Just now beginning his third decade in the music business, Colorado’s Bill McKay is undoubtedly one of the unsung heroes of rock ‘n’ roll keyboard playing. Best known for his membership in the legendary “polyethnic Cajun slam-grass” band Leftover Salmon, McKay has found himself onstage with the likes of Little Feat, Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks, moe., David Bromberg, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Herring, Del McCoury, Gov’t Mule, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident, Trey Anastasio, Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band, John Bell of Widespread Panic, David Grisman, and a host of others. A veritable dual talent as both a keyboard player and singer, McKay has taken influences such as McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Bland and Aretha Franklin and out of them created an distinctive and dignified musical voice that encompasses jazz, barrelhouse blues, improvisational rock and classic soul singing. Though he has mainly been in a supporting role throughout his career, the newly-formed Bill McKay Band indicates that McKay is ready to make the leap from sideman to center stage.
A native of suburban New York, McKay got his first taste of the road as a teenager while touring throughout Europe as a member of his high school choir. After moving to Colorado in 1987, Bill immersed himself in the state’s rapidly developing local music scene, eventually finding his way into the Boulder-based Band du Jour, a lynchpin of Colorado’s early-90s “jam band” movement. During its cross-country travels Band Du Jour frequently shared the bill with a like-minded band known as Aquarium Rescue Unit. ARU guitarist Jimmy Herring (now in Widespread Panic) had a notion that Bill would be a good addition to a new venture being formed around a blues guitar wunderkind who was barely old enough to drive… and thus in 1996 McKay’s musical journey took him to his new home in Atlanta, Georgia as a member of The Derek Trucks Band. A five year-stint with DTB found McKay emerging as the band’s lead singer and his ferocious Hammond B-3 chops were a perfect foil for Trucks’ slide guitar wizardry. Increasingly frustrated that his onstage contributions were not reflected in the three studio album she did with the band, Bill left Derek Trucks Band and returned to Colorado in 2000 to join long-time friends Leftover Salmon.
Bill McKay’s vision of American Music has finally coalesced with his own Bill McKay Band, a relatively young unit that formed in 2007. Currently performing all over Colorado and planning to record an album and release it winter of 2009-2010. A new self titled album with McKay’s original songs is helping transform Bill McKay from “that guy who played with…” to a name that stands on its own.