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5 Questions with Billy Joe Huels of the Dusty 45s

5 Questions with Billy Joe Huels of the Dusty 45s

Billy Joe Huels was raised in Southern Illinois, before moving to Seattle in 1989 and making his mark with the roots-based Dusty 45s.  He has been a staple of the Northwest music scene for the last 20 years, and last year, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend Wanda Jackson scooped up the Dusties as her backing band for her West Coast tour dates.

I first met Billy Joe when my band, Shane Tutmarc & The Traveling Mercies, played with the Dusty 45s at Seattle’s Reverb Fest in 2007.  Since moving to Nashville a couple years back, I always look forward to spending time with him when I’m in Seattle or he’s visiting Nashville.  Billy Joe’s been on a road trip visiting his folks in Illinois and is spending a few weeks in Music City, so I decided to throw a few questions his way.

ST:What first drew you to that 50s rock n roll sound?  How has that sound changed/developed since you first started the Dusty 45s back in the mid-90s?
BJH:I was always curious where things started.  Where the roots of it all were.  My first instrument was the trumpet, so I was really introduced to the big band/swing era at an early age.  Although, I loved that music as a youngster, I started getting into good old southern rock and blues in high school; yes, [Lynyrd] Skynyrd and the  [The] Allman Brothers.  I tried to hide my love for the big band stuff (which I didn’t think was cool in college), and as I got older I really opened my mind to as many styles of rock as possible.  I didn’t really know much about rockabilly.  I just thought it was like Happy Days and sock hops.   When I moved from Southern Illinois to Seattle in 1989, I fell right into the heart of the Grunge scene and tried understand it, but I was really drawn to the Alt-Country movement that was happening outside of Seattle……  Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks even Junior Brown and Neil Young.   After starting a rock band that had these types of influences, I realized that I wanted to present an act with more energy.  I started getting into more west coast sounds like surf and punk rock.  This exploration, along with my deep-rooted love for the swing era opened up all kinds of questions that eventually led me to focus on the roots of rock and roll.

ST I’ve always felt that rock and roll must have really helped blur the racial lines in the 1950s.  What role, if any, do you feel rock n roll played in the civil rights movement?

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BJH: I am certainly Payday Loans not an authority on civil rights; it seems like there are many theories of how rock and roll was invented, but to me the most obvious one is from the southern blues artists.  They wrote about the struggles they endured and the chord structures were really applied to early rock and roll/rockabilly.  Once the back-beat was added it connected with a new and powerful demographic: the 50’s teenager.  Black or white, all the kids loved this sound. There was no turning back.  It opened a new level of communication between the two races. White parents were scared and uninformed, but they had to deal with it.

ST What have you learned from working with Wanda Jackson?
BJH: Don’t fuck up or she’ll call you out like James Brown. Kidding. She is an absolute professional and committed entertainer.  It’s so great to support her on stage and watch her work the crowd.  I’ve only been doing it 20 years.  She’s been doing is for close to 60.

ST As a Seattleite living in Nashville, I’m curious what your Northwest vs. the South pros and cons would be.
BJH: I have lived in Seattle for 23 years, but I grew up on a farm about 4 hours north of Nashville.  I love Seattle for it’s individuality and diversity, and moving there at a young age challenged my perspective.  It really opened my mind to the much larger world that we all live in. As a touring musician, Seattle is geographically tough.  It’s just not very close to other urban centers where a band like the Dusty 45s need to play.   I also think that Americana/roots music is not as focused and appreciated as it is in the south.  Rain. People love roots music here [Nashville]!  There are also countless great musicians to work with and draw great inspiration from.  It’s close to where I grew up and can see my folks and siblings more often. The fried food and BBQ is good; I can’t stay away from it.

ST What can we expect from Billy Joe and/or the Dusty 45s in the next year?
BJH: I head back to Seattle in April to do a short tour with the Dusty 45s and Wanda Jackson.  The Dusty 45s will also ramp up some regional touring in the Northwest before we head back here to start a 3 week tour from Nashville to Boston.  I am writing for a new record, and after 4 studio CDs and several other releases, I am planning a fresh approach for the new work.  I am also planning on spending more time back here in Music City!

http://www.dusty45s.com/
https://www.facebook.com/dusty45s
https://twitter.com/#!/TheDusty45s

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2 Responses to 5 Questions with Billy Joe Huels of the Dusty 45s

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Looking forward to seeing you both together in May in Seattle!

  2. AntGarkkems says:

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