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Billy Yeager has written and recorded over 2600 musical compositions. In his early 20’s Yeager won several National Songwriting contests. He produced his first album What’s It Gonna Take in 1983 and enlisted over 22 musicians to play on which today is considered to be collectable.
On his second album Be My Valentine produced in 1985 he played every instrument. (The album was recorded at Circle Sound Studios (The Inner Circle Reggae Band’s private studio.); Yeager was the guitar player for the Grammy Award winning band from 1985-1986.)
Yeager has recorded with jazz greats Ira Sullivan and Jaco Pastorius who considered Billy one of the greatest guitarists he ever performed with.
In 1983 Yeager recorded a jam session with Jaco and then went to jam live at the Tipperary Pub in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The performance was filmed on VHS by the bar’s owner and was last seen being auctioned online.
From 1985 until 1992 Yeager confined himself to a small apartment in Hollywood Beach. He took a part time job as a janitor; he would wake up every day at 3 a.m. and returned home at 8:00 a.m. This would allow him to be able write and record songs during the rest of the day and develop his own style.
During this period Yeager recorded over 850 songs on his 4-track recorder.
In 1991 Yeager gave a copy of his original music to Grammy Award Winner Bruce Hornsby backstage at a concert. Bruce called Billy personally from the road while he was performing with the Grateful Dead; Hornsby was so excited about the demo cassette tape, he personally wanted to help Billy receive a record deal with a major label.
Bruce Hornsby, in an interview with Miami New Times, said (regarding the many demo tapes he received), “The bad news and sad truth is that most of them are really terrible. I’ve been inundated with them for years. Billy’s is really different. It’s possibly the only one I’ve ever heard where I thought, ‘This is something.’ Most of these tapes are so badly done. I mean, why don’t they take more pride in what they are doing? Billy was different. Billy has songs that reach people.”
The demo tape was recorded on a worn out 4-track Fostex recording machine in Billy’s apartment. Billy played all of the instruments. Billy is a self taught musician and he used not only the common instruments such as drums, bass, guitar and keyboard, but also a mandolin, glockenspiel, bagpipe and harmonica. He also sang on the tape and did all the background harmonies which sometimes were as many as 5 and 6 parts. Bruce’s manager Tim Neece acquired a development deal with Capitol Records who advanced Billy money so that he could record his songs in a state of the art professional recording studio.
Because of the publicity of being discovered by Bruce Hornsby, Billy then received a management deal with Larrikin management (Gerry Georgettis, road manager for Pink Floyd, Tool, Cold Chisel, Sponge, Henry Rollins), but Bruce and his management company still continued to submit Billy’s songs to the major record labels from1992-1995.
However, in 1992 the industry had changed and the labels were only signing rap and grunge music and Yeager “fell between the cracks”, because he was an adult contemporary artist.
“Despite fans like Hornsby and dozens of encouraging letters from recording industry executives, he was not signed to a major record label. From a dresser drawer he takes out a letter written to him by an industry powerbroker. It is effusive in praising his talent, the quality of his tape, his great potential_and ends by saying there will be no offer forthcoming because there isn’t a hit single in the batch of tunes.” Greg Baker
“His eclectic style made him difficult to categorize: rock and roll mixed with jazz alongside reggae rhythms and African pop influences, brooding ballads and high-energy hooks, a gravel-scratching voice backed by sweet harmonies. Lyrics that spanned the reaches from the romantically sentimental to the belligerently defiant. And that guitar_ one as supple and smooth as Herb Ellis, the next a raging reminder of Jimi Hendrix. And Yeager disliked the idea of being known for his guitar virtuosity alone.” Miami New Times
The Shift to Filmmaker
Since the 1970’s Billy had been documenting his life and musical journey; in 1987 he began to film with 2 cameras, and in 1989 he purchased 2 more and continued filming his life everyday.
Billy mounted cameras in his automobile, outside of his apartment, and carried them everywhere he went. He even constructed a homemade aerial crane out of lumber that was nailed together bungee cording his camera atop so he could film himself from 50 feet high in the air.
Yeager’s self-made aerial shot filmed on the beach playing a piano.
30 years ahead of his time Yeager was creating what we now know as “Reality Television.”
While people ridiculed Billy for what they did not understand, he never stopped filming (1978- 2001) and instinctively knew he was creating something more than just original, but revolutionary.
“Every musician in America should see this film.” Faust Pierfederici
Jimmy Story is the name of a fictional character that Yeager created for his film Jimmy’s Story.
