Bluesman rocks local music scene

Billy D’s first love was rock ’n roll, but growing up around the blues scene of Chicago’s South Side made a lifelong impression.
Billy D’s first love was rock ’n roll, but growing up around the blues scene of Chicago’s South Side made a lifelong impression.

Bluesman rocks local music scene


Billy D (the D stands for Desmond) appreciates the niche he’s found in Yamhill County, playing solo gigs at McMenamins Hotel Oregon in McMinnville and the Horse Radish in Carlton.

Desmond came to Portland from Santa Fe, and grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He remembers, as a youngster, watching The Beatles play “The Ed Sullivan Show” and listening to blues legends on local late-night radio. Both influenced him heavily through what has become a music career spanning decades.

“(Blues and rock ’n’ roll) are absolutely two of the very fundamental cornerstones of roots music,” he said. “And especially blues.”

Desmond was embraced by the Northwest music scene quickly after moving three years ago. Billy D and The Hoodoos, his four piece band, won the Cascade Blues Association’s Muddy Award for Best New Act in 2011. But he’s not just all blues. “My songs are kind of hooky like ’60s rock but got a bluesy backbeat,” he said. “My grandma always said, ‘There’s nothing new under the sun.’ But you can always take it and do a new twist.”

That goes whether he is performing with the Hoodoos or on his own. His electric work features nods to ZZ Top and George Thorogood, while his acoustic sets may include a James Taylor cover.

“Between the two, I kind of run the gamut from hard-edge rock and blues to something you’d hear from Neil Young,” he said. 

Desmond has two albums available. “Somethin’s Wrong,” recorded with the Hoodoos, is a slick, well-publicized set of 12 tracks full of riffs, hip shakes and a put-it-all-on-the-table attitude. To support the album, the band filmed a live version of the album for a DVD and posted each track on YouTube. Desmond also released a solo acoustic album, “The Hoodoo Man,” a hidden gem sold only at live shows.

Billy D has been a regular at Hotel Oregon for about a year and a half. “I’m very indebted to McMenamins,” he said. “I work for them all the time as a solo act and have made some real good friends there.” The resulting buzz led to gigs at the Horse Radish beginning last fall, and he has also played some private parties locally for fans.

He said he loves the mix of locals and out-of-towners he meets in Yamhill County. 

“It’s funny, Portland has a million people, but I meet more people from different places in wine country.”

Billy D plays the Horse Radish tonight and appears at Hotel Oregon on May 10. Of course, there are sure to be many more chances to catch “The Hoodoo Man” in concert.

“I have been doing a lot in adult life; that includes playing music for a living for 20 or 25 years,” he said.

The life lessons that fuel his music have paid off in the end. “I’m a lucky guy. You gotta work hard at it, but still, for whatever reason, the cards fell the right way for me to pull it off.”

Contact Ossie Bladine at obladine@newsregister.com.

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