Bill Pappas from The Bill Pappas Project, Part Two

Interview with Janna Audey, Promotions Director, Alexandria Live

Photo credit: Lightscapes

Alexandria, VA – Our “Musician Spotlight” is shining bright on The Bill Pappas Project! Here is Interview Two between Janna (Promotions) and Bill. I had the opportunity to catch The Bill Pappas Project back in January 2023.

It had been a few years since I heard Bill play, and I was as mesmerized as during those 2016-2019 years. Many of you caught Interview One last month—Interview Two gives us a glimpse into Bill’s history.

JA:  Bill, I get a NYC/Chicago vibe from you. Can you share a bit about your pre-DMV days?

Bill: You probably get a “big city” vibe from me because I was born and raised in NYC. I started playing guitar at the age of 13 and started making a living at it from the age of 18. I played clubs across the country and really enjoyed touring around. But NYC was always my favorite city to play, mainly because the scene there is incredibly diverse. Playing various styles and genres for many years makes up what you hear in my playing today. I’m kind of all over the place musically.

JA: I want to hear more about your NYC and touring days! Who have you met along the way?

Bill: Well, being in the NYC music scene since the mid-1960s, I’ve met and worked with some amazing—and some not-so-amazing—people. I jammed with Jimi Hendrix (in my apartment in Manhattan), played a two-week gig in and around NY with the Billy Preston Band, played with Larry Harlow (Orchestra Harlow, a famous Latin Salsa band), and was a session guitarist doing demos for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in the Brill Building studios. I’ve also worked with Carole King, Bette Midler, The Coasters, and others. I knew Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls since he was a little kid and gave him lessons when he started playing at 14 years old. I was a friend and schoolmate of Gene Simmons. I turned down an opportunity to be the guitarist in KISS (but that’s another long story).

JA:  Um, that’s a long story I want to hear more about! You’ve played with such a broad range of musicians. Have you been touring non-stop since the mid-60s?

Bill: I played and toured with a bunch of bands quite a bit up until 1980. But in 1980, I was forced to give up playing due to an incident that caused permanent nerve and muscle damage to my left hand, leaving me with little to no feeling in that hand. Surgery left me with at least 18 to 24 months recovery time. Since I was married and had a child, I couldn’t wait that long. I had to find a new career. Learning to navigate a guitar all over again with a bad left hand was not an option. With the help of some very close friends, I started a new career in the film business, which I did until I retired.

In 1994 we moved to the DMV while I continued to travel around the country and the world for work. That left me little time or opportunity to establish new friendships here at home. When I retired in 2010, I didn’t know what I would do since I didn’t have any friends here in the DMV. My wife suggested I buy a guitar and learn to play again. I said, “Play again? Who’d want to play with a 60-year-old guy starting over?” She said, “Other 60-year-old guys.”

Well, she was right. I bought a guitar, started practicing, and when I got the courage, I finally decided to see if there were any Jam Sessions around. Turns out there were tons of them. I met some people and ultimately started a band I called Dead Cat Bounce. That band continued until Covid came along. We broke up soon after. It was a good run.

JA:  I have so many more questions, but this is going to quickly turn into a seven-part interview, so I better stop for now. From Dead Cat Bounce to The 219 All-Stars, to The Bill Pappas Project, you can revisit our first interview (search #billpappasinterviewone here on Facebook) to learn about Bill’s bands and long-time residency spot at The 219. The Bill Pappas Project plays Wednesdays at The 219 from 9 PM to midnight and one Saturday each month.

For more information on The Bill Pappas Project, please visit

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