It was 1965 while clowning a rodeo in John Day, Oregon that Billy W. Chernoff entered a talent show and placed second. He decided to pursue a career in music and headed to Toronto, where he began playing in clubs. At first Billy played in a duo with Owen Murdoch on lead guitar and then teamed up with Glenda Lee, who was with Canuck Records, to form the "Glenda Lee Trio".
Glenda Lee Trio
Owen, Glenda, and Billy
(1968)

Besides Toronto, they played in nearby cities such as St. Catherines, Niagara Falls, Welland and Crystal Beach in Ontario. After 6 months the group disbanded and Billy went to work in the nickel "Inco" mines (5,400 feet underground) in Sudbury to pay off band equipment.

After half a year Billy went back to Toronto and walked into Edison Hotel and met Andy Greatrix, bass player for Myrna Lorrie at the time, and later for Ronnie Hawkins. Andy introduced Billy to Chef Adams, a booking agent who offered a position and also got an evening gig for Billy at the Robin Hood Inn in Pickering, Ontario for about a year doing a single act.

While booking for Adams at CBC in Toronto, Billy met Gary Buck (Canadian Country Male Singer of the Year, 1964-1966).

Gary was an artist-producer that arranged Billy's 1st recording session in 1968 at RCA studios in Toronto for 2 songs which included No Lonelier Than You, released on Spartan Records that immediately made the Canadian national charts (#10 - RPM Country Chart, 1969). After the success of No Lonelier Than You, Gary Buck set up a meeting with Neil Merritt (Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone - Roy Clark, and May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose - Little Jimmie Dickens) in his Nashville home.

Neil gave Billy a crash course in songwriting. He said, "You don't write, you paint." And as a result Billy wrote Susie's Better Half and When You Were A Lady.

Neil arranged the recording session of 4 of Billy's songs at Music City Recorders, which was engineered by Scotty Moore (lead guitar for Elvis Presley). The steel guitar player was Ben Keith (above) who later joined Neil Young. Charlie McCoy played bass harmonica on Susie's Better Half and D.J. Fontanna played drums (for Elvis Presley as well).

Billy returned to Toronto, handing the tape to his friend Red Hill (D.J. and country music columnist) who passed it along to Jack Feeney at RCA Records and Billy was signed in April.

 
Ben Keith and Billy
(1969)


Susie's Better Half was released in the spring of 1969, which went top five, then followed by When You Were A Lady later in the year which went number one on Canada's national charts. Billy was presented with two "Certificates of Honour" by BMI Canada Limited in the company of other well known artists such as Terry Jacks (Which Way You Goin' Billy), Leonard Cohen, Gene MacLellan, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings.

In the fall, Billy, accompanied by John Pozer from RCA Canada, flew to Nashville where he was introduced to Chet Atkins, vice-president of RCA. Arrangements were made for Ronny Light to produce To Ma Ray, Tom O Ray, which was recorded in December, 1969 at the now famous "RCA Studio B" (Elvis Presley), Nashville and released internationally June 1970. It hit the top of the charts nationally in Canada and regionally in the U.S



In the studio with Jack Feeney (RCA), Billy Chernoff and RCA vice-president George Harrison 1969

 

 
Billy dispays his two BMI Certificates of Honour (1969)
DJ and columnist Red Hill (with Billy). It was Red who introduced Billy to Jack Feeney and RCA, and in essence kick-started Billy's career.
 
Left to Right: Producer Ronny Light, Joe Taylor, VP of RCA Chet Atkins, and Billy (1970)

A meeting in Nashville with Jerry Guthrie led to a collaboration of the song Fresno Rodeo. (Jerry's dad, Jack Guthrie, wrote and recorded with the help of his cousin Woody, Oklahoma Hills.) So, Billy and Jerry pulled up roots and headed west to California with Jerry's wife, two kids, a dog and a cat in Billy's "Olds 98". Billy reunited with his songwriter friend Carl Walden, who introduced him to Sam Goldstein.

A five year management deal was signed with Great Western Music Inc., (owned by Sam Goldstein - session drummer in Hollywood, who drummed for the likes of Desi Arnez and Frank Sinatra) and an album, Lookin' Up, was produced for Sussex Records. While touring with Larry and Lorrie Collins, Casey Tibbs heard Chernoff's song Fresno Rodeo. He had it nominated for a Heritage Award with the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

In 1985 Billy and Bill Brunette (who Billy met in Quebec in the Glenda Lee Trio days), coincidently lived only 2 blocks apart in the Coquitlam area of Vancouver. They eventually got together and formed "Orange County", a 4 piece band that toured Alberta for 8 months, booked through Ida Banks in Edmonton. (Chernoff and Brunette wrote Sally In Dallas on the Fresno Rodeo album). The group disbanded and Billy went working with Dean Phillips as a duo, "Billy and Dean" for 3 years (1987 - 1990).

In 1990 Billy teamed up with Tom Birkiw to form "Lonesome Highway" in Whitehorse, Yukon, where they played for approximately a year and half at the Roadhouse Saloon. Danny Freeway replaced Tom Birkiw and continued with Billy in Whitehorse for a year till the fall of 1992.


Tom Birkiw & Billy Chernoff
"Lonesome Highway"

Billy started his single club act in December of 1992, which led him to back to the recording studio for the next phase of his recording career and Ronny Light in Nashville.

Producer (and 4 decades friend)
Ronny Light with
Billy Chernoff

As a result of shopping his new production, Fresno Rodeo, with Ronny Light, in 1995 Billy was invited to perform by Bud Fisher of the Country Music Association of Texas Awards Show in Brady, Texas.

Immediately after the Awards Show, and after hearing the Big Time Fresno Rodeo production, Billy was invited to meet with Tillman Franks, a pioneer country music business executive and song writer in Shreveport. (Tillman is the Artist's Bureau Director of the original "Louisiana Hay Ride" and the first to book Hank Williams and Elvis Presley.



Tillman Franks and Billy, (1996)


On Tillman's advice, Billy Chernoff moved to east Texas, (Cindy Walker's hometown of Mexia) in 1998 and began writing a new chapter in his life, experiencing new opportunities for his music ministry with the new album Life Song Revelations.
Billy explains thoughtfully, "Music has blessed me with thousands of friends...many lifelong friends". One such friend was found in Mexia, Texas - none other than the amazing, award-winning songwriter, Cindy Walker; writer of such classics as "Anna Marie", "Distant Drums", "Dream Baby", "I Don't Care", "In The Misty Moonlight", and "You Don't Know Me".

Here, during a performance in Groesbeck, Texas, Billy chats it up with Texas Hall of Famer, Cindy Walker.

I've taken some chances, hither and yon
    Some turned out right, Lord;
        some turned out wrong
Friends were such blessings;
    some are with me, some are gone
For them I'm so thankful, they let me belong
     I played on my heart strings and paid with a song

From Yesterday's Child © Billy W. Chernoff

 

 

first
last