“Billy Yeager’s Jimmy’s Story shows not only the trials and tribulations of the journey of trying to make it into the music industry, but also the triviality of the whole idea of becoming “somebody” special, of being a “star”. The film captures reflections of his childhood and the words of wisdom from his father, Ray Yeager.” Aaron Morris / Miami International Film Festival.
The film was featured on an edition of the Bravo/IFC cable show Split Screen hosted by John Pierson.
The film also features scenes with many different types of characters.
Everyday when Billy returned home from his early morning janitorial job, he would visit with several older men that would sit on a beach bench in Hollywood’s infamous Broadwalk.
Billy gave them the nickname “the old gang.”
Billy filmed and recorded their conversations with a video camera for over 12 years.
In the beginning there were 6 of them but as the years came and went, one by one they passed away.
In the latter 90’s Billy’s landlord, who had been filmed for 13 years, passed away, and also his father Ray Yeager who is featured throughout the film until he died of cancer.
Dark hair and 6 feet 7 inches tall, with a homemade guitar made out of a dresser drawer, country singer and songwriter Ray Yeager stepped off the bus in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1965, and 5 minutes later he was signed to a 5- year recording contract with MGM Records.
Everyone who knew Ray believed he was going to be a big star, but it never happened, and Ray simply walked away from it all.
Throughout the film, Ray speaks from his own words of wisdom, about the small things in life and the meaning of success. The film is a parable, in one scene Ray Yeager and his son sit in the cemetery by a tomb reflecting on the meaning of life, death, purpose, and acceptance.
Yeager chose to begin and end Jimmy’s Story with a quote from the book of Ecclesiastes: “all is vanity and chasing the wind.”
Creating a film with a vision.
Understanding the significance of producing a film and presenting it to the public, and infused with a sense of purpose as an artist, Billy began to realize the negative corporate side of the music industry and began to loath what he had once desired.
Yeager decided he wanted to challenge the audience’s perception about fame, and people’s obsession with celebrities, while also exposing the media and the press that promote sensational news and trivial matters to the public.
In 1995 Billy began to incubate his “Jimi Hendrix / Jimmy Story performance art and pop culture / media protest.”
Billy dyed his skin permanently black, forged evidence and promoted himself as Jimmy Story, “the long lost son of Jimi Hendrix.”
The Lost Bolero Tapes
To convince the press that Jimmy Story was real, Yeager wrote and recorded music which he called “The Bolero Tapes”; these recordings were supposed to be original Jimi Hendrix compositions that were lost.
Some publications wanted to get an opinion from the experts.
The music was forwarded to those who had closely worked with Jimi Hendrix such as Buddy Miles and Mitch Mitchell.
Yeager’s songs sounded so much like Hendrix that the experts were convinced.
“Working as close to Jimi as I did, I would have to say, I know the Hendrix sound, if someone were to try to fake his music compositions, I would be the one who would know. This kid, son of his, whoever he is, the song “Devil’s got a Sweater” is definitely a Jimi Hendrix composition. There is no doubt in my mind.” – Buddy Miles
“Working with Jimi, listening to him jam, rehearse, write music, I know if I hear a song that was composed by Hendrix, I can tell instantly, from phrasing, chord structures, movements from bridge to chorus, etc. With regards to Jimmy Story and his mother Sunshine, I do not know about, but I can tell you, these songs cannot be faked. Jimi was working on music before he died called the Bolero Tapes, if this is the music and this is his son, from the musical stand point, there is no question about it, you can fake a guitar, maybe a little of his voice, but lyrics, and melody, it’s not possible, from what I hear this kid is the real deal, and I would love to play with him.” – Mitch Mitchell, 1995
The rise to fame as Hendrix’s illegitimate son was a success; Yeager was featured as a “Cover Story” on WSVN (Miami television) and XS Magazine, Broward’s alternative newspaper. Billy filmed his “Jimi Hendrix / Jimmy Story performance art,” including the “behind the scenes” footage, to be edited into the film Jimmy’s Story.
“They are blinded, but not with wine. They are drunk and they stagger, but not with wine. To whom shall I give the message? Whom shall speak the message?” Jimmy Story / XS Magazine
Jimmy’s Story was completed in 1997 and it premiered at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in 1998, winning “Best Documentary” award.
“An outstanding film that is a remarkable achievement, I can’t imagine how much work went into this very personal original film.” Awards ceremony at The Palm Beach International Film Festival
From 1997 until 2003 Yeager edited over 6 different versions of the film.
The film was described as being “epic in scale” and a “masterpiece.”
Rick McKay, the award winning filmmaker who is best known for his 2003 documentary “Broadway The Golden Age,” was responsible for discovering Jimmy’s Story.
