Audio by Valerie Lopez, Words by Richard Goodwin
When the doors opened for the late show at The Velv, I sheepishly made my way through the entry, shaking hands with comic acquaintances and friends. A soft-spoken Southern gentleman warmly introduced himself merely as “Billy”; it wasn’t until moments later that I realized I was speaking to the headliner that would bring the house down that night: Billy Wayne Davis.
Taking to the stage with a gravelly native-Tennessean drawl, his audiences could be forgiven for having some preconceived expectations about the content to come. I think it’s safe to say that they are continuously proven raucously and delightfully mistaken. It’s a subtle tool, that Davis uses to great effect and to give a unique life to the stories he tells.
Born to two teachers, Davis learned from a young age to appreciate and embrace the cerebral side of issues and humanity. His fascination with the sociology of people comes through in what may at first seem like a politically focused set; the reality is that it’s his insights into the behavior of the masses that shines a kind but sardonic light on the topics he covers.
Davis’s exposure early on to SNL, Richard Pryor, and later Mr. Show, lit the fires that led him to try his hand at his first open mic while in college. A minor digestive ejection aside, he knew the very first time he performed that this was to be the life for him. He soon quit college and kept the possibility of a career as a firefighter in his back pocket as a fallback, but that’s where it stayed.
Word and connections spread, and it wasn’t too long before Davis was performing and touring with names like Mitch Hedberg and the late great Ralphie May; at the same time, the road provided the critical lessons he’d need to strike out on his own. He crossed the nation as he made relationships and landed gigs, and crowds and familiarity followed.
Davis has recorded multiple albums, including the digital Billy Wayne Davis and Live at Third Man Records (which also has a special vinyl pressing), available on iTunes and from his store page. The Third Man Records set is especially unique because the label specializes in one-take performances, direct to vinyl. You may have also heard him as a voice on Squidbillies, a wild animated ride from the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Los Angeles is where Davis makes his home now, but the stories he shares with Valerie Lopez make it clear that he’s lived across–and through–the country, becoming the creative voice he brings us today. He also teases a podcast coming soon, and an upcoming project in April, that we urge you to keep your eyes and ears out for.