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.

Add message
  • Joe Smith

    Joe Smith Melbourne, FL

    The address is good, I got a hand-written response from Billy!. He has been in Norway for 25 years. As with most of us, his life has its share of ups and downs. He had a norwegian partner for the better part of 20+ years that he separated from and needed legal guidance to divide assets (as with a few of us I'm sure). He has no children. Currently, he is no longer a performer (living in a secuded village of pop. 1000 - easy to understand) but still writes and plays for his own pleasure. He has no plans to return and his letter (hand written - of course) seemed to suggest that he was suprised and honored anyone would seek him out to let him know how much joy he created for us all. He is completely off-the-grid, apparently no e-mail or internet connection and can only be reached by the address below. Thank you "A Friend" in this blog thread for giving me the opportunity to get in touch with him. Hey evryone - time to get out out the quill and parchmant paper and let Billy how grateful we are for having to know him.

    The address is good, I got a hand-written response from Billy!.
    He has been in Norway for 25 years.
    As with most of us, his life has its share of ups and downs.
    He had a norwegian partner for the better part of 20+ years that he separated from and needed legal guidance to divide assets (as with a few of us I'm sure).
    He has no children.
    Currently, he is no longer a performer (living in a secuded village of pop. 1000 - easy to understand) but still writes and plays for his own pleasure.
    He has no plans to return and his letter (hand written - of course) seemed to suggest that he was suprised and honored anyone would seek him out to let him know how much joy he created for us all.
    He is completely off-the-grid, apparently no e-mail or internet connection and can only be reached by the address below.
    Thank you "A Friend" in this blog thread for giving me the opportunity to get in touch with him.

    Hey evryone - time to get out out the quill and parchmant paper and let Billy how grateful we are for having to know him.

  • Joe Smith

    Joe Smith Melbourne, FL

    My personal world is larger knowing Billy is well! Leave it to him to keep it old school and only leave a snail mail contact. I am writing him tomorrow (ink and pen - of course) and if OK with him will let you all know how he fares.

    My personal world is larger knowing Billy is well!

    Leave it to him to keep it old school and only leave a snail mail contact.

    I am writing him tomorrow (ink and pen - of course) and if OK with him will let you all know how he fares.

  • A friend

    A friend

    As far as I know Billy is still very much alive and still playing his guitars, and I imagine he would love to hear from all of you. I'm sure letters would arrive at: Sætveithagen N-5627 Jondal Norway

    As far as I know Billy is still very much alive and still playing his guitars, and I imagine he would love to hear from all of you. I'm sure letters would arrive at:
    Sætveithagen
    N-5627 Jondal
    Norway

  • su

    su Huntington, NY

    My older brother Dennis was friends with Billy's older brother back in Massapequa, NY, and I used to ride by bike past Billy's house...too young and shy to say hello. Got older, hung out at Arthur's and became a confirmed fan. Moved to Huntington, was a regular seeing Billy at Canterbury Ale. Back in the Canterbury days I was dating a guy who worked with R. Crumb the cartoonist, and we got Crumb and his wife Aline to come down to hear Billy play. He even brought his ukelele or mandolin (I forget) and pondered sitting in with Billy (as if Billy would allow such an unplanned thing...I'll never know!). The odd thing was that before Billy showed up, these two lunkheads at the bar, the size of NFL linebackers, started a minor fracas behind the table we were sitting at and Crumb got spooked (worried they'd smash up him and his instrument) and left before hearing Billy play. I guess it wasn't meant to be because it's the only time I'd ever been at Canterbury's and saw something like that happen. Knew Billy moved to Norway and heard about him making handmade artisanal reindeer statues that were featured in an English European newspaper (he was a perfectionist and artist in everything he did...and compulsive to boot). What a lucky duck you are to own Small Fry!!! And his L5! And you got guitar lessons!! I googled his name because of the recent opening of the John Fahey movie and was talking to someone about underappreciated musicians like John Martyn which got me to thinking about Billy McEwan. Thanks for this site! I wonder if he's still playing guitar, and if he'll ever get to grace our shores again...or at least show up on You Tube? Billy, you are remembered most fondly.

    My older brother Dennis was friends with Billy's older brother back in Massapequa, NY, and I used to ride by bike past Billy's house...too young and shy to say hello. Got older, hung out at Arthur's and became a confirmed fan. Moved to Huntington, was a regular seeing Billy at Canterbury Ale. Back in the Canterbury days I was dating a guy who worked with R. Crumb the cartoonist, and we got Crumb and his wife Aline to come down to hear Billy play. He even brought his ukelele or mandolin (I forget) and pondered sitting in with Billy (as if Billy would allow such an unplanned thing...I'll never know!). The odd thing was that before Billy showed up, these two lunkheads at the bar, the size of NFL linebackers, started a minor fracas behind the table we were sitting at and Crumb got spooked (worried they'd smash up him and his instrument) and left before hearing Billy play. I guess it wasn't meant to be because it's the only time I'd ever been at Canterbury's and saw something like that happen. Knew Billy moved to Norway and heard about him making handmade artisanal reindeer statues that were featured in an English European newspaper (he was a perfectionist and artist in everything he did...and compulsive to boot). What a lucky duck you are to own Small Fry!!! And his L5! And you got guitar lessons!! I googled his name because of the recent opening of the John Fahey movie and was talking to someone about underappreciated musicians like John Martyn which got me to thinking about Billy McEwan. Thanks for this site! I wonder if he's still playing guitar, and if he'll ever get to grace our shores again...or at least show up on You Tube? Billy, you are remembered most fondly.

