Long a folk and blues festival favorite, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz wraps his humorous stories and songs into carefully orchestrated sets that feature his stellar piano playing. For this performance, Rev. Billy will do a solo set of boogie woogie blues and irreverent social commentary followed by songs from his ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll- The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll” program.
Local musicians Steve Arvey (bass) and Sandi Grecco (drums) will join him for the second set. Rev. Billy will perform at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center on Friday, April 19 at 8pm. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 day of show. Advance tickets are available online at wslr.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006.
Wirtz’s family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was nine, which was then a melting pot of classic soul, classic R&B, and country music. He listened to R&B radio shows and attended concerts by James Brown and Aretha Franklin. He learned to play guitar to mask his awkward feelings in his teenage years, when he was already over six feet tall. Working in an R&B record store as a teen, he broadened his knowledge and love for blues and classic soul, and a revelatory moment came in 1970, when he attended a gospel show in Augusta, GA. He wept openly by the end of the show, and it changed his life.
In 1979, blues and barrelhouse piano player Sunnyland Slim came to his area; Wirtz introduced himself and ended up driving Slim around to his other nearby shows. Wirtz quit his day job and went with Slim to Chicago, where he shared the aging bluesman’s walk-up apartment, meeting other players and getting his blues education in the clubs there. Wirtz credits his time in Chicago with Slim as his real blues education, and as the time he began to develop his stage persona and in 1982 he began to pursue a solo career. He developed his act over hundreds of performances and half a dozen years. Although by no means a straight-ahead blues player, much of his material is based in blues and classic R&B, and his sharp social commentaries, sprinkled with humorous observations about politics and life in 20th-century America, make Wirtz a sought-after performer on the festival and club circuit.
WSLR/Fogartyville Community Media & Arts Center
525 Kumquat Court
Sarasota, FL 34236
Photos from Fogartyville