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full schedule
Is It Over?/They Found Me Guilty
Billy Price & the KRB Live
Free at Last
Danger Zone
Soul Collection
Can I Change My Mind
Sworn Testimony
East End Avenue
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Billy Price & Fred Chapellier Live On Stage - CD + DVD Now Available
I'm excited to announce the arrival of this new CD and DVD package from DixieFrog Records. It documents two great nights at Espace Manureva in Charleville-Mezieres , France in May 2009 during our Night Work tour. Musicians are me and Fred Chapellier a... more

Billy Price CDs and DVDs Make Great Holiday Gifts
When you think about gifts this holiday season, we hope that you will consider our CDs and DVDs for the music lovers in your life. In particular, our latest CD with French guitarist Fred Chapellier, Night Work, continues to get great reviews like thi... more

Billy Price: East Coast King of Blue-Eyed Soul

Soul Patrol: Thomas J. Cullen III
Copyright 1997 by Blues Revue Magazine.

 

After two albums with Roy Buchanan and five albums of his own, Pittsburgh's Billy Price has finally recorded the album he always wanted with The Soul Collection (Green Dolphin GD41297). This tastefully recorded set of 16 tunes pays homage to the artists who, "through some combination of fate, lost opportunity, and bad luck remained in the second line behind James, Aretha, Otis, Sam, and Al," according to Billy's self-penned liner notes.

To hard soul devotees like me and Price, these "second line" artists are innumerable. No one album could ever reveal the depth of awe and inspiration that a teen-aged Billy Pollak imbibed in his hometown of Fair Lawn, N.J. in the 1960s. Among the tunes by better-known names are James Carr's fateful ballad "Let It Happen," O.V. Wright's bluesy shuffle "Gonna Forget About You," and Eddie Hinton's existential, gospel-infused ballad "Dangerous Highway" (a tune all modern minstrels can identify with).

However, the paramount influence on The Soul Collection is that of Price's good friend and mentor, Otis Clay. There are three tunes from the Otis Clay songbook: the deep ballad "That's How It Is" (a feverish duet with O.C. himself), the shuffle-bump "I Didn't Know the Meaning of Pain," and the sweet release of "I Die a Little Each Day." The basic sound on Soul Collection owes more to Hi Records and the sweet Chicago soul of Tyrone Davis (during his Brunswick/Dakar days) than to Stax/Volt and Goldwax, although traces of those Memphis giants can be heard as well in the shimmering guitar work of Don Garvin and the cryin' horns that are a major presence throughout.

After 25 years of singing soul and blues to appreciative audiences on the East Coast, Price earned the right to record an album that defines his very soul and he has done it with class and craft from first song to last on The Soul Collection. Initially inspired to sing soul by the music of Otis Redding (Price was a member of the official Otis Redding Fan Club in the 60s), his dreams became a reality while he was a student at Penn State. In 1971, Price found himself in his adopted Steel City home turf singing with a local band called The Rhythm Kings. During his stint with the Rhythm Kings, Pittsburgher Jay Reich brought Price to the attention of guitar god Roy Buchanan, who was based in the Washington, D.C. area.

Buchanan had recently been "discovered" by the national audience due to a PBS documentary that elevated him from his undeserved "best kept secret" status. Never a singer, Buchanan signed Price on and he sang on two of Buchanan's Polydor albums, That's What I'm Here For and the critically acclaimed Livestock, which produced the mid-70s FM hit, a fiery cover of Tyrone Davis' "Can I Change My Mind?"

Settling back in Pittsburgh in the mid-70s, Price put together The Keystone Rhythm Band and toured incessantly throughout the mid-Atlantic region from 1978 until their demise in 1990. Price and KRB recorded several singles and four sparkling albums, two on Pittsburgh's Green Dolphin label, Is It Over? and They Found Me Guilty, and two on the Antenna label out of Philadelphia, Live! and Free at Last. During their 12-year run, several renowned musicians played in KRB, most notably jazz saxophonist Kenny Blake and former James Brown and Prince saxophonist Eric Leeds.

When the band finally hit rock bottom with the disappointing sales of what they thought would be their breakthrough album, Free at Last, Price and KRB called it quits much to the chagrin of their many loyal fans in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. After a brief hiatus, Price was back singing around Pittsburgh. But he was no longer singing his beloved soul music, which can take an incalculable toll on the vocal cords. For five years he performed jump blues, which in his own words were "in the style of Roomful of Blues." This yielded one album, Danger Zone, on the tiny Pittsburgh jazz label Corona. Danger Zone's inspiration came from the music of Percy Mayfield, T-Bone Walker, Roy Milton, Big Joe Turner, et al.

As Price now had a regular job and a growing family, he played weekends in the Pittsburgh area and rarely left western Pennsylvania for a gig. By 1995 he was back doing what he does best: genuine soul music--satisfying salubrious, and scintillating as ever. With an exciting new album under his belt, Price and his new band are venturing out of Pittsburgh with a wee bit more regularity these days. Even though he enjoyed equal billing and cult status with many roots music bands during his glory days with KRB, he never compromised his sound for the fickle and frustrating major label moguls and thus never go the "big break" he rightfully deserved. Always the loyal soul crusader, Price keeps the soul banner flying high in performance and on record as evidenced by The Soul Collection.

Through my work with the Bucks County Blues Society, Price became one of the most beloved BCBS artists of all time. He performed for BCBS in 1979 (his Philadelphia area debut), in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1993, and most recently in the spring of 1997 to promote The Soul Collection. Naturally, I consider him a friend (he played two sets at my wedding reception in 1982), but he is also an alter ego. We both love the same music and both come from similar urban backgrounds where music was always in the air. If I could sing like Price, I guess I'd be touring up and down the "Dangerous Highway" as well. In my next life, if I can't come back as a Shakespearean actor, please let me be a soul singer supreme!

The Keystone State has a rich and varied history of blue-eyed soul, which includes my personal favorites The Magnificent Men (from York, Pa., they were the first white group to gain major acceptance at The Apollo) and the Philly-based Soul Survivors (originally from New York, their immortal "Expressway to Your Heart" from 1967 still has them active locally 30 years later). Even Temple University students Hall & Oates started singing sweet soul in Philly before their eventual stardom. And yours truly was booted out of his garage band, The Iron Gate, for demanding more soul and blues tunes in our limited repertoire of British Invasion covers. I too, like Price, became a devotee of soul after purchasing Otis Redding's "Respect" in 1965 and have championed it in many ways for the last 30 years through my writing, radio shows, and productions with the Bucks County Blues Society. With soul, the deeper you go, the better it feels!

 
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