In a city filled with the constant drone of drum 'n' bass, Miami needs artists like Bloodshot Bill and his slicked-back hair to remind us what rock 'n' roll is all about. The Canadian one-man band has been releasing albums, EPs, and splits nonstop while constantly touring North America (though a weird issue in 2006 at the U.S.-Canada border got him banned from the States for five years).
Inspired by artists such as Hasil Adkins and Charlie Feathers — and collaborations with others like King Khan, Shannon Shaw, and 5, 6, 7, 8 — the 43-
Bill began making people move when he was about 13 years old, first on the drums and then the guitar. Throughout high school, he played drums in bands with friends, but it wasn't until his 20s that he began taking music seriously. Over the years, he has worked on more than 35 releases, including the album
For Bill's live solo shows, his setup is simple. "I have the same bass drum, hi-hat, amp, and vocal... There's no harmonica even though it's been reported like that," he shares. Although the setup appears minimal, Bill's energy is wild and loud. His vocals involve lo-fi roars, yelps, and hollers reminiscent of old-school blues and country.
The rockabilly musician has sported a pajama set at many shows, a weird tradition that fans began to expect. "I did it one time because I bought pajamas on the way to a show... I wore them, and the second you put on pajamas anywhere, you just feel like you're at home," he says. "I sweat a lot when I play, so I got the pajamas all sweaty, and I dried off and I put my clothes on and my clothes were fully dry, and I felt so comfortable." Not wanting to be known as the "pajama guy," Bill eventually gave it up, but he still encounters fans who expect him to wear PJs. "I went to Japan for the first time, and they were like, 'Where is pajama? You must wear pajama!'... and they went out and bought me pajamas."
Being a one-man band has its pros and cons, especially on tour. "Being away from my kids... You miss your family and you're homesick," Bill says. He drives himself, along with his equipment, to most of his shows but tries to limit trips to weekends or short getaways so he can quickly get back to his children. Though his passion sometimes feels like "just a job," he declares, "I don't think I'll ever stop doing it."
However, there was that time when he had to stop performing in the U.S. for five years. In 2006, he attempted to cross from Vancouver to Seattle. Border Patrol agents gave him a hard time when they noticed his car was full of merchandise — they realized he was a touring musician making income without a work visa. After the five-year ban lapsed, his label, Norton Records, released red vinyl commemorative singles of Bill performing Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA."
Since then, his music has reached well past North America. Less than two weeks ago, his song "Take Me for a Ride" was featured in a Mercedes-Benz commercial in Australia, something Bill seems excited about. "It was pretty wild," he says, "and it happened so fast."
The last time he played in Miami was in March 2017 at Gramps, so he has plenty of new material to perform. Be sure to check out the merch booth for copies of his latest album, Come Get Your Love Right Now. Bloodshot Bill's destiny is rockabilly music. His living-room studio keeps him churning out albums nonstop, and his adventuresome and wild soul keeps him touring the continent.
Bloodshot Bill. Hosted by Cheap Miami Records. With Lone Wolf, Sewerside Bombers, Matchstick Johnny, and others. 9 p.m. Friday, February 15, and Saturday, February 16, at Gramps, 174 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; gramps.com. Admission is free.