Words … they are everywhere. They are the first thing we hear when we slide down the red carpet into this life and often the final sounds as the curtain lowers and our stage dims for the very last time.
What happens to us between those words is our lifetime, our song. Our joys, sorrows, everyday frustrations and celebrations are the common threads that weave us together through our high and low notes, connecting our emotions and each other.
There are some whose stitches hold faster and tighter than others. They are our storytellers.
When those notes of our lives are tailored and quilted into music by songwriters, they warm our world with a common blanket of understanding that provides us with that special insight into sometimes-unspeakable emotion.
The first time I heard longtime Loomis resident Billy Buckman, I knew he was one of those tailors.
His father, Morris, showed him how to sew as a young child by teaching Billy to read the dots and bars while playing music together in the living room of their Philadelphia family home.
Billy left Philadelphia as a teenager to enlist in the Navy. He was a Vietnam-era veteran who experienced and never forgot humanity’s songs.
When his Navy stint ended in 1970, Billy dropped anchor in Sacramento near a fellow sailor and musician. In 1991, he moved to Loomis.
Throughout the years, Billy remained involved in the local music scene by playing professionally in popular dance bands but he was never the front man.
Not unlike his acoustic guitar, which he played during the years that fell between his professional high-energy gigs.
When Billy decided to sing, his guitar and voice took off on a new trajectory that intersected with mine. At the behest of a recording engineer, Rich Ayres, Billy began writing songs and going to open mikes to build his confidence and hone his craft.
Through songwriting, Billy began a journey to a higher level of self- expression and connection with the human experience on the paths carved out before him by Bob Dylan, Chuck Brodsky and LeonardCohen.
Billy’s first venture into songwriting was “bluegrass blues” inspired at the musical intersection of folk and bluegrass during his visit to the annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley.
His first CD, aptly titled “Bluegrass Blues,” was released last year. He is currently working on his second CD, which, in keeping with his first, features many of our very talented local musicians, including Chris Ivey, Keith Edwards and Brian Courtwright. Billy also stops in to play on Sunday’s open mike at Dillian’s Bar & Grill.
Music has taken Billy on an amazing journey and he is paying-it-forward. Through teaching music, he has been attempting to work with teenage at-risk boys in a one-on -one experience and is hoping to further that endeavor.
More recently, Billy has become interested in Paul Yokote, a local hero in his community of Loomis who died in 1996. Paul was a Japanese-American who was stricken with polio and spent years in an internment camp during World War II.
Paul later used his experiences to effect positive change in his own quietly profound way. Paul mentored children through an after-school program he created in his home that became known as “Paul’s Place.” From his wheelchair, Paul also became the photographer for sporting events at Del Oro High School.
Billy is writing a song about Paul and is interested in talking to individuals whose lives were touched by Paul and “Paul’s Place.”
In keeping with his deep local roots and in an effort to help pave the way for others on their journey, Billy hosts a weekly “Acoustic Songwriters Showcase” and open mike from 7 to 10 p.m. every Wednesday at the Country Club Saloon, 4007 Taylor Road, in Loomis. It is well attended by many Lincoln musicians and residents.
Billy’s father, Morris Buckman, was a powerful influence in Billy’s life. Morris died in 1987 from the complications of Alzheimer’s but not before giving Billy the priceless gift of inspiration.
An Alzheimer’s Association Benefit will be at the Country Club Saloon from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 24. Tickets are $15 (includes all your beer – donated by local breweries). All money raised will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Billy Buckman may be contacted via his Web site at www.billybuckman.com
by Kathleen McCoy Grover …