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Eddie Wilbur "Billy" Rich (born April 7, 1949) is an American electric bassist and blues musician. He is known for his association with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, and especially with Taj Mahal. He has been the bassist in Taj Mahal's Trio since 1972. Rich was born in Omaha, Nebraska and is based out of Denver, Colorado. On July 29, 2004 Billy was inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.
|Birth name||Eddie Wilbur Rich|
|Born||April 7, 1949|
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
|Genres||Blues, rock, R&B, funk|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, arranger|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, vocals|
|Associated acts||7 Wonders Combo, The Whispers, Jimi Hendrix, Taj Mahal, John McLaughlin, Paul Butterfield, Geoff Muldaur|
Bill Rich was born to Milton Rich and Callie (Chaney) Rich. Bill's brother, Herbie Rich, was one of the original members of Electric Flag and also worked with Jimi Hendrix. His sister, Carolyn, was a vocalist with various bands. All three were inducted into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame together. Bill's father played the harmonica as a hobby. Bill said that his father was influenced by Sonny Boy Williams and Lightning Hopkins, and loved the song "Stone Fox Chase". Another brother, Bob, sand and played percussion. Billy began playing guitar at the age of seven. Together, his father and siblings they started a band called The 7 Wonders Combo. Rich's first guitar was a Silvertone.
Bill played primarily guitar for about seven years. At one point he had a double neck Danelectro guitar with a bass on the bottom. He found he enjoyed the bass neck, and decided to switch. His first bass was a Japanese knockoff of a Fender Jazz called a Conrad. Rich states his guitar influences are Chuck Berry, Lonnie Mack, and Dewayne Eddy. In bass, His influence was James Jamerson, who played bass for many early Motown recordings.
Two months after graduating from high school, The Whispers were on tour in Omaha and were looking for a bass player, and Rich joined. A few months later, after a tour ended, The Whispers were doing local gigs in the San Francisco Bay area. Bill's brother Herb, Buddy Miles, Stemsey Hunter, and Hoschal Wright (all from Omaha) were playing in a band called Electric Flag in San Francisco at that time. Rich met Buddy Miles, who invited him to join his new band, The Buddy Miles Express, along with his brother Herbie Rich in 1968. The three were inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame together many years later. Their first gig was at the Whisky A-Go-Go, a show in which Jimi Hendrix joined them on stage. Hendrix joined with Billy and with The Buddy Miles Express at various times during that period. Billy Rich wrote the song "69 Freedom Special" for The Buddy Miles Express (on the album Electric Church), and Hendrix produced it.
He was invited by Hendrix's producer, Allen Douglas, to play bass on Hendrix's Band of Gypsies album, but he had a prior engagement. Two months later, Douglas invited Rich to do the John McLaughlin Devotion album with him in New York, which he did.
In 1972, Billy began playing with Taj Mahal, an association which has continued on and off until today. Along with Rich, this trio started with Mahal and Kester Smith on Drums, a lineup which has changed over time, but has quite frequently featured Rich. With Taj, Bill has toured Europe, South America, Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Fiji Islands.
Solo work and other associationsEdit
In the 1970s, Rich spent some time in Woodstock, New York. While there, he collaborated with Paul Butterfield and Geoff Muldaur. He toured with and recorded two albums with The Paul Butterfield Better Days Band. He also toured and recorded three albums with Geoff Muldar. His studio work includes recordings with John McLaughlin, Seals & Crofts, Maxayn, Jesse Ed Davis, Jackie Lomax, John Simon, Roger Tillson, James Van Buren, Alvaro Torres and others. As a session musician, Rich has gotten the chance to play different styles of music, including Reggae, Blues, Country Western, R&B, Jazz, Rock, Samba, Pop and Bluegrass. Bill toured for two-and a-half years with the bluegrass ensemble, The Tony Furtado Band.