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Meet Betsy-Dawn Williams of Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites and The Nite Caps

Today we’d like to introduce you to Betsy-Dawn Williams.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m half southerner and half mid-westerner, having been born and raised through my “Wonder Bread Years” in North Carolina, and then through my “coming-of-age” years in Indiana. My family has always been musical, going back generations into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, playing what is referred to today as “old-time music”, though they didn’t call it that back then, the fiddle and banjo music of the Appalachian mountains. This had a big effect on me as I was learning to be musical as a child, with parents who played and studied classical music, yet I always leaned toward that “good ole” roots music.

I was very excited when I learned that I had family roots in this kind of music. My grandfather passed down his banjo to me and taught me to play Cripple Creek on it, frailing style. However it was really in Indiana where things began to take shape for me as a musician and a singer, being drawn to the country end of the pond, quite possibly because of these roots. I took both banjo & guitar lessons from the fabulous Stan Garrison, and I learned many, many songs to cut my eyeteeth on singing, from the late great Tom Pearson. My friend Shari Flanders held many sessions in her homes in the towns Anderson and Muncie, Indiana where, as teenagers we would stay up all hours of the night with our guitars, singing and howling at the moon, learning from each other, new chords and new rhythms.

I had the opportunity to move back to North Carolina for a couple of years in my early 20’s and hooked up with a flat-picking guitar class led by David Holt at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. All of these experiences led to the musician I am today and the kind of perspective I have. My first bands turned out to be bluegrass, no surprise there. I played both rhythm guitar and upright string bass with these combos. When I met native Louisiana man Don Carpenter, who was well-versed in traditional bluegrass, we hit it if off right away singing together. I learned a great deal of material from him, and a lot about harmony singing.

As I learned more & more bluegrass, my tastes began to encompass honky-tonk country along with western swing, and the dance rhythms within those styles. Rhythm was really what I gravitated toward the most, and I’d had a desire when very, very young to have a drumkit, but my parents wouldn’t yield to that desire, not that I blame them!

Eventually, my desire to be a percussionist got to be played out in the form of playing the rubboard with various zydeco bands, most notably my 17-year stint with the Rhode Island-based band, Slippery Sneakers, led by Robert Graves Leonard. Another style that caught my ears in my teens, via recordings, since its heyday was long past, was rockabilly. I’d heard Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano style and was smitten from the get-go, same with Little Richard, and with Chuck Berry’s guitar style, as well as Carl Perkins. With all of these experiences thrown in the pot together, eventually, I began writing my own material and put together my own band, “Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites”.  My musical partner Jeff Potter played the biggest part in this next chapter of development for me.

He is the person who first encouraged me to go into the recording studio. He also helped with many of the arrangements for my tunes, and ultimately with producing and mixing my two albums, both of which were released on El Toro Records. Without the connection with Jeff Potter, I really doubt any of this would have taken place, in fact, I’m fairly certain it would not have.

El Toro Records is an indie European rockabilly and roots music label; they released my first CD in 2004, “Rocket Girl”, and my second CD in 2016, “Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites On A Mission To Do Ya Right All Night”. They brought us over in 2006 to play their annual summertime festival, “Screamin’” near Barcelona. Their web link is www.eltororecords.com.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Challenges have and continue to be, balancing my day job being a full-time office worker, with a night job playing music in venues late into the night, and sometimes with long drives.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites and The Nite Caps – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Perhaps the two bands I’ve been in that have the most recognition are Girl Howdy, and Slippery Sneakers. Girl Howdy originally formed as a band of 4 women playing traditional country from the honky-tonk era, and later grew to 5 pieces, then 6, with males in the bass and drum chairs. We played all over New England and some of New York. With women in the frontline playing lead instruments, this was a unique presentation, amongst the male-dominated genre of traditional country music. Girl Howdy played our last concert in December of 2015.

Slippery Sneakers was a zydeco-influenced dance band that blended zydeco, rhythm & blues, roots rock & roll and the great song-writing of Robert Graves Leonard. I played the rubboard, aka washboard, scrubboard, or “frattoir” in French, with this group. I think what set this band apart was that we blended these styles together, and didn’t copy the zydeco bands from Louisiana, but took inspiration from their form and created our own groove with it. We played all over New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and some festivals in Florida.

Currently, I am playing with my own creative project, “Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites”, my roots country and western swing band “The Nite Caps” and I also moonlight with some various other bands that keep my rubboard chops up, such as Hartford-based “River City Slim & the Zydeco Hogs” with whom I am an alternate member, and the New Haven market-based “Otis and the Hurricanes”, with whom I’m an honorary 6th member when conditions allow.

I also have two new projects developing, one is playing percussion with the activist street band, Northampton-based “EBB” aka the “Expandable Brass Band”, and a duo project with my friend Josh Gordon, who is a consummate multi-instrumentalist on stringed instruments and from whom I’m learning a bit about jazz guitar. So far our performances have just included open mics, where we tromp out whatever we’ve been working on to build up our chops as a duo. We are threatening to book some duo gigs sometime in the future. So stay tuned! You can find me on Facebook where I regularly announce my performances.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My plans are to keep creating music, to keep writing, and I’d like to do some more recording.

Pricing:

  • CD: Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites – On a Mission To Do Ya Right, All Night! $18. Available at www.lilbeedee.com
  • CD: Betsy-Dawn Williams – Rocket Girl $18. Available at www.lilbeedee.com

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