If it’s true that you’re known by the company you keep, Bill Kirchen is very well known. The Titan of the Telecaster, as he’s been rightfully tagged, keeps company with Elvis Costello, Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe, Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks and Commander Cody on his latest album, Word to the Wise. But, truth be told, those guests are probably more interested in keeping his company.
Bill Kirchen is a true musical legend of contemporary music and the architect of a Country/Rockabilly/Blues/Western Swing/Boogie Woogie hybrid applied to truck-driving music that’s been dubbed Dieselbilly.
So how does one become a legend? It helps to be born in Ann Arbor, Mich., and hang with pioneers, even inadvertently. Kirchen went to high school with Iggy Pop and Bob Seger. When Kirchen was 19, a stranger on a bus offered him a 1959 Telecaster in exchange for his Gibson SG, a trade that would prove momentous. Kirchen joined Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen that same year and Kirchen’s swapped Telecaster (which he still plays today) formed the foundation of his trademark sound, exemplified by his iconic riff on Commander Cody’s 1972 cover of Charlie Ryan’s “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
Bill Kirchen brings his legendary mix of Rockabilly Blues to The Southgate House Thursday. Go here for Brian Baker's full Sound Advice.