Combining folk, country and rock sounds, with distinctive three part harmonies, Whiskey Hill Billies come barreling out of Woodside, California with one thing on their minds - good times. Sure, it’s a music thing but what’s the point if it’s not a whole lot of fun, huh? These two Australians and two Americans have been molded by time and circumstance into one of the most entertaining live acts in the Bay Area.
“A while ago I walked into the Pioneer Saloon, at the top of Whiskey Hill, in Woodside CA, looking for a place to play”, says PJ Weston (AKA Billy the Kid), an Australian singer and songwriter who had moved to Redwood City in 2011. “There were about 4 people in the place and one of them had an Australian accent. He had a banjo and a guitar leaning against the wall on the stage so I wandered up and said ‘G’day’ and within ten or fifteen minutes we were on that stage belting out a few tunes. That guy was Andrew McKaige (AKA Outback Billy) and that little session in the Pioneer turned out to be the genesis of Whiskey Hill Billies”.
As Andy recalls, “We started playing gigs as Big Basin Boys until another night in the Pioneer, a year or two later, when we met Steve Dussé (AKA Wild Bill Hiccup) through a mutual friend. Steve fit in with the two of us perfectly, adding a new voice, some new songs and some bass guitar. Turned out he had been playing in another band with a guy called Dan Lucas (AKA Cool Hand Luke) on the drums. We promptly stole Dan from that band and just like that, Whiskey Hill Billies was born”.
“Andy, Steve and I all had a bunch of our own songs as well as knowing plenty of other famous covers, so right away we had a sprawling repertoire. We were playing acoustic instruments at first, so we concentrated on country and folk type stuff and it wasn't until a little later that we started to plug in and expand our sound to incorporate some more rocky stuff. Right from the start though, our voices and personalities just clicked on stage and we knew we had something a little special.”
Says drummer Dan, “I’ve been playing in bands around the Bay Area my whole life, but right away I knew the Billies were different. Quality three part harmonies help to catch any ear, and with three songwriters, each with their own styles and lyrical quirks, there was something for everyone. Switching instruments around broadened the appeal and the banter just iced the cake. It was kind of like a saloon bar Rat Pack. Everyone had fun at a Billies show”.
The more they played, the more special it got and by the end of the 20 teens Whiskey Hill Billies were playing regularly around the peninsula in the Bay Area and had begun recording some of their original songs. Then of course, came the pandemic, which pretty much changed everything for everyone. The live gigs just dried up, gone. Like many bands they turned to the internet, streaming socially distanced performances from outside decks and backyards, but it’s not the same when a couple of dogs is as close as you got to a real live audience.
Some of the old gigs might have dried up but the Billies certainly haven’t. As well as regular live gigs around the Bay Area they've been slowly distilling their unique musical concoction in the studio, leaking it track by track onto all the usual outlets and streaming services. With a ‘Rolling Tundra Review’ tour of Alaska in 2025 among many other plans in the pipeline, there’s bound to be plenty more music and good times for Whiskey Hill Billies.
West Point Harbor, Redwood City, CA.
There were actually some people there - promise.
WHBs and guests @ Devil's Canyon Brewing Co, San Carlos, CA.
Copyright © Whiskey Hill Billies - All Rights Reserved.
Images by Doretta Bonner and Toren Scott