The start of a lasting musical friendship
"Willie and his Chaperones" basically started off with Willie Barry partnering together with Barry Bryan during the summer of 2010. Willie and Barry had befriended each other after meeting each other twice back stage over a weeks time period during February of 2010 - when they both appeared as musical guests at two separate Haitian earthquake benefit relief shows. Both shows where held in the Frederick Country, Maryland area - after a massive earthquake had struck the island of Haiti. Many musical artists in the area donated their time at two local benefit shows held to raise money for the earthquake victims' relief fund.
Of the many performers gracing the stage that week at the benefit shows, Willie Barry with his moving acoustic Bob Dylan song covers pretty much stole the show each night. Like the rest of the audience during those shows, Barry Bryan took an instant liking to the young troubadour's music and to his stage performances - and wanted to hear and see even more of Willie. Willie Barry was sixteen years old at the time and was still in high school - Barry Bryan, was shall we say, quite a bit older than Willie, and a long way out of high school by then. It is often said that music knows no age barriers in life. Others might say it would be like Justin Bieber playing music with Abraham Lincoln when Barry Bryan first proposed a musical partnership to Willie Barry.
Willie starts a band
In 2010 Willie Barry was performing only as a solo artist, while Barry Bryan was part of a four piece bluegrass bluesy folk band called "Poor Ellen Smith"- which had played at both the Haitian benefits. Willie was based in Jefferson, Maryland, and Barry's band (although he himself lived in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) was based in the Washington, D.C. area. A few months after their initial meeting Barry contacted Willie through Mark Barry (Willie's father and then manager) about the possibilities of getting together with Willie and informally jamming sometime - as they both shared a common interest in the some of the same types of music. Among other types of music, both of them had a passion for old Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Sr, songs. Willie and his father were both very receptive to the idea, and in a time a jam session between the two of them did take place at Willie's home in Jefferson, Maryland.
An acoustic cover version of Bob Dylan's original "Mr. Tambourine Man" was the first song that Willie and Barry played together that day during their basement jam session. That jam session lead to several appearances by Willie and Barry as a performing duo around the Frederick area. Later they expanded their song repertoire to include more than a hundred songs which covered a wide range of musical artists.- which helped to open up many venues for them to play at. Over the years they have expanded their music to include traditional classic country music and rockabilly material as part of their current stage show.
Adding drums to the band
About a year or so later, Tomy "one m" Wright, from Jefferson, Maryland, joined Willie's band - starting off originally by just sitting in with the band during their gigs "now and then". Through an earlier friendship with Barry Bryan, Tomy was originally invited to join them as the band's percussionist. Tomy had already gained a reputation as an accomplished singer/songwriter, who strummed away on a well worn twelve string guitar whenever he played out in public. Tomy also had his own three piece band, had his own gigs, and had even recorded his own CD of original music by then. Interesting enough, Tomy was also a featured performer at the same two benefits where Barry had first heard Willie perform at.
Even with his own impressive musical resume, Tomy still decided to put down his twelve string guitar for awhile, and to pick up a set of drums - to play with Willie. In time Tomy like Barry Bryan, became another "chaperone" to Willie Barry. Sometimes though, Willie and Barry would still play out as a duo depending on Tomy's availability. This continued on and off for a couple of years. Occasionally even today, Willie and Barry opt to perform at some events just as a duo.
Adding a lead guitar to the band
While the Chaperones were playing at an outdoor street gig on North Market Street in Frederick, Maryland one summer evening, Phil Badell, a local Frederick musician, chanced to be walking down the street where the Chaperones were performing on his way to his parked car. Phil had just finished a gig with his own band "The Judebox Underdogs", and was heading home. Barry had watched Phil play around town in the past, and had been very impressed with his guitar skills over the years. Phil was asked if he wanted to sit in with the band on a few songs playing guitar that night - which he did. Phil played a few hot licks on the guitar with the band, and then headed back to his own band the next day - and then the Chaperones never saw Phil again for several months.
