When I was about 13 or 14 years old, my brother and I were raking leaves. He was singing these ridiculous words that were about a "Candyman" and a "Saltydog." I had no idea what they meant. He explained that he had seen a guitarist/singer the night before named Billy McEwan at a local pub. I had seen Billy walking around our neighborhood with his Saint Bernard, Humphrey. The huge reddish dog being slowly walked by an even redder owner made for an unusual sight to me. For some reason, I decided to muster up some courage and ask Billy for some guitar lessons. He agreed and we set up our first lesson. He was living in a huge house in Amityville at the time, and I had to ride my Schwinn there, holding my guitar in one hand, to get my first lesson. He was patient and attentive and the music he played sounded like no other music I had ever heard. I worked hard at getting my thumb to become independent and eventually, I began to be able to play the songs he was showing me. He helped my buy my first guitar. We drove around Long Island in his red Chevy station wagon to find the just right guitar for my young hands.

I may have only had ten lesson from him, but his effect on me was great. I learned about the great delta blues men from him. I learned about guitars from him. But I also learned something more important, I believe: there is no substitute for quality. Everything Billy did, he did extremely well. Drawing, playing, pitching, building. I was in awe of his commitment to excellence and I was driven to work as hard as I could to perfect my guitar playing. I did not want to disappoint.

When I finally turned 18, I could not wait to see him play at Arthur's Pub. The sound I heard in his bedroom during my lessons was great. Hearing him live in front of an audience was even better. I don't believe I have ever heard a guitar and voice sound better live than hearing Billy McEwan live. His attention to live sound has no parallel, in my opinion. I started to hear all the songs in his repertoire and in addition to his expertise in guitar playing, singing, and live sound, I started to get his sense of humor.

I would come home from college and try to find out where he was playing so I could get my fix. We corresponded while I was in the Peace Corps in Morocco. When I returned from Morocco, he decided to sell his L5 to me. The thought of owning the guitar played by nothing less of a musical hero to me was overwhelming.

Over the years we tried to keep in touch and now I have lost contact with him, sadly. I somehow managed to find Small Fry and purchased that guitar about 13 years ago. I don't believe there is another instrument that sounds anything like that little 12 string. I believe that he is still in Norway, and I hope we someday cross paths again. I am sure that as usual, I will be a bit tongue tied when I talk to him, as I always had been. I was always a little too in awe of him. Being in the presence of such an amazing talent does that to me, not to mention the effect he had on my life. Not just guitar playing or songwriting. I believe he taught me that old adage that anything worth doing is worth doing well. And I try to keep that going through all aspects of my life.

I hope that this page can be a place where people can share stories about Billy. Please feel free to comment or leave word that you were here. 

Share your memories here.

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  • Michael

    Michael Long Beach NY

    https://www.nytimes.com/1979/hives/long-island-weekly-he-loves-funny-old-songs.html04/08/arc The link above I found somehow after stumbling upon Vince's tribute to Billy.Loved, loved going to see him at Canterbury Ales in the late 70s.Like Jill from Lindenhurst, I sure would like to hear any recordings of Billy's.His brilliant musicality and good nature were pure fun for all.Miss him -talk about him almost 40 years later especially after Canterburys closed in recent years. Don't know what ya got till its gone.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1979/hives/long-island-weekly-he-loves-funny-old-songs.html04/08/arc

    The link above I found somehow after stumbling upon Vince's tribute to Billy.Loved, loved going to see him at Canterbury Ales
    in the late 70s.Like Jill from Lindenhurst, I sure would like to hear any recordings of Billy's.His brilliant musicality and good nature were pure fun for all.Miss him -talk about him almost 40 years later especially after Canterburys closed in recent years.
    Don't know what ya got till its gone.

  • Jill

    Jill Lindenhurst NY

    I wonder if anyone has any recordings of Billy.

    I wonder if anyone has any recordings of Billy.

  • Suzi Ferrara

    Suzi Ferrara Orlando, Florida

    I am Billy’s cousin , and yes he is living in Norway. So wonderful to come across these beautiful words about him. I have fond memories of him and his guitar, and Humphrey !!

    I am Billy’s cousin , and yes he is living in Norway.
    So wonderful to come across these beautiful words about him.
    I have fond memories of him and his guitar, and Humphrey !!

  • Charlie

    Charlie Sandyston, NJ

    Cool to hear about this guy. It sounds like my kind of music. And nice guitars...I didn't know you had an L5. I think I played at Arthur's on a few occasions with the Blue Sperks From Hell in about 1978-79. As I recall it was at the end of a little street, and the water was right out back. It was one of the wildest places I ever played. We had a sax player filling in, who wailed on two horns at once. We told our regular guy about it and he learned to do it, too, playing tenor and bari simultaneously. His name is Andy, and today he plays banjo with Railroad Earth. He's a phenomenal musician.

