Billy Beale

Kansas City Blues Preservationist with a career spanning 4 decades and counting.

Billy Beale Woods is a staple in the juke joints, bar rooms, dance halls and courtrooms of the great Kansas City area. With a checkered past behind him, Billy spends his time carrying out his life works: Preserving the blues. at 65 years young, Billy was the very first artist we ever released a record for. In fact, we started recording Billy before we knew we were about to create a record label.

We knew and loved Billy from the musical community, and in 2010, when we learned that Billy was about to go away on “Vacation” for a few years, we knew that we needed to record a record for him before he left. “Slide Dog Billy” was recorded and a release party was held after his final incarceration was underway.

In 2014, after Billy’s (early) release for good behavior “Hard Time” was recorded to encompass the songs he played while away.

Billy is out, living healthy, staying legal and enjoying the winter of his life, doing what he loves the most. Playing the blues.

Beale wrote Hard Time’s 11 songs during a three-year stint in prison, and the influence of that environment is audible. Some songs get rhythmic jangles from the rattle of heavy chains. It’s not that hard to figure out just how I got here, on this long, hard road that I’ve been on, Beale sings on “Long Hard Road,” his voice plaintive and rusty. And on the heartbreaking “Chains,” he attests to a truth that he has come to know from the inside: One night the devil come to me, and he whispers in my ear/”Billy Beale, I’ll never take you down, ’cause you’re in hell right here.” If the theme is delivered with a heavy hand, the album remains a poignant, graceful collection from an unlikely source.

Natalie Gallagher

Music Editor, The Pitch

He’s developed his own signature sound using his “nasty ass slide”: a 1949 hollow-body Kay with a P-90 pickup that he plays with a 50-caliber machine-gun shell casing on his finger. (He also plays a 1953 Silvertone lap steel with a traditional Stevens brass slide.) Beale’s blues is the kind that roared from the old midtown speakeasies that now house the gritty bars he plays.

Berry Anderson

Writer, The Pitch

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