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. 

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  • Stanley Behrens

    Stanley Behrens Venice, CA

    Billy McEwen and I played together at Arthur's in Massapequa. I lost contact with him when I was drafted into the Army in 1967. Since playing with Billy I have worked and recorded with Jimmy Smith, Ruth Brown, Willie Dixon, I was a member of Canned Heat, and now a member of the band WAR and this is only the tip of the iceberg of the things I have done. We had some great times playing together. I wish I could find him again. And I remember Humphrey the St. Bernard!!!

    Billy McEwen and I played together at Arthur's in Massapequa. I lost contact with him when I was drafted into the Army in 1967. Since playing with Billy I have worked and recorded with Jimmy Smith, Ruth Brown, Willie Dixon, I was a member of Canned Heat, and now a member of the band WAR and this is only the tip of the iceberg of the things I have done. We had some great times playing together. I wish I could find him again.
    And I remember Humphrey the St. Bernard!!!

  • Kenny Strick

    Kenny Strick Massapequa

    Does anybody have a recording of Billy McEwan.Used to love hear him play and sing

    Does anybody have a recording of Billy McEwan.Used to love hear him play and sing

  • Lee Ann K.

    Lee Ann K. N. Massapequa

    I have been searching for any kind of mention of Billy McEwan for years on the web. I was hoping to stumble upon him in some small hidden away cozy dive like Arthur's. I could picture him just being happy passing smiles just like he always did. Such a humble and down to earth gentleman. He was there to perform and to bring many smiles to as many faces. A true entertainer. ♪♫♪♫♥ I hoped you've kept the songs in your heart Billy and are out there somewhere, bringing sunshine into people's lives.

    I have been searching for any kind of mention of Billy McEwan for years on the web. I was hoping to stumble upon him in some small hidden away cozy dive like Arthur's. I could picture him just being happy passing smiles just like he always did. Such a humble and down to earth gentleman. He was there to perform and to bring many smiles to as many faces.
    A true entertainer. ♪♫♪♫♥ I hoped you've kept the songs in your heart Billy and are out there somewhere, bringing sunshine into people's lives.

  • Bill

    Bill imronin@aol.com

    I'm a Billy McEwan fan from his weekly gigs at Canterbury Ales in Huntington, NY decades ago. His solo performances there then with Small Fry are embedded in my mind. "I am my own Pappa" and so many other story songs he played are embedded in my mind. Only those who ever heard him perform live can understand how I can't listen to any version of "Greensleaves" and not think how sad it is that so few people might really know how it could be played.

    I'm a Billy McEwan fan from his weekly gigs at Canterbury Ales in Huntington, NY decades ago. His solo performances there then with Small Fry are embedded in my mind. "I am my own Pappa" and so many other story songs he played are embedded in my mind. Only those who ever heard him perform live can understand how I can't listen to any version of "Greensleaves" and not think how sad it is that so few people might really know how it could be played.

Small Fry

My mailman playing my L5.