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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  • 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!

  • Teri Calloway

    Teri Calloway Albany,NY

    Hi I wrote a message some time ago about my relationship with Billy in the early 70's, we jammed together and were very close friends. I thought you might like to hear one of my tunes with Billy playing Banjo in the background. https://myspace.com/terimusic/music/songs it's called "Who Needs Love".Bill recorded that song and all the others of mine on a small cassette player in his bedroom. Technology, lol He was the most amazing guitar player I have ever known,and a pretty cool person too ;) Teri

    Hi I wrote a message some time ago about my relationship with Billy in the early 70's, we jammed together and were very close friends. I thought you might like to hear one of my tunes with Billy playing Banjo in the background.
    https://myspace.com/terimusic/music/songs it's called "Who Needs Love".Bill recorded that song and all the others of mine on a small cassette player in his bedroom. Technology, lol
    He was the most amazing guitar player I have ever known,and a pretty cool person too wink
    Teri

  • Skip

    Skip Tampa Bay, FL

    Wow! I have been searching for Billy and his whereabouts for years. I used to purposefully venture down to Arthur's with my fellow musicians to hear him play. Just an amazing guitar player and gentle individual. So many guitar players, myself included, were in awe of his style and performances. The place was always packed when Billy played. I thought he would have been on tour and made it in the professional world because he was, and probably still is, an outstanding musician- no matter he is one of the best! What a joy to hear him pick his way through songs, just awesome. My wife and I used to make leather goods and knew his brother Ronnie. Another wonderful person who was so talented and creative. He had a little leather shop in Amityville. I hope Billy and Ronnie read some of the beautiful testimonials to their talent and being just beautiful people. Thank you for posting this info on Billy you have made my day!

    Wow! I have been searching for Billy and his whereabouts for years. I used to purposefully venture down to Arthur's with my fellow musicians to hear him play. Just an amazing guitar player and gentle individual. So many guitar players, myself included, were in awe of his style and performances. The place was always packed when Billy played. I thought he would have been on tour and made it in the professional world because he was, and probably still is, an outstanding musician- no matter he is one of the best! What a joy to hear him pick his way through songs, just awesome.
    My wife and I used to make leather goods and knew his brother Ronnie. Another wonderful person who was so talented and creative. He had a little leather shop in Amityville.
    I hope Billy and Ronnie read some of the beautiful testimonials to their talent and being just beautiful people.
    Thank you for posting this info on Billy you have made my day!

  • Toby Walker

    Toby Walker NJ

    I grew up on Long Island. Saw Billy play in Huntington quite often. Amazing player. He was one helluva inspiration. http://www.littletobywalker.com/index.html

    I grew up on Long Island. Saw Billy play in Huntington quite often. Amazing player. He was one helluva inspiration.

    http://www.littletobywalker.com/index.html

  • George J

    George J Massapequa

    in 1972 I worked with Billy at B-H Instrument Company on Brooklyn Avenue in Massapequa he would work a few days or weeks here and there for some cash. He drove a VW bug with the passengers seat missing of course for Humphrey. We would sit outside at break time and he would play his guitar and sing . He was good friends with a a guy named Louie F and I watched him play a few times in Arthur's he was a good guy.

    in 1972 I worked with Billy at B-H Instrument Company on Brooklyn Avenue in Massapequa he would work a few days or weeks here and there for some cash. He drove a VW bug with the passengers seat missing of course for Humphrey. We would sit outside at break time and he would play his guitar and sing . He was good friends with a a guy named Louie F and I watched him play a few times in Arthur's he was a good guy.

  • Fred Jaeger

    Fred Jaeger Canaan, NY

    I also remember seeing Billy walking Humphrey in our neighborhood, along Massapequa on Broadway. The story of your connection to him is a poignant one. He was quiet and contemplative fellow--still waters run deep. I'll never forget hearing him at Aurthur's just about the time it ready to pass into memory. Billy's sound was incredible--sparkling, his technique and performances impeccable. You are indeed fortunate to be playing that small-bodied twelve-string. I only saw him play twice but the tone of that instrument is as clear as a bell in my memory. Do I recall him playing Hot Tuna? It was so long ago, but his memory is prominent in my very crowded memory. Wherever he is you can be sure there are people smiling and swaying to his music.

