Billy Conway – Guest drummer

(Morphine’s second drummer, VoM occasional special guest)

billy_conwayBilly Conway grew up in Minnesota, going East to attend Yale, entering the Boston music scene in the early 1980s. From 1984-92 he played in Boston’s popular “punk blues” band Treat Her Right with Dave Champagne, Jimmy Fitting and Mark Sandman. THR had an inventive, pared down line-up of Champagne’s guitar, Fitting’s blistering harmonica, and Mark’s “low guitar” – bass parts played on a guitar with an octave pedal (a fore-shadowing of the 2string slide bass). In THR Billy played the cocktail kit, a single, tall tom with a kick pedal on the bottom head and a snare on the top, played standing. Treat Her Right built a loyal local fan base with a residency at the Plough & Stars in Cambridge, and landed a major record deal. The band toured extensively, with their last album coming out in 1991.

052213i-Billy-ConwayMorphine began in 1989 as a side project of Mark’s, with Billy’s friend Jerome Deupree on drums and Dana Colley on baritone sax. Billy filled in with Morphine for a number of months in 1991 when Jerome was being treated for acute pain in his hands. Jerome came back for another year, but left the band for good at the end of 1992. Billy took over.

Billy actually played on every Morphine record – he’s on two songs on the band’s debut Good (1992), and on three on Cure For Pain, recording his cocktail kit very effectively over Jerome’s drums on Thursday. (Although Jerome had already left the band, Mark asked him to play on the sessions that would become Cure For Pain, though Billy’s face appears on the album cover.)

Cure For Pain (1993) got the band noticed. The new line up released Yes (1995) and Like Swimming (1997). In 1998 Mark asked Jerome to come back in, and Jerome and Billy played together beautifully on the final album The Night. The quartet played a few shows in the states and there was talk of more.

After Mark died, Billy, Jerome and Dana went on to form Orchestra Morphine to play the music of The Night, which was released posthumously in 2000. The group returned to Palestrina to play. Billy and Dana formed Twinemen with Laurie Sargent. Billy was a core member of the group that ran Hi-N-Dry, the studio and record label located in Sandman’s old Cambridge loft. (The video for Buena was shot in the freight elevator in the building.) Billy and Laurie moved to a farm in Montana in 2008. For five years, Billy combed through countless live recordings and alternate takes to produce Morphine: At Your Service, which was released on Rhino Records in 2009.

Billy has played on or produced dozens of records, and toured with many bands before and since working with Morphine. He has maintained a steady tour schedule with various acts, including (most recently) Chris Smither and Jeffrey Foucault. Billy’s path crossed with Dana, Jeremy and Jerome at Tweed River Music Festival in the summer of 2011, and an impromptu performance as a quartet ensued. Billy subsequently played shows with “Members of Morphine & Jeremy Lyons” in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Billy played shows in New Orleans with Dana and Jeremy while Jerome was taking time off because of tendonitis. Billy can occasionally be found siting in with the group when he is town, and we expect more quartet shows will soon follow.

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