Billy Hancock was born (William C. Hancock Jr.) November 4, 1946 in Washington, DC (not Fairfax County, Virginia as stated in most biographies. He is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, recording artist and producer. His father was a freight agent for the Southern Railway and his mother a retail record sales person for many Washington, DC record stores, including Waxie Maxie. Waxie’s owned by Max Silverman was by far the largest Rhythm & Blues outlet in DC. It was there that Max Silverman had rented space to Ahmett Ertegun in the earliest days of Atlantic Records.
The records his mother brought home from work, primarily rhythm and blues from the late 1940s thru the early 1950’s influenced his musical development. It was through these recordings that young Billy honed his chops.
Billy began his career playing in bands around Washington, D.C., while still a teenager with popular teen bands. His career officially started in 1962. At that time he had been studying guitar for 4 years under the guidance of Jazz great, Frank Mullen.
After graduating from George Washington High School in 1964, he traveled in the autumn to Rhode Island to play with the band of Tito Mambo. After a brief time with Tito, he settled in to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where he played 3 nights a week at “Your Father’s Moustache”. On off nights he moved from one basket club to another, playing his guitar and singing the folk songs of the day.
In 1968, he returned to the DC/Baltimore area and studied 3 semesters at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and continued to play in bands in the DC/Baltimore area including the Roy Buchanan Band.
In 1971, Billy formed Danny and the Fat Boys with guitar god Danny Gatton. The group released one critically acclaimed LP in 1975, “American Music” named for an R&B song that Billy had written called “American Music”.
Many players came in and out of the band but for the most part, it consisted of Danny on guitar, Billy lead vocal and bass, and Dave Elliott on drums. The band disbanded in 1977.
In 1978, Billy recorded four rockabilly songs under the name Billy Hancock and the Tennessee Rockets for Ripsaw Records, a small independent label. He continued to record rockabilly for Ripsaw under that name for two years. Ripsaw released four singles during that time and licensed those and other titles to larger labels both in the U.S. and France. It is these rockabilly recordings for which Hancock was known first internationally.
In 1983, Billy recorded another rockabilly record for producer Spike Ostmann, that was released in France. Later that year, he returned to Ripsaw to record various rock and roll songs, six of which Ripsaw released in 1985. All of the Ripsaw material was later released on CDs.
Throughout his career, Billy has shared the stage over the last 50 years with the likes of Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, The Clovers, Link Wray, The Orioles, Big Joe Turner, jazz coronetist/trumpeter Ed Polcer, Janis Joplin (Big Brother & the Holding Company), guitar pioneer Les Paul, American Folk Rock Legend Sleepy LaBeef, Jump Blues singer/sax player Bull Moose Jackson, singer/pianist Amos Milburn, rockabilly singer Jack Scott, Robert Gordon, The New York Dolls, guitar genius Danny Gatton, Doug Salm, NRBQ, Arthur Big Boy Crudup (wrote first & many more of Elvis’s songs), Waylon Jennings, Rick Nelson, The Blasters, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Rockabilly pioneer Charlie Feathers, Jazz trumpeter Buck Clayton, Arlen Roth, Delta Blues singer Sleepy John Estes, Blues singer Johnny Shines, Emmy Lou Harris, Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth, The Byrds, The Lovin Spoonful, instrumental 60’s surf group The Ventures, Canned Heat, Graham Parson & the Flying Burrito Bros., The James Gang, The Guess Who, Arrowsmith, The Starland Vocal Band, and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, blues guitarist Roy Buchanan, Dottie West and Jean Shepard.
He sang in front of the late Eddie Condon’s jazz band as well as co-produced and played guitar on Tex Rubinowitz’s rockabilly classic recording of “Hot Rod Man.”
In 2005, the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) awarded Billy a Special Recognition Award for his 40 plus years as a vocalist, musician, songwriter, producer, promoter, and label owner. In 2006, WAMA presented him two “Wammie” awards for 2005 Best Roots Rock Vocalist and Roots Rock Recording.
He has made many recordings, primarily in the roots/rock genre, but also has recorded blues, jazz & rhythm & blues. He performs live primarily in the Nashville, TN, area, but continues to tour the US and Europe.