“Billy was creating reality television way ahead of his time, I loved the film and I suppose you could thank me for being partially responsible for “Jimmy’s Story.” – Rick McKay
Rick McKay was also attending the Palm Beach International Film Festival with his film “Broadway The Golden Age” and read a small town newspaper article about Billy and his film Jimmy’s Story. Ironically, right after reading the story, he met Billy walking down the street in Lake Worth, Florida, where he was staying at the Gulfstream Motel.
Rick’s film was going to be screening at the DIFF a week later, and Rick asked Billy for a copy of his film. Unbeknownst to Billy, Rick secretly submitted Jimmy’s Story to the Dahlonega International Film Festival.
Heralded as a major achievement Jimmy’s Story won an unprecedented 4-awards at the DIFF, including “Best First Film,” “Best Documentary,” “Best Folk Film” and ” Best First Time Director.”
Dean Treadway, the program director at the DIFF Film Festival stated, “This great film, this near masterpiece of amateur filmmaking, a Sundance reject that deserves to tower above most of their eventual winners, is about one man’s perseverance in believing that there is a better future out there, one that has him doing exactly what he feels he’s meant to do. Out of the 700 films submitted Jimmy’s Story is the one that moved me most to tears of joy and frustration.”
The Controversial “performance art work.”
However, there was a major fallout with the press, that did not embrace Yeager’s performance art work.
The press labeled Yeager’s performance art work simply as a “Hoax.”
Yet within that same retraction letter from XS Magazine they state that Yeager
“was correct” and “proved his point” in that “celebrities are more revered than artists, that being famous doesn’t equate to being talented, that the “lost son” of Jimi Hendrix could get more attention than a local musician.”
Miami New Times writer Greg Baker was also quoted about Yeager’s media protest saying that “I think Yeager wanted to use the media to achieve that end, tearing down the corrupt media industrial complex, which is contributing to the downfall of society, I am all for this sort of thing. I don’t think anybody did anything wrong.”
Over 20 years later, the media still tries to marginalize Yeager’s “media and pop culture protest”, of course…, after all, they are “the media.”
A Perfect Song
Yeager’s next feature film was called ‘A Perfect Song’ which he wrote, produced, directed, acted and also composed all the music.
The film was made with no money. Yeager shaved his head and gained 35 pounds for the lead role. He also performed the role of Lloyd’s brother which he filmed before he shaved his head.
Yeager won best actor at the Delray Beach Film Festival in 2004.
“This film has real charms, what’s great is the sincerity of a creative obsessive character playing a creative obsessive character musing about God and creativity. There are scenes of Lloyd producing ambient music in his gadget studio, plus delightful local color, including Florida fauna and a sympathetic tour of the legendary Coral Castle.”
Delray Beach Film Festival, 2004
The Highwaymen / The Other Side of the Road
In the early 1990’s an interest in “outsider art,” or art which is created by artists who are outside mainstream society, developed in the art world and in 1995 an article was written for a journal by Jim Fitch who coined the group the “Highwaymen” because of their tactics of traveling I-95 and A1A to sell their artwork. Not long after this, the New York Times wrote an article on the Florida Highwaymen and two books on the group were published, causing the value of Florida Highwaymen art to skyrocket.
In 1999 Billy Yeager began to seek out all the existing members of the group, including many that were not mentioned in the books that were published.
In 2000 Yeager began painting with the infamous Florida Highwaymen and filmed a documentary called The Highwaymen / The Other Side of the Road. Yeager is the only person ever to have painted with the original Highwaymen Livingston “Castro” Roberts. Yeager’s art is now collectable folk art because of the recognition of his films, music and humanitarian projects.
Jesus of Malibu
Billy and his wife Anais met in 2005 and spent the next 7 years making their film trilogy Jesus of Malibu.
The film was completed with no financial backing and not even a one person film crew.
Sebastian Beach One Fine Day
After completing Jesus of Malibu the Yeagers returned back to Florida to produce a documentary surf film resembling the old style surf films from the late 1950’s and 1960’s.
Drew Kampion former editor of SURFER , SURFING, and SURFERS PATH stated, “The wonderful thing about this creative product of the combined wills and imaginations of Anais and Billy Yeager is how profoundly it succeeds in quietly crystallizing an alternative reality in the here and now.”
The film was chosen for the NYC Surf Film Festival and Premiered in 2012.
The Film that Changed the World
In 2013 the Yeagers were contacted by Maltese Productions who offered to produce a film documentary about the making of their film Jesus of Malibu.
The Yeagers continue to create art, music and films to change the world.
Their mission is to raise consciousness and “help those who cannot help themselves”.