    I also remember seeing Billy walking Humphrey in our neighborhood, along Massapequa on Broadway. The story of your connection to him is a poignant one. He was quiet and contemplative fellow--still waters run deep. I'll never forget hearing him at Aurthur's just about the time it ready to pass into memory. Billy's sound was incredible--sparkling, his technique and performances impeccable. You are indeed fortunate to be playing that small-bodied twelve-string. I only saw him play twice but the tone of that instrument is as clear as a bell in my memory. Do I recall him playing Hot Tuna? It was so long ago, but his memory is prominent in my very crowded memory. Wherever he is you can be sure there are people smiling and swaying to his music.

  • Janet B.

    Janet B. Ormond Beach, FL

    My sisters and I and many friends would go to his shows at the Arthur's and The Music Box, we would stay and talk to Billy quite often after a set or after the show. This was in 78 -79. Even later. Thank you for This wonderful page and current informAtion on Billy. God bless

    My sisters and I and many friends would go to his shows at the Arthur's and The Music Box, we would stay and talk to Billy quite often after a set or after the show. This was in 78 -79. Even later. Thank you for This wonderful page and current informAtion on Billy. God bless

  • Stephen Marcus

    Stephen Marcus Seattle, WA

    Posts and threads like this one are what make the internet a worthwhile place to hang out. It gives me chills to know that both Billy and Small Fry are alive and well and remembered fondly by the folks posting here. I grew up on Long Island and spent most Sunday nights from 1975-1978 at the Music Box on Merrick Rd in Bellmore (or Merrick) enjoying Billy's sets. I've tried to describe the man and his music to folks but words and comparisons have always failed me. Ry Cooder? Leon Redbone? Stefan Grossman? John Fahey? David Bromberg? None quite capture the quirky, energetic, old-timey essence of Billy's music. He is truly one of a kind. Thank you so much to those who recalled the song titles of his sets. I was having a hard time remembering them and wanted to badly. I'd like to pick up the guitar again and learn to approximate his style. I'd like to be able to point to those songs as examples. What an inspiration he was and, despite all the years it's been since I've seen him, continues to be!

    Posts and threads like this one are what make the internet a worthwhile place to hang out. It gives me chills to know that both Billy and Small Fry are alive and well and remembered fondly by the folks posting here.
    I grew up on Long Island and spent most Sunday nights from 1975-1978 at the Music Box on Merrick Rd in Bellmore (or Merrick) enjoying Billy's sets. I've tried to describe the man and his music to folks but words and comparisons have always failed me. Ry Cooder? Leon Redbone? Stefan Grossman? John Fahey? David Bromberg? None quite capture the quirky, energetic, old-timey essence of Billy's music. He is truly one of a kind.
    Thank you so much to those who recalled the song titles of his sets. I was having a hard time remembering them and wanted to badly. I'd like to pick up the guitar again and learn to approximate his style. I'd like to be able to point to those songs as examples. What an inspiration he was and, despite all the years it's been since I've seen him, continues to be!

  • Tom Staubitser

    Tom Staubitser Montauk, NY

    So cool to find something about Billy McEwen. I too needed a fix of Billy every week. I grew up on Alhambra Rd, just down the street from Arthur's. Billy and his band, i believe their names were Bobby and James played in my back yard at a party we threw for my friend Jim "Doc" Ryan. It was the summer of 1974 I think.? Billys talent was amaing... Is there anyone more talented? Hesitation Blues, Candy Man, Delia, I'm my own grand pa...He could play 2 songs at the same time! I remember that little 12 string! He would play Greensleeves... Amazing How I miss those times! I'd love to hear more about Billy. I will write to him. Thank you!

    So cool to find something about Billy McEwen. I too needed a fix of Billy every week. I grew up on Alhambra Rd, just down the street from Arthur's. Billy and his band, i believe their names were Bobby and James played in my back yard at a party we threw for my friend Jim "Doc" Ryan. It was the summer of 1974 I think.? Billys talent was amaing... Is there anyone more talented? Hesitation Blues, Candy Man, Delia, I'm my own grand pa...He could play 2 songs at the same time! I remember that little 12 string! He would play Greensleeves... Amazing
    How I miss those times! I'd love to hear more about Billy. I will write to him.
    Thank you!

Small Fry

My mailman playing my L5.