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Boccigalupe's Wonder Of A Guitarist
Billy Walton
Every song is different. You know, how it comes, it's just like magical almost. - Bill Walton
by Josh Davidson
 [Chorus and Verse] Billy Walton
Billy

Billy “Wonder” Walton’s axe work is spontaneous, melodic, and sincere. Whether live or in the studio, he always seems to pull an interesting trick out of his bag.

Many guitarists performing in the rhythm and blues format favored by his band, Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys, are very easily drowned out. They play some chords behind the band, but eventually get lost in the shuffle. Walton plays with conviction, staying right with his band of Asbury veterans.

“Basically we have a horn section and a B-3,” said Walton. “It’s a little bit different than just like one guitar, bass trio. You play completely different. It’s a different style of playing.”

It's a style that requires not only confidence and feel, but also concentration. Walton is often given a chance to strut his stuff during a Boccigalupe song’s lead break, but chooses not to show off. Instead, he'll play tastefully sweet humming blues licks. “You know, you can’t really play like Jeff Beck, in that setting,” he said. “You can, but you learn to do tasteful stuff, more so than just (playing) as fast as you can go. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys

When Walton joined the group with keyboard player Tony Amato, he was looking for a band with more rhythm and blues appeal and, of course, a horn section. He appreciates the fact that it’s no longer just bass and drums behind his guitar solos. “(I) have a fat backing,” he said. “Same thing with Tony when he does the keyboard solos. When you take a solo, it doesn’t bottom out. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on.”

Walton is clearly careful not to step on anyone’s toes in his lead work. He is still able to make his presence known with biting pinch harmonics, quick blues runs, and old school vibrato. It’s surprising seeing a 26-year-old using techniques that were developed many years ago. His professed huge list of influences must play a role in that. These include the aforementioned Beck, Eric Clapton, Little Feat, and Johnny Winter. In addition to those cited, he brings to mind players like Chuck Berry and, especially, Steve Cropper.

He tries to learn what he can from the players he loves, but still put his own stamp on his music. “Influence doesn’t exactly mean you play just like them, for me anyway,” said Walton. “I mean, you pick up little things here and there.”

Billy Walton poses with Steven Van Zandt

Walton did his rhythm guitar homework as well. This is most evident on his work on the band’s cover of Steven Van Zandt’s “Forever.” He takes this song to the next level with funky chording and melodic arpeggios. Walton’s blend of sounds does justice to the song, which is already a gem in its original state.

Walton also plays a key role in the songwriting, lead and vocal duties of the band. One song he wrote was “Karma,” which one night at The Stone Pony he finished singing and proceeded to pull out a ring and propose to his now fiancé. “That came along from me playing acoustic guitar, I just wrote it for my fiancé, now she’s my fiancé,” he said. “I wrote it about her and sang it to her a little bit and she loved it.” The song was given the to the rest of the band and eventually made their latest release It’s My Turn Now.

Walton was challenged in describing how some of Boccigalupe’s songs come about. “There’s a couple of songs that Tony and I worked on together, that we put together, co-writing,” he said. “Other songs, you record something down, then you bring it to the rest of the band. Or there other songs that we just play all together. Every song is different. You know, how it comes, it’s just like magical almost. How it comes together? Pretty strange, so to say to write one way is a tough one. Every song is different.”

Tough to describe, but fun to listen to.

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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