Phil was eventually lured back into service again by Willie - because the band had some special gigs coming up that really called for solid electric guitar playing - and Phil was the right man for the job. As time went on Phil felt comfortable about playing with the Chaperones on a full time basis so to speak, and from 2015 on - he rarely missed a gig playing with the Chaperones without his vintage Fender Telecaster and small tube amp. Over the years the Chaperones have had a few other lead guitar players other than Phil playing with the band - but Phil is considered by the rest of the band as their "guitar player of choice" for the band.
What's up with the band's name?
The Chaperones band name originated several years ago when Barry Bryan used to show up at Willie's gigs and people would often ask him if he was Willie's father? In the early years before Willie had a driver's license, Barry often chauffeured Willie to many of the gigs that they had - so they were often seen side by side, before, during, and after a gig. Both Barry (and later Tomy Wright) used to laugh when answering people's parental questions concerning Willie, and both often replied; "Why no I'm not Willie's father, I'm just Willie's chaperone'. Over the years even though Willie is now of legal age, the phrase just sort of stuck, and the band name has continued to always be "Willie and His Chaperones"
Life outside the band
The Chaperones band is not exclusive to any of the members of the band. All four members are often involved in various musical projects outside "Willie and His Chaperones" - and are often pursuing solo music projects. Phil Badell is a sought out established studio and performance guitarist, and operates a recording studio in Frederick, Maryland. He is also the lead guitarist for "The Bob Band" - which is a tribute band covering the early songs of Bob Dylan. Tomy Wright has a solo performing career, runs various open mics, and is an established performance percussionist for many musical artist in the Frederick area. Barry Bryan is an established side musician and recording musician - playing performance guitar and bass guitar for several other music artists in the tri-state area, He is also a frequent guest musician at several Blues, Bluegrass, and "Old Time Music" jam sessions that are held throughout the tri-state area - and still holds a valid membership in "The Poor Ellen Smith Band" along w/ Armin Hadamer; and as well, still performs with singer / songwriter Scott Barrett from Mt. Airy, Maryland, and Samantha Johnson from Myersville, Maryland on a regular basis.
Willie Barry couldn't be more busy! Willie can often be found performing around several Washington, D.C. area night clubs as a guest singer for several rockabilly bands. He also is a full time member of a very successful rock-a-billy retro band based in Rockville, Maryland called "The Rock-a-Sonics" - who perform on a regular basis throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Willie is an active songwriter, and is involved in studio work from time to time. During the last few years Willie has been hired to be in several professionally staged 50's tribute shows - including ones that have showcased the music of Buddy Holly, Elvis, and The Everly Brothers. One production that he was involved in has even taken him to perform the show at Wolf Trap Park in Vienna, Virginia.
Ocassionally Willie Barry and Barry Bryan still show up unexpectedly together at "open mics" in the area performing as a duo. And, back to where it started - Willie Barry and Barry Bryan often spend time together at Willie's home in Jefferson, Maryland just sitting around jamming together - trading and sharing guitar riffs and songs, and sharing stories about each other lives, and current adventures.
The show goes on in 2019
Willie and The Chaperones band have gone into the studio and recorded some tracks during some performance downtimes - for possible inclusion on a future band CD to answer the many fan requests to record a CD of their favorite songs that the band frequently performs. Pending the outcome of the studio recordings, the band may release a CD to satisfy those fans?
Willie Barry's fan base is ever increasing, as he and his Chaperones band continuely go on to perform to even larger audiences in the tri-state area, and he continues to attract extended press coverage both before and after his appearances. Willie and the band's legendary street concerts have been come part of the summer's weekend musical streetscape for downtown Frederick, Maryland. A full length December 21, 2017 audio interview featuring Willie Barry may be heard on The Frederick News Post's newspaper, "The Frederick Music Scene Playlist" podcast - which may give you a little insight of Willie Barry's past and present musical interests, and also reveals some of Willie's musical goals for 2018 - as he is interviewed by host Colin McGuire of The Frederick News Post.
*You can follow where Willie is performing by viewing the show date calendar on this website - and also by looking at Willie Barry's or "The Rock-A-Sonics" Facebook pages. Phil Badell, Tomy Wright, and Barry "Beeman" Bryan can also be followed on their respective Facebook website pages.