    Cool to hear about this guy. It sounds like my kind of music. And nice guitars...I didn't know you had an L5.
    I think I played at Arthur's on a few occasions with the Blue Sperks From Hell in about 1978-79. As I recall it was at the end of a little street, and the water was right out back. It was one of the wildest places I ever played. We had a sax player filling in, who wailed on two horns at once. We told our regular guy about it and he learned to do it, too, playing tenor and bari simultaneously.
    His name is Andy, and today he plays banjo with Railroad Earth. He's a phenomenal musician.

  • Bill Mason

    Bill Mason Huntington Station, NY

    Finding this page is wonderful! I would periodically Google search his name, or dream about finding something recorded by him on Youtube but with no luck, until this time, I decided to try adding "small fry" to my search, and then ,Bam! I struck gold! I was a big fan of Billy's and got my weekly Billy McEwan fix at Canterbury Ales in Huntington for many years. Such music! I have never heard a solo musician as uniquely wonderful as Billy McEwan before or since, and sadly, I expect I never will. But just the memory of those days and his music, that I haven't heard in many decades, puts a smile on my face, even now. Billy, if you ever see this page, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Finding this page is wonderful! I would periodically Google search his name, or dream about finding something recorded by him on Youtube but with no luck, until this time, I decided to try adding "small fry" to my search, and then ,Bam! I struck gold! I was a big fan of Billy's and got my weekly Billy McEwan fix at Canterbury Ales in Huntington for many years. Such music! I have never heard a solo musician as uniquely wonderful as Billy McEwan before or since, and sadly, I expect I never will. But just the memory of those days and his music, that I haven't heard in many decades, puts a smile on my face, even now. Billy, if you ever see this page, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Billy K.

    Billy K. Maryland

    I am a long-time friend of Billy's. We hung out and played lots of guitar together. I'd ask him to play those amazing tunes from the old Marx Brother's movies, and he'd ask me play old jazz standards for him. Although our styles were very different, we intersected on obscure blues tunes and had a blast jamming together. I have fond memories of visiting Jimmy D'Aquisto's shop with Billy during the construction of his archtop. I am the proud owner of Billy's old 1962 Harmony archtop! Billy's performances at Arthur's in Massapequa and at Canterbury Ales in Huntington were simply amazing, and now the stuff of local legend. He was a huge influence on me, my guitar playing and my musical endeavors even to this day. We've written letters back/forth since his move overseas, and I realize now it's about time to write another. Thanks Vince for making space on your site to connect with others that knew Billy. -bk

    I am a long-time friend of Billy's. We hung out and played lots of guitar together. I'd ask him to play those amazing tunes from the old Marx Brother's movies, and he'd ask me play old jazz standards for him. Although our styles were very different, we intersected on obscure blues tunes and had a blast jamming together. I have fond memories of visiting Jimmy D'Aquisto's shop with Billy during the construction of his archtop. I am the proud owner of Billy's old 1962 Harmony archtop!

    Billy's performances at Arthur's in Massapequa and at Canterbury Ales in Huntington were simply amazing, and now the stuff of local legend. He was a huge influence on me, my guitar playing and my musical endeavors even to this day. We've written letters back/forth since his move overseas, and I realize now it's about time to write another.

    Thanks Vince for making space on your site to connect with others that knew Billy.
    -bk

  • Jack Wiley

    Jack Wiley Spring Hill,FL

    Seen Billy many times at Arthur's. I always remember when he sang "I Really Hate You Cause Your Feets To Big".

    Seen Billy many times at Arthur's. I always remember when he sang "I Really Hate You Cause Your Feets To Big".

  • Howard Christian

    Howard Christian SE NC

    Billy was the main entertainment as I was growing larger and older (never did really "grow up"). He sang a nursery rhyme called the," Supper Supper March" He may have been the only musician that could get away with that song while playing in front of a crowd of drunks. I think the bar was "Pastimes"??? I would buy him white Russians once in a while. He is a memory of the very fondest kind.

    Billy was the main entertainment as I was growing larger and older (never did really "grow up").
    He sang a nursery rhyme called the," Supper Supper March"
    He may have been the only musician that could get away with that song while playing in front of a crowd of drunks. I think the bar was "Pastimes"??? I would buy him white Russians once in a while.
    He is a memory of the very fondest kind.

  • Tim Dillon

    Tim Dillon Huntington, N.Y.

    I met Billy back in the mid 70's when our band was playing Arthurs and We were all big Billy McEwan fans. He was an incredible guitar player and I know that wherever he may be he is still making people happy with his music.

    I met Billy back in the mid 70's when our band was playing Arthurs and We were all big Billy McEwan
    fans. He was an incredible guitar player and I know that wherever he may be he is still making people happy with his music.

  • Rich Trach

    Rich Trach Smithtown

    Late 70's I was at Arthur's every week to listen to Billy play. What a refreshing alternative to the Allman Bros, Led Zep etc. that everyone was listening to then. Solidified my preference for acoustic guitar which still remains to this day. Miss ya Billy!

    Late 70's I was at Arthur's every week to listen to Billy play. What a refreshing alternative to the Allman Bros, Led Zep etc. that everyone was listening to then. Solidified my preference for acoustic guitar which still remains to this day. Miss ya Billy!

Small Fry

My mailman playing my L5.