Billy Millers first exposure to showbusiness was with the Australian cast of the stage show "Jesus Christ Superstar" during the years 1972 to 1975. After this he played in "Buster Brown" (which also featured a pre Rose Tattoo AngryAnderson) for six months and then formed the Ferrets. This bands' debut single "Don't fall in love" was number one in the Australian charts for three weeks in 1977. An album, "dreams of a love" went gold and one further long player came the following year. Bill Miller fronted "the Great Blokes" from 1979 to 1983, then the Spaniards from 1983 to 1986 and then the Gypsies. Since then he has released the solo albums, "Yarraville", "Victoria" “Elsternwick 69” and “Australia”.
Bill is a superb guitar player, arranger and vocalist. He approaches music and life with a real sense of delight and play. I mean to say that he has his priorities and one of those seems to be that he doesn't look to be bummed out every time he turns around a corner. He's tough and wiry and he's a complete joy to play with. He knows his nuts and his bolts. We first worked with Bill on a remix of a Dave Graney 'n' the Coral Snakes single called "feelin kinda sporty". He was working with Andrew Duffield and Phil Kenihan on this project and ended up providing most of the backing vocals and guitar. Billy worked with Andrew and Phil in their South Melbourne studio which was at first in the same building as AAV or Armstrongs. His job was to add musical touches to jingles for tv and radio. Guitar and vocals (and voices). Prior to that he had been working with his band "the Spaniards". Before that he'd worked with "the Great Blokes". During the pop years of the Ferretts Bill was a pop star. Flanked by his two beautiful sisters. He was at the end of the popstar spectrum where it's good to be bad. Good-Bad. He knows what excess feels and tastes like. It's quite enjoyable actually. The Australian scene prefers its pop stars to be humble and thankful for the opportunity to briefly rise above the pack. I don't know for sure as I wasn't there but I can't imagine Bill playing that particular game quite that straight.
played on and helped arrange the (1998) Dave Graney Show album and then Kiss
Tomorrow Goodbye, Clare Moore’s solo album The Third Woman, Heroic Blues and
The Brother Who Lived. We played all over Australia in many different
situations and appeared on a mess of tv shows. He also played various
residencies in Melbourne for decades.
After a while, due to economics, I started to do gigs as a four piece band. We still saw and worked with Bill when we could but didn’t tour anywhere outside Melbourne with him after a while.
He was excellent company with his stories of Tony Cohen and that kind of rock n roll skullduggery that was the norm before it all got to be too square and domesticated. Tony had this language that was really streetwise – or maybe even prison yard. He would yell out “dog!” and “maggot”. Tony had of course mixed the hit Don’t Fall in Love in a day (or less) while the producer Molly Meldrum had been working on the other tracks of The Ferretts album for more than a year. Turns out the words to the song had been written by this character called Ian Davis aka The Wood Duck. Not a musician or music world person – except for the extra curricular activities. A spirit animal type. He wrote the song with KD (Ken) Firth who had been in Tully.
We would run into KD occasionally . A total bass player in his grim, earthy demeanour. He played in a band at a pub on the corner of High st and Chapel st but got banned from the venue so –for a short period- would fulfill his duties sitting on a chair outside the door, with beers being brought out to him during the lengthy sets. I could say more hilarious, gossipy things I heard about KD but it would be wrong of me to do so. It was all hearsay and I liked to believe it but I don’t want to stir anybody up.
On our first trips outside Melbourne in the van (after the Coral Snakes period) we had Leanne as our front of house mixer, Adele on bass and Stuart Perera travelling and playing as a guitar player in a band for the first time. Adele had previously played with the Go Betweens. We were just driving and doing gigs and those three didn’t really know what to expect from me or Clare or each other or the audience. Bill was glad to be doing shows out of Melbourne for a change and enjoyed revisiting some places. One night, early on, Bill started to talk in hilarious detail in a pitch black van about many adventures in his experience of an Australian 70s rock n roll demi monde. It was hilarious and we all drove with faces aching from laughing at his grim tales. Highly improbable, law defying scrapes after scrapes. Loads of life spilling into the air. All the women fell in love with this thin rogue with a gold tooth and long black hair. Yes, Bill in many ways was a perfectly preserved specimen – of BillNESS. Nothing punk or new wave had touched him. He was pop. Also pirate rock’n’roll. I can’t repeat most of the stories as its his business but he did offer me a song to sing. he told me he had recorded it in the early 80s. It was called “Women In The Kitchen”. The chorus was the title alloyed with a hearty rejoinder – “make me feel alright!”. He told us it was released as a single but credited to the artist 481, which was his number in the clinic for sexually transmitted ailments which he was attending at the time. (More innocent affliction-more innocent time) He added that he knew another player at the time whom he would sometimes meet at the clinic and they forever addressed each other by their clinical numbers. Clinically friends, you could say.
Billy works as a musician with a wide group of people. He recorded several albums with Stephen Cummings, writing and recording and arranging as well as playing guitar. He plays guitar – along with his son Eddie on bass- in the Stu Thomas Paradox. He also writes songs constantly and won an award for Song Of the Year in 2018 for a tune he co-wrote with Paul Kelly called Firewood and Candles.
It was quite lucky for me to make Bill acquaintance and to work with him. A very positive force in my life and quite inspirational. An amazing bunch of of talent for songwriting and performance and positivity. He throws himself into songs and life. A great character. "There's no retiring in this busness, Dave!"