Author: Rhynes, J.D.

My Friend Bill White
 

The other day while looking through my prodigious file of cassette
tapes, I came across one from my friend Bill White, that he recorded
back in the late 70s or early 80s. Inside the little plastic case
with a tape was a handwritten note from Bill and it said; to my dear
friend JDRhynes. I hope you enjoy this tape that you played on with
me and a lot of your other friends. We had a lot of fun over the
years didn't we, your friend Bill White. I had completely forgotten
about this tape and probably had not listened to it in 20 years, so
I popped it into my stereo, and set down and relived Bills great
harmonica playing with a lot of my friends from years past. Bill was
right, we sure had a lot of fun playing music years ago.

Starting in the 1970s, up until Bill passed away in the middle 80s,
we always used to get together every January at the Freight Salvage
in Berkeley California to celebrate Bill White's birthday. It was
usually held on Saturday night, and every musician in the Bay Area
who wasn't working would show up, and it wasn't unusual to have at
least two dozen or more musicians there to celebrate Bill's
birthday.

I believe it was January of 1979 when this next incident happened on
stage at Bill's birthday party. The Vern Williams band was the host
band that night for Bill's party, and we were well into the third
set of the evening, well past midnight. In the band that night was
Vern on mandolin, Keith little on banjo, Ed Neff on fiddle, Del
Williams on guitar, and myself JDRhynes on bass, with the birthday
honoree Bill White on harmonica, or should I save harmonica's,
because Bill always had about a dozen of them on him at all times.[I
used to tell Bill he carried so many harmonicas on him he was bullet
proof]. Bill had called Butch Waller of the band High Country, to
the stage to do a number with us. Butch had chosen an old Jimmy
Martin standard, Setting On Top Of The World, in the key of G, so
Keith kicked it off on the banjo and Butch sang the first verse,
with Vern and Del singing in harmony with Butch on the chorus. Now
here is where the fun part starts. The second verse goes like this;
she called me up from El Paso, and said come home daddy I need you
so,- - - -.

Now every musician that is reading this will know what I'm talking
about, as we have all done this at one time or another. When you
forget the words to the song, you get this deer in the headlights
look that all musicians recognize as; he forgot the words! Then you
look at your bandmate with this quizzical look and hopefully he will
tell you the words of the next verse. Well, that was exactly what
happened to Butch that night. Vern was taking a mandolin break, and
I was playing bass behind Butch as he stood there valiantly trying
to remember the words to the next verse. Standing right next to him,
staring him right in the face was Del Williams. Del knew exactly
what was going through Butch's mind, and finally Butch looked up at
Del, with that pleading, please tell me the words of the next verse
look? Del looked him straight in the eye and said; she called me
Elvis and Bill Monroe, come home daddy I need you so. I exploded
into laughter and missed a beat or two as did Del. [I can't repeat
here what Butch said to Del, only that it had something to do with
his personal anatomy.] So, to get the last laugh on Del, those are
the exact words that Butch sang on the second verse, and it brought
down the house. Even Bill White remarked to the fact that Butch had
rewrote the song right in the middle of it. Then Butch explained to
the audience what had transpired during the song and they all got a
big kick out of it.

Regretfully that was last Bill White's birthday party I got to
attend at the Freight, and it was only a few short years after that,
that Bill passed away. Listening to that cassette tape was a
bittersweet experience for me, enjoying that wonderful music of
years gone by, but yet knowing that I will never be able to do that
with my friend Bill White again on this earth. Bill White was not a
big man physically, but in a lot of his friends heart, he was the
biggest harmonica player that ever lived. That includes the heart of
his friend, JD Rhynes.
 
Posted:  7/25/2013



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