Bill McKay
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Bill McKay

Denver, Colorado, United States | INDIE

Denver, Colorado, United States | INDIE
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"Gone Too Long"

Steamboat Pilot - 5/2/2008

Gone too long
Bill McKay sticks to rock with his own band
By Margaret Hair

Steamboat Springs — After logging years with Leftover Salmon and The Derek Trucks Band, Colorado music mainstay, keyboardist and vocalist Bill McKay is getting to know himself. More specifically, he’s getting back to playing music he’s written, touring with the four-piece Bill McKay Band.

It’s not too sharp a break from Trucks’ jam and blues leanings or Leftover’s frequent forays into bluegrass, but McKay’s band does have a distinct feel that sets it apart from past gigs.

Joined by guitarist Adam Stern (Double Parked), bass player Stefan Ferraro (8traC) and drummer Chris Carland (Shanti Groove), McKay comes through Steamboat Springs on Saturday with a set at Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill. He spoke with 4 Points about rediscovering rock ’n’ roll (which he never really lost), combining individual influences and keeping the audience interested.

4 POINTS: How will this show be different from what people might have heard when you were playing with The Derek Trucks Band or Leftover Salmon?

BILL MCKAY: We’ll be focusing some more on some straight ahead rock ’n’ roll and funk and blues, and doing some of my original tunes that have been sitting around and hadn’t been played in a while.

Musically, it’s rockin’. It’s more rock ’n’ roll than a bluegrass band, for example.

4 POINTS: Do you gravitate more toward rock ’n’ roll than the jam or bluegrass stuff?

BM: I like all kinds of music. I never really was a bluegrass musician per se, so in one way, it’s nice to be able to have my own band and be able to turn on a dime (to a different style of music).

4 POINTS: Are you glad to be back to performing your own songs, as opposed to playing other people’s stuff?

BM: I love both. One great thing about Leftover was that we all played our own music. … This is nice in another way, in that it’s more my focus. I’m responsible to make the audience laugh also, so I have to come up with more comedic interludes while the guitars tune up.

- Steamboat Pilot


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



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.