  • Soctt Anderson

    Soctt Anderson SF Bay- currently San Diego

    I remember Bill playing in Massapequa Park. Loved listening to him in mid 70's. Been wondering and trying to find him too. Remember songs: Never make an ugly woman your wife; Greensleeves; Ditty wah Ditty; Sitting on the shelf(?); hesitation blues; Hope he is doing well.

    I remember Bill playing in Massapequa Park. Loved listening to him in mid 70's. Been wondering and trying to find him too.
    Remember songs: Never make an ugly woman your wife; Greensleeves; Ditty wah Ditty; Sitting on the shelf(?); hesitation blues;
    Hope he is doing well.

  • Joe Smith

    Joe Smith Melbourne, Fl

    Wow! Finally a search hit on Billy Mckewan! It all seemed like a dream! Arthur's in Massapequa (down by Alhambra and Dick & Dora's) Every Thursday night in the mid 70's. Please, someone tell me where he is and where we can get some recordings. The songs I remember that he covered were: -Frankie & Johnny -Never make a Pretty Woman Your Wife -Diddy Wa Diddy -Teddy Bear Picnic -Duncan Johnson -All I Had Was Fifty Cents -Accentuate the Positive -Take It Slow and Easy -Lazy Bones -St. Louis Woman -Mom, She's Making Eyes At Me -Don't Think Twice -Lydia the Tattooed Lady -Candy Man Billy, if you see this, let us know you are well and happy (you used to call me Smitty - the only one that ever did). You made us all feel good and by doing so made us all better people. Play On!

    Wow! Finally a search hit on Billy Mckewan!
    It all seemed like a dream!
    Arthur's in Massapequa (down by Alhambra and Dick & Dora's) Every Thursday night in the mid 70's.
    Please, someone tell me where he is and where we can get some recordings.
    The songs I remember that he covered were:
    -Frankie & Johnny
    -Never make a Pretty Woman Your Wife
    -Diddy Wa Diddy
    -Teddy Bear Picnic
    -Duncan Johnson
    -All I Had Was Fifty Cents
    -Accentuate the Positive
    -Take It Slow and Easy
    -Lazy Bones
    -St. Louis Woman
    -Mom, She's Making Eyes At Me
    -Don't Think Twice
    -Lydia the Tattooed Lady
    -Candy Man

    Billy, if you see this, let us know you are well and happy (you used to call me Smitty - the only one that ever did).

    You made us all feel good and by doing so made us all better people.

    Play On!

  • Howie

    Howie Hazlet, NJ

    I was telling my son about Bill when I decided to Google his name and much to my surprise, I see his picture. One of the best "Pickers"I've ever known. Having worked with Bill at Sam Ash in Hempstead in the late 60's I would see him play often at Arthur's and other places and I even heard him play Greensleeves on "Small Fry", something I'll never forget. Just like Greensleeves on "Small Fry", over 40 years later, Bill is never forgotten. Please let me know if anyone knows his whereabouts.

    I was telling my son about Bill when I decided to Google his name and much to my surprise, I see his picture. One of the best "Pickers"I've ever known. Having worked with Bill at Sam Ash in Hempstead in the late 60's I would see him play often at Arthur's and other places and I even heard him play Greensleeves on "Small Fry", something I'll never forget. Just like Greensleeves on "Small Fry", over 40 years later, Bill is never forgotten. Please let me know if anyone knows his whereabouts.

  • teri

    teri NY

    BTW, I'm pretty sure today is Billy's bday.. so if you are still on this earth Billy, Happy Birthday!

    BTW, I'm pretty sure today is Billy's bday.. so if you are still on this earth Billy, Happy Birthday!

  • Teri

    Teri NY

    wow, i was just listening to a CD(made from a tape) I have of some songs I had written that Billy recorded for me in his room back in the early 70's. He helped me on guitar as well and is also playing banjo on one tune. We were close friends. An amazing guitar player at the very least, he was instrumental in introducing me to many of the old blues greats! I wonder where he is now?

    wow, i was just listening to a CD(made from a tape) I have of some songs I had written that Billy recorded for me in his room back in the early 70's. He helped me on guitar as well and is also playing banjo on one tune. We were close friends.
    An amazing guitar player at the very least, he was instrumental in introducing me to many of the old blues greats! I wonder where he is now?

  • Bill L.

    Bill L. Nashua, NH

    I also remember Billy McEwan from the 1970's gigs he played at Canterbury Ales in Huntington--which is still there. Unfortunately, Billy is NOT! If he WAS, I would make a trip down from NH, just to see how his playing had progressed! Wherever he is, I sincerely hope he has continued to play, because he was one inspirational fingerpicker! I remember him playing very challenging Blind Blake tunes, along with other country blues in the active-right-hand Piedmont style. He also did great folk/country novelty tunes! Did it all on "Small Fry": I've never seen another 12-string like it! [I used to worry that it was gonna fold up on him-couldn't understand how the bracing held up] Billy was also locally "famous" for walking his dog through the streets of Huntington while playing banjo. Regards to you Billy-WHEREVER you are!

    I also remember Billy McEwan from the 1970's gigs he played at Canterbury Ales in Huntington--which is still there. Unfortunately, Billy is NOT! If he WAS, I would make a trip down from NH, just to see how his playing had progressed! Wherever he is, I sincerely hope he has continued to play, because he was one inspirational fingerpicker! I remember him playing very challenging Blind Blake tunes, along with other country blues in the active-right-hand Piedmont style. He also did great folk/country novelty tunes! Did it all on "Small Fry": I've never seen another 12-string like it! [I used to worry that it was gonna fold up on him-couldn't understand how the bracing held up] Billy was also locally "famous" for walking his dog through the streets of Huntington while playing banjo. Regards to you Billy-WHEREVER you are!

Small Fry

My mailman playing my L5.