Just now beginning his third decade in the music business, Colorado's Bill McKay is undoubtedly one of the unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll keyboard playing.
Best known for his current membership in the legendary "polyethnic Cajun slam-grass" band Leftover Salmon, McKay has found himself onstage with the likes of Little Feat, Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks, moe., David Bromberg, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Herring, Del McCoury, Gov't Mule, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident, Trey Anastasio, Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band, John Bell, David Grisman, and a host of others. A veritable dual talent as both a keyboard player and singer, McKay has taken influences such as McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Bland and Aretha Franklin and out of them created an distinctive and dignified musical voice that encompasses jazz, barrelhouse blues, improvisational rock and classic soul singing.
Though he has mainly been in a supporting role throughout his career, the newly-formed Bill McKay Band indicates that McKay is ready to make the leap from sideman to center stage.
A native of suburban New York, McKay got his first taste of the road as a teenager while touring throughout Europe as a member of his high school choir. After moving to Colorado in 1987, Bill immersed himself in the state's rapidly developing local music scene, eventually finding his way into the Boulder-based Band du Jour, a lynchpin of Colorado's early-90s "jam band" movement. During its cross-country travels Band Du Jour frequently shared the bill with a like-minded band known as Aquarium Rescue Unit. ARU guitarist Jimmy Herring (now in Widespread Panic) had a notion that Bill would be a good addition to a new venture being formed around a blues guitar wunderkind who was barely old enough to drive... and thus in 1996 McKay's musical journey took him to his new home in Atlanta, Georgia as a member of The Derek Trucks Band. A five year-stint with DTB found McKay emerging as the band's lead singer and his ferocious Hammond B-3 chops were a perfect foil for Trucks’ slide guitar wizardry. Increasingly frustrated that his onstage contributions were not reflected in the three studio album she did with the band, Bill left Derek Trucks Band and returned to Colorado in 2000 to join long-time friends Leftover Salmon.
Though piano and organ have certainly never been part of traditional bluegrass instrumentation, McKay's addition to the group was immediately accepted by the bands fervent fan base. Leftover's future looked to be in doubt after the death of founding member Mark Vann in 2002, but there is no question among the Salmon faithful that McKay was heavily instrumental in helping the band sail through this transitional period. His compositions "Railroad Highway" and "Just Keep Walki’n'" are consistently fan favorites at any Leftover Salmon show. Leftover's schedule has slowed somewhat in the last few years (though they still find time to sell-out the occasional Red Rocks Amphitheater or Fillmore Auditorium gig!) giving Bill McKay the freedom to spread his wings in a variety of musical environments. In any given month you may find him doing solo piano gigs, duo shows with his songwriter brother John Cotton McKay, or tearing up the keys with Denver's rock/funk extravaganza Double Parked. National tours with Americana stalwarts Bloodkin and founding Meters member Leo Nocentelli have also found their way into McKay's resume.
Bill McKay's vision of American Music has finally coalesced with his own Bill McKay Band, a relatively young unit that formed in 2007. Currently performing all over Colorado and planning to record an album and release it winter of 2009-2010. A new self titled album with McKay’s original songs is helping transform Bill McKay from "that guy who played with..." to a name that stands on its own.
Gone too Long
Written By: Bill Mckay
You've been gone too long and you feel it in your bones.
thought your love was strong but it leaves you all alone
There's a cricket in your wall, like a stranger down the hall.
the singing in your head says leave the girl alone.
Back to Colorado to the grass you grew before.
You used to use the love, now you leave it on the floor.
Now you use a lie to feed your lonely soul.
In the morning then you cry about your loss of self control.
You've been gone too long
and you feel it.
You've been gone too long.
2009-2010 Bill McKay Band—Bill McKay (Self Titled)
2008 Egyptian Windmill Operators (featuring Col. Bruce Hampton, Bill Kreutzmann and Oteil Burbridge) -- Realm Fest 2008 2007 Double Parked -- Double Parked
2004 Leftover Salmon -- Leftover Salmon
2003 Leftover Salmon with Cracker -- O' Cracker Where Art Thou?
2003 The Derek Trucks Band -- Soul Serenade (recorded in 1999-2000)
2002 Leftover Salmon -- Live
2001 Bloodkin -- The Bloodkin Community Gospel Rehab
2000 Bloodkin -- All Dolled Up
1998 The Derek Trucks Band -- Out Of The Madness
1997 The Derek Trucks Band -- The Derek Trucks Band
1992 Band du Jour -- Feel The Sun
Fat Cat (Bill McKay)
Jump for Joy
Gone too Long (Bill McKay)
Nail My Heart (Bill McKay)
Aint too Proud to Beg
Stupid Game (Bill McKay)
Thunder in the Rain(Bill McKay)
Sinners' Song--Conscience Killer (Bill McKay)
Shake For Me
Just keep Walkin'--(Bill McKay)
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
Call Me the Breeze
Turn on your Lovelight
Hey Pocky Way