We had the good fortune of connecting with Billy Kay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Billy, what do you want people to remember about you?
With YouTube, my music will always be available. My great grandkids will see what I did! I hope my legacy is that I made a difference. I gave folks memories. I inspired people. I made folks feel special – with my music.
People all over the world write me and say they played one of my songs at their wedding! So I was a special part of someone’s day in Poland that I never met!
Here locally, I’m asked to play at hospices. And I am literally the last thing someone hears before they pass on. The family says “He moved his pinky. That means he’s happy!”
At my live shows, when I find out a table is celebrating something, I unplug the guitar. Go to their table. And the whole venue sings happy birthday. And they get a memory!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The first place the VA homeless program put me was a tiny town in Tennessee called Clifton. There were more people in my apartment building in New York then this entire town. The town librarian was also the town’s singer (with her husband on guitar). I went to the library every morning for the wifi. We became friends.
The library had a porch swing. I would bring my guitar and sing to no one. She encouraged me to perform at one of the town’s two restaurants. I did. They liked me. I spent the next year touring the South and perfecting my live show.
Someone heard my songs on YouTube. Told me if I could get to Seattle, he would pay to record an album. So I headed West. I got Cancer is Seattle, and the VA did the surgery in Las Vegas. The Nevada VA ran out of housing money, and told me to go across the river to Arizona, where I have been for 6 years.
What sets me apart? I don’t consider myself a “star”. I consider the audience the star! If someone can actually sing, I invite them on stage and let them shine. Other musicians bring their guitar with them, knowing I’ll ask them to play with me.
And as I mentioned earlier, I love unplugging and going down into the audience and doing the “up close and personal” stuff where the whole venue joins in to help someone celebrate whatever their occasion is.
Hec, A woman named Donna has celebrated her birthday every Thursday for years! LOLOL
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When I first arrived here and my case manager told me the rules, you could probably hear me scream in France!
I needed permission to leave the County! Gigs in casinos (less then 2 miles away) were not only out of the county, they were a different state! Same with California – seven miles down the road.
I wasn’t allowed to perform where alcohol was served – which is everywhere! I had a 7pm curfew and was expected to find gigs that ended before most even start!
Fortunately, my case manager saw I wasn’t a typical Homeless Vet and I eventually got waivers for most of the rules and could live a normal and fulfilling life! Miss Heidi will always be the most important person.
Sightseeing here? This is a desert – I’m a New York City boy! On any given day, it’s over 100 degrees. We have the Colorado River. All our activities involve the river – which is always freezing! I enjoy the old mining towns and a drive along Route 66 with the a/c on
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Who else deserves recognition? That’s easy! The whole town of Laughlin and Bullhead City!! I arrived here 6 years ago as a Homeless Vet. Things could have gone South quickly!
Yet the whole town, the Chambers of Commerce, the elected officials, the businesses, the newspapers… all had my back!
I sing Christmas Carols with our Mayor outside Wal-Mart for the Holidays. The Chambers made me a member without having to pay the annual fee. I’ve never used it, but I can eat for free in just about every restaurant. I’ve been booked in casinos – a solo act at a casino!! I sang the National Anthem on Casino Drive!
As of this moment, I’m nominated for Laughlin Citizen of the Year! When people tell me I’m awesome, I reply that I’m a group effort – and I mean it!!!