Barney Willis is heading up from Charleston with his horns and harmonica for a one-man show at 98 Cannon Riverside Grille this Saturday, May 8, from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Willis has built a substantial song list, playing brass old jazz standards, blues and American Songbook arrangements. He’s also a talented harmonica player.
Barney was just five or six when he started to play the trumpet. During those formative years, he picked up the nickname “Bugleboy.” He was a stellar student of trumpet and flugelhorn throughout his youth, taking early to performing in public. He graduated from Kent County High School in 1978, part of an award-winning band program. Willis went on to the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Virginia to study music theory.
“I laid the horn down for six years,” Willis remarked.
After graduating from Shenandoah, he and his wife, Melinda, built a private music instruction practice. After the family moved to Charleston, S.C. in 2006, he started a home repair business.
Willis had stayed involved in writing, arranging, and performing contemporary church music, but he did not start live popular music performances until 2016. He described it as a part-time project, but reported he was averaging five to eight performances a month before COVID-19 restrictions.
“I took three weeks off both businesses and spent time with family,” Willis remarked, then he “worked in the studio developing new songs.”
“After months of no live music, it was a joy to get back to playing live shows as well as going out weekly for good food and good music, supporting local establishments and musicians,” Willis remarked. “April 2021 opened back up to more gigs per month.”
Willis loves to play for the hometown crowd.
“It is always a joy to come back on the Eastern Shore. I grew up on the Eastern Shore and playing music has been my life. It’s always a great time to reunite with family and friends. Music has been an avenue to catch up with family and friends and have a good time.”
“What a joy and blessing for Hot Tub Limo and East Roc Band to allow me opportunities to sit in and play music with them on the Shore in the past five years,” he continued. “In July 2018, two high school bands formed back together to play an outdoor concert, WillyStock. I am looking at doing again in near future.”
Willis also appreciates the venues providing music: “I thank Chester River Yacht & Country Club, Heron Point, Harbor Shack and 98 Cannon Riverfront Grill for creating the opportunity for people to get together and reminisce the old days. My goal is to continue to travel and support establishments, creating an atmosphere for good times.”
For reservations to hear Barney Willis on Saturday night, call 98 Cannon Riverside Grille at 443-282-0055.