I’ve written plenty of bios before, but always in the 3rd person, with lines like “Born in Alabama…” and “he lived with Pinetop Perkins in Chicago…” No more of that now, let me tell you a few things that will keep you reading, rather than list a bunch of records, influences, dates, big gigs, small gigs, etc, that appear in every other bio.
I play rough-cut American roots music. It’s about writing great songs, not keeping up great traditions. My lyrics cut to the heart of things with no apologies; and I break any rule I need to, so the music speaks directly to the people. My wife, Katy Keen draws really cool pictures on a Mac. They sort of look like they were done by a little kid. Most of them end up on beach towels. We have two kids who are into to everything from stage acting to “longboarding” (still haven’t figured out what that is). The best reason I can think of to be alive is to watch them grow up to make a difference in this messed up world. And the best way I can think of to help them out in that endeavor is to write and play good music. (See above)
Blues was, and is important to me, but the folks who “keep the blues alive” make me mad as hell just as often as not. Pinetop Perkins probably taught me more about playing music than anyone. But in all the years I knew Pine, and in all the gigs and records we played on together, he never said one word about the blues, or about music at all, for that matter. He just did it. He was the music. And it was not because he was black, or sharecropped, or played with Muddy, or wore lime green suits, or any of that crap. It is because he played his own truth, and never tried to be anything that he wasn’t. I try to re-learn that lesson everyday; and I will be ever in Pine’s debt.
I grew up listening to the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynrd, and Outlaw Country. If you listen, you can hear them in my music. But hopefully, you will mostly hear me. And there are some diverse ingredients in that stew. Here are a few. Travel: living briefly everywhere I could, just to soak it up – Paris as a busker, New Orleans while I had a roadie gig with the Beach Boys, NYC as dog-walker and short order cook, and Princeton New Jersey as a college student. Literature: everything from “Conan the Barbarian” to the teachings of Buddah. Other musicians: Howie Wyeth, Henry Butler, Rosco Gordon, “Honeyboy” Otis, Coco Robicheaux, a couple of the Railroad Earth boys, and of course, Pinetop.
I suppose I should mention that I play gigs in lots of different settings and in lots of different places. You might find me with a Telecaster at a festival in Europe as easy as with an acoustic guitar in a small club in Manhattan. Music marketing professionals advise you to always have the same band, sound, and even guitar, so folks can “brand you.” Makes some sense, but doesn’t work for me. I suppose my attention span is too short; or maybe I just cant resist the lure of different kinds of music.
So there you have it, or some of it. The songs will tell you the rest.
OK, here is another one if some of you journalists want facts and dates.
Born and raised in Anniston Alabama, George’s earliest musical memory is listening to his uncle play Hank Williams songs. As a teenager, he immersed himself in the Southern Rock of the Allman Brothers and was deeply influenced by “outlaw” country music. At Princeton University, he led “The George Dickel Band” to New York’s legendary Lonestar Café, where he shared the stage with Albert King, Etta James, and James Brown.
While touring in support of his first EP, he met Pinetop Perkins and lived with his family in Chicago in 1985. Then, after a couple of years as busker in Paris, returned to live in New Orleans, where he met and collaborated with Coco Robicheaux with whom he still works occasionally. George tapped Pinetop, R&B legend Rosco Gordon, & New Orleans veteran Charles “Honeyboy” Otis to work with him on his first CD. By a strange twist of fate, George landed a roadie gig with The Beach Boys and moved briefly to LA where the record was cut.
“Pinetop and Friends” was released and shortly after George went to New York. There, he worked extensively with Dylan sideman and stride pianist extraordinaire, Howie Wyeth. He later took a job with Omega / Vanguard Records and produced Pinetop’s seminal “Portrait of a Delta Bluesman”, which won the W.C. Handy Award, Blues Album of the Year. Kilby’s third effort with Pinetop, “Live at 85” (Shanachie ‘99), is a red hot live CD which features George and his powerhouse horn section. Also in ’99, George’s original sound was finally captured on “Spell it Out” (indie, out of print), which was instrumental in supporting several tours of Europe. A subsequent self-titled CD, “George Kilby Jr” (’02, Baltazar, Denmark) is still available and contains much of the same material.
In 05, he wrote several songs with blind New Orleans Piano wizard Henry Butler and backed Henry on one tour of Europe, which got rave reviews. George’s next record, “Road Dog’s Holiday” ‘06, took his sound closer to his Alabama roots, and gave the band national and international radio exposure. The current CD, “Let the Melody Live On”, features Railroad Earth personnel, Pinetop, and members of the Tom Tom Club and Loup Garou Zydeco. George’s songwriting reaches a high point on this record; and the vocal and instrumental chops of the band shine brighter than ever.
With the Road Dogs, he appears regularly at European festivals from Scandinavia to Ireland as well as extensive work on the East coast, with lots of gigs in the Big Apple and Catskill Mountains. He has been a fixture on Manhattan’s downtown roots music scene for 20 years. The band can be seen frequently at BB King’s in Times Square on Sunday nights.