Dear AMA Board of Directors;
I am writing on behalf of my friend Billy Block who many credit as one of the pioneers of the Americana music genre.
As you may know Billy is battling Level 4 Metastatic Melanoma and it would be amazing if the AMA in some way honored his contributions to the music he is so passionate about and has played and promoted all his life while he is still with us.
Block’s history with Americana Music dates back to the early ’70s in Houston, TX when he recorded with original “Texas Tornado” Freddie Fender on many of his earliest recordings and hits with legendary producer, Huey Meaux. He toured with Americana legend Billy Joe Shaver in 1978 with Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. He was with Texas icon B.W. Stevenson when “My Maria” was a hit the first time. He performed and recorded with Texas legends Townes Van Zant, Lucinda Williams, Shake Russell, Dana Cooper, Roy Head, & Delbert McClinton. He also promoted Americana and roots music as the first Houston Editor of Buddy—The Texas Music Magazine.
He wasted no time upon arriving in Los Angeles in 1985 securing the drum chair on the ground breaking weekly Americana based Ronnie Mack Barndance Radio show on KCSN. Block met and began playing with Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, James Intveld, Dale Watson, Rosie Flores, Jeffery Steele and the rest of the LA pioneers of what would become Americana Music. He became the Country/Roots music contributor to LA’s prestigious Music Connection Magazine promoting the growing Americana/Roots music scene. In 1991 Block created the first Americana BRAND with Western Beat. The Western Beat brand included a monthly Western Beat Songwriters series at Highland Grounds in Hollywood that showcased Americana artists for 15 years. He created Western Beat Radio on KIEV radio in 1991 giving Americana artists their first chance to be heard in the LA market. The first song Billy played on LA radio was Joe Ely singing Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes On Forever, But The Party Never Ends.” Early guest artists included everyone from Lucinda Williams to Harry Shearer.
Billy and his wife Jill moved to Nashville where he created his own, Western Beat Barndance in Feb. of 1996 showcasing then little known songwriters Jim Lauderdale, Duane Jarvis, Walter Hyatt, Kristi Rose and Fats Kaplin. The Western Beat Barn dance was an instant success. Lightning 100 began airing the show LIVE for 2 hours beginning in April of ’96. Americana music was on the air in Nashville. Unthinkable? Not for Billy Block.
He then created the first nationally syndicated Americana radio show, Western Beat with Billy Block that aired on 100 mainstream country stations. Billy was “Bringing the Margins to the Mainstream!”
In 2000 he created the first Americana television show, “Western Beat with Billy Block” featuring all his favorite Americana stars including Rodney Crowell, Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, Allison Moorer, Hank III, Kim Richey, Dr. Ralph Stanley, The Bum Steers, Bruce and Charlie Robison, BR5-49, Jason & The Scorchers, Joe Ely & Hal Ketchum. Every week Billy featured a local unsigned favorite like Walt Wilkins, Joy Lynn White, Phil Lee or Kevin Gordon just to mention a few. Truly groundbreaking stuff in the Garth Brooks era.
Billy rebranded Western Beat at the urging of his spouse and simply started calling the show- The Billy Block Show. Billy was now the brand. Every Tuesday night for 18 years in Music City, USA, Billy Block has continued to build his brand and promote Americana, country and roots artists on television, radio, the internet, in print and LIVE on stage with unbridled passion and enthusiasm.
Billy has embraced his battle with cancer with that same unbridled passion and enthusiasm. Let’s give credit where credit is due and show Billy a little love at the next Americana Music Honors & Awards. I think he’s earned it.