunes that make us smile and he knows exactly when the Eagles need to be heard or whether it’s Elton John that everyone is hankering for. This in itself is no small feat, and while Huntsville has some of the most talented entertainers available, Billy MacPherson very quickly established himself as strong presence.
Throughout the years, though music may have always been his Friday night love affair, Bill MacPherson enjoyed his life as a father, family man and history teacher. He devoted his time to kids, his own and others through hockey coaching and training, and actively participating in Big Brothers. He taught Canadian history for more than thirty years in Barrie before coming to Huntsville for a small town experience and a starlit sky. Always promoting music—his own and others—he formed and owned an event-planning company, Blue Heron Productions, which brought diverse artists to musical festivals and venues. Billy also founded and acted as director of The Performance School for its thirteen years of operation, where he encouraged and mentored many young performers to love the art and craft of live performing.
As a piano player, Billy finds deep joy and satisfaction playing alongside fellow musicians, and as a consummate professional, Billy has graced local venues and stages with some of the finest in the area such as legendary Sean Cotton and Michael ‘Mighty Lopez’ Phillips. Cotton, in particular, has become a true and trusted friend. Together they produced, arranged, and recorded the five songs on Billy’s EP, Tracks. “Music Mountain”, Billy’s touching homage to the powerful artistic community in Huntsville, was co-written with Cotton. As in all of his song writing, Billy Mac is expressing his love and passion for the creative fires that burn brightly in so many here and help make this a special place to make our lives.
Along with his association with better-known players, Billy has also formed Cab Fare with his stalwart companion, Barry ‘Bazza’ Hayward, Jimmy Brendish, and featuring singer Rena Gaille, who often works with Billy in a duo as well. Billy Mac likes to describe his music as high energy but it might be better described as high octane, because he just rocketed through his music life with focus, purpose, and mission.
These are difficult and challenging times it is fair to say, and no one yet knows what will occur for the live shows that we all miss so much. No one misses them more than our ‘song and dance’ man, Billy MacPherson. Let’s hope we get to hear him and his collection of dear friends so very soon.
If you are looking for a song to lift your heart and make you smile, Billy Mac is your man.
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