on 30 April 2010
Billy Edd Wheeler is a very difficult artist to categorise, and that is probably a major reason why he never attained the success his talent deserved.
To me, he was essentially a songwriter who could sing adequately enough to refect the skills of his writing. To many other people he was a singer and performer. The point is made.
Billy Edd Wheeler was born in Boone County, West Virginia, an area devoted to coal mining. Whilst he used music as a means to move to the city, he didn't adopt the high lonesome sound of Appalachia, in fact if he has a sound at all you can hear it on Reverend Mr Black, which he wrote and was recorded by the Kingston Trio. If you look at the song credits though you will see the names of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as well, and this is the interesting bit. It was their interest and guidance that gave Billy the lift and direction to succeed. He wrote Jackson that Johnny Cash recorded. It was Jerry Leiber who suggested using the proposed climax as the lead-off, and so "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout" entered the country canon. Billy returned the compliment by advising Jerry Leiber to introduce a girl into the story of The Girl who Loved the Man Who Robbed the Bank at Santa Fe and Got away. Simple when you know!
Billy also wrote High Flying Bird, recorded by Jefferson Airplane and many other memorable titles. He has had over 150 songs recorded by many artists, and they make a lovely pension plan.
This album though is taken from his own recordings, some 28 of them, and they too tell a story. He might not be the greatest vocallist ever to record, but he is more than adequate, and his interpretations of songs recorded by others are fascinating. One song is included that he didn't write, and that is Bringing Mary Home, a hit for the Country Gentlemen in the mid 60s. He must have liked it very much.
In summary, an excellent and much needed album from Omni. A good booklet, and great care in production for one of the fringe characters of Folk or was it Country? or perhaps it was Pop? Whatever he was and is, he has contributed some great music and we should thank him from our hearts.