Bill’s Story Chapter Three

There was more to High School, but the only three significant things were performing, a steady girlfriend and escaping. The engagement with the girl failed, the performing did not, and escaping became the motivation behind all of Bill’s activities. By age eighteen Bill was performing several days per week in a full time Rock band. For the next four years he worked with some great players and friends in bands like The Grapes of Wrath, the Unit, Pure as a Driven Snow and The Music Review. He remained with his High School girlfriend until he was almost twenty one when their engagement broke off for good.

College was going on during all this at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee School of Fine Arts where Bill aced all his music courses and failed to attend the core curriculum regularly due to lack of interest. The third time on the Dean’s List (not the good list) found him begging for one more chance, which they gave him as long as he agreed to study those ‘other’ courses as well as music. He did for a semester during which he joined the small orchestra as keyboardist for seventeen performances of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”. It is there he found, with encouragement from cast member Steve Baltes (fine keyboardist and composer of music and children’s music including many songs for the Barney Show) that he could tackle a full blown Broadway musical score and succeed.This excited him to no end. Well, to one end – the end of school. He took the first offer that came along to join a full-time traveling stage show – an offshoot of the then famous Brothers and Sisters. The show fell through, but the director formed a quartet with his wife as singer and the touring began with Cory and Company. Six nights a week at Ramada Inns, Holiday Inns and a few small show clubs. He got to see such famous places as Bettendorf, Iowa, Minot, North Dakota and Clearwater Lake, Florida. So he quit this show after a year and a half and formed his own trio with a singer he had worked with a few years earlier, Dick Schultz, and the drummer from Corey and Co., Dave Kurz. Schultz, Webb and Kurz toured the same circuit for a while until Schultz went home to take up an alternative career as a family man.

Towards the end of the final Webb and Kurz tour, Bill’s big break came. He was playing the front lounge of a small motel in a small North Dakota town when from across the river came the sounds of success. A huge show club was perched their by the riverside and in it the well-known Lloyd Pedersen Show was performing with a band, singers, dancers, the whole Vegas showtime bit.

“Dave Kurz and I ventured over there one evening when our show broke early due to lack of attendees. Dave heard Lloyd singing and promptly cornered him after the show telling Lloyd that, although he sang well enough, Dave could make him sing even better with his drumming in the show. Lloyd hesitantly made a commitment to come see us the next evening. When he came, he fell in love with my piano playing and told me that if I ever wanted a change I could join the Lloyd Pedersen Show.”

What a break! It took a few months to finish out contracts and send Dave home (bless his soul, he is now Vice-President of a Hospital), but Bill Webb joined a new revamped Lloyd Pedersen Show as music director and helped with the auditions of all new musicians, singers and dancers. He began writing arrangements for the first time for a professional stage show.

These were exciting times for Bill. He managed to get the finest drummer in Milwaukee, Dave Kroll, who easily passed auditions and the new six person show hit the road. Bill saw a lot of bigger show clubs like the Big Apple in Arlington, Texas, The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Marriot Great America, and Big John’s Supper Club in Salinas.

Another major event happened before his first tour when he was in college and performing in rock bands. Bill fell in love and married his first wife, Joan. She was beautiful, charming, independent, responsible and caring. She was all the things Bill wished he could be. He admired, adored and loved her deeply. If only he had known himself this marriage could have worked, but he was not ready. Sometimes Joan joined him on his tours, sometimes she stayed home pursuing her career as a dental hygienist. She even became a backup singer for one tour and was quite good. That tour started off well, but Bill, in his confusion, separated from Joan, broke up the tour and left her in tears. It was at that time that he went to find Lloyd Pedersen and joined the Lloyd Pedersen Show.

With the excitement of this new tour came an unfortunate discovery. Bill was losing control of his drinking. He was married though separated, he was in love with a dancer in the show and his drinking was getting him into the kind of sticky situations drinking often leads to. He was juggling drinking, working and relationships like an acrobat spinning plates on poles. The Lloyd Pedersen tour, although successful, was a nightmare for Bill. He was doing everyone else’s music, much of which he did not enjoy, and had little time for his true love, composing. He did manage to co-write several songs with Lloyd Pedersen as lyricist – an endeavor that, along with arranging, furthered his understanding of composition and songwriting. He found his college music courses had given him a tremendous understanding of music that allowed him to use his insight and explore new avenues. The Broadway, pop, jazz, rock, country and show tunes he had to arrange, direct and perform gave him an invaluable eclectic musical experience. In spite of personal problems, Bill gained much as a musician and the foundation was slowly being laid that would eventually take him to a new and exciting realm.

Drinking an depression became more prominent and Bill felt lonely on the road. On a Christmas break, he started dating Joan again. When he left the day before New Year’s for the next tour he wasn’t sure if they had gotten back together or not as he was traveling with his dancer girlfriend, another lovely lady named Judy. The next three months were a drunken nightmare. Morning drinking, then sobering up enough to perform the evening show. Getting drunk after the show. Coming to in mid-morning and starting it all over again. Sometimes he could not avoid an afternoon rehearsal and this led to some embarrassing drunken moments as music director. But he was not fired. He longed for home and Joan so he gave notice and by late spring, was living with Joan again in a cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. It seemed like heaven for a little while. He walked through the woods to get to his job as cook and the Chief’s Cafe in Hartland. He joined a successful weekend rock band and played to local area. And it was in this island of serenity that a most beautiful and blessed event was conceived. Joan became pregnant.

Bill realized it was time to build a more stable life and become a family man. They moved from the summer cottage to a nice apartment in the city. He started a jingle company with his best friend and colleague, Jeff Taylor, and did his very best to perform well for the local band, The Music Company. Bill was present at the natural childbirth of Shyla Marie. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and Joan immediately showed herself as an excellent, responsible caring and loving mother. As Joan continued her career, Bill joined in on parenting a few days a week feeding, and watching his little precious child. Again, drinking had other plans.

Bill tried to stop drinking many times and would succeed for days, weeks, even months. But once he started up again, he could not control his liquor consumption and his self-hatred was roaring into a flaming fire pit. He wanted to be a perfect Dad na husband, but he could not stay sober and clear-headed, nor did he remain faithful to Joan. His disgust turning into deep self-loathing and he felt he was no good for anyone and everyone would be better off without him. He was afraid his drunkenness would put Shyla in harm’s way so he had to get away.

He left again, this time for good. This time with no plan, no tour, no destination. At age 27, Bill, having felt he failed miserably in his career and personal life, instead of falling off the world, fell into the hands of Providence, a providence that was about to lift him from disaster into a whole new world of light and life. And, as is suited for his calling, music became an integral part of that change. {To be continued in Chapter 4}