Sang Satin Sheets…

In 1979, my band, The Paradise Pickers, opened for a country music singer from Louisiana named Joe Stampley. The show was in Baltimore at The Baltimore Civic Center. There were thousands of folks in the audience, perhaps the largest audience I had played for up to that time. We did our set, Joe did his, and it was a big time. There was an after party, and we got to have a hang with the musicians that were in Joe’s band. One of those musicians, Ansley Fleetwood, introduced himself to me and told me he enjoyed some of my songs. I thanked him, and we exchanged numbers. He said that if I was ever in Nashville to give him a call. He also said that he had a publishing company and that he would listen to songs if I had any that I wanted to share with him.

The Paradise Pickers in Baltimore at the Mayor William Donald Schaefer Hog Calling Contest 1978.

Later that year I sent Ansley a song called “If You’ve Got Love.” He wrote back and said that he wanted to produce a 45-rpm record with that song. I was thrilled to hear the news. Ansley was learning to produce records with Chet Atkins. He recorded the tracks with many “A” team session musicians and the singers who backed Elvis, The Jordanaires. I went to Nashville and recorded my vocal on the record, and Ansley released and promoted the record to country music radio stations. It did well in a few markets and had I had it together, I could have toured in those places and probably made some new fans and sold some records.

Billy singing with The Jordanaires.

Then in April 1980, I moved to Nashville. I knew two people, Ansley and drummer, Roger Cox, from the Tommy Overstreet band. Ansley had offered to let me stay with him for two weeks while I looked for a place to live. I had enough savings to pay rent and living expenses for a few months. One morning, I was heading out to look for an apartment, and I asked Ansley if he had any suggestions. He pointed south and said, “head that way, you’ll see some places.” I headed south out of Green Hills, found a place called Whispering Hills in Antioch and walked into the rental office. The office manager, Dozy, asked me to fill out an application. I filled it out and handed it to her. She looked it over and said, “we can’t move any further on your application, you don’t have a job.” I told her I had just moved to Nashville, but that I could pay several months rent in advance. She said, “come back when you get a job.”

I went back to Ansley’s wondering what to do. I told him what had happened, and he said to me, “Billy, what is two plus two?” I said, “five.” He said, “You’re hired. You now have a job with Brandwood Music Publishing, and your draw is two hundred dollars a week.” I said, “Really?” He said, “No, I can’t afford to pay you anything, and I don’t need another employee. You don’t have to tell Whispering Hills that part of the story.”

Twenty minutes after I had left the rental office, I went back to Whispering Hills, and walked into the office. Dozy said, “How can I help you?” I said, “Do you still have my application that I just filled out twenty minutes ago?” She said, “Yes, it’s right here.” I said, “I was just hired by Brandwood Music Publishing, and I’ll be making two hundred dollars a week.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Go ahead and put it on your application.”

Two days later, I was approved for a one-year lease.

“That Lady From Abilene,” by Ansley Fleetwood and Billy Kemp

Ansley and I remained friends. We wrote some songs together, and he even gave me his Tascam ½-inch 8 track tape recorder after he decided he wasn’t going to use it anymore. I still have that recorder, and I am grateful. I found work as a guitarist for Tommy Overstreet, Terri Gibbs and Bandana from 1983-1987. Ansley left Joe Stampley and started playing for Jeanne Pruett, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, sometime in the mid-eighties.

The Tascam Series 70 recorder given to Billy by Ansley Fleetwood.

In the spring of 1986, I got a call from Ansley. He was Jeanne’s bandleader, and he asked me if I would be interested in playing rhythm guitar and back-up singing with her band. It had been a dream of mine to play the Opry since 1975 when I first listened to it in my 1960 Rambler on the AM radio. On a good night I could pick up the WSM Grand Ole Opry signal when I parked my car up near the Westchester Community Center in Oella, Maryland near Ellicott City. I told Ansley YES, YES, YES!!!

Aunt Lil’s 1960 Rambler Classic given to Billy in 1971 with only 12,000 miles.

I played with Jeanne through that summer, fall, and into the winter until December. I played rhythm acoustic guitar and sang back-up vocals. It was goose bumps every night performing at the Opry. I respected the tradition then, and I do today.

Here’s another song that Ansley and I wrote, “My List of Lies.” I have a friend who lives in the north of England in the Lake District who sings this song in the pubs named John Hawson.

My List of Lies,” by Ansley Fleetwood and Billy Kemp

This demo was recorded in 1983. The back-up singing is beautifully done by a singer from Little Rock named Virginia Arouh.

Thanks for supporting the music. Don’t forget, I have a new record out, The Craig Demos, and it is available in digital download or CD at my website. Click the sound menu button and head over to The Craig Demos.

The Craig Demos CD front cover.

One other piece of news is I have started a batch of blueberry wine for the first time in fifteen years. The blueberries are ripe here in Middle Tennessee, and Sue and I picked a couple of pounds that will make one gallon of wine to be ready next summer. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Ben Franklin once said, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.

Wishing everyone good health, spirit and happiness.



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  1. Hey Bill. Maren Junk here. I’m so glad you posted the picture of your single “That Lady From Abilene” with “1981 International Seagrams 7 Battle Of The Bands” on it. Country Junk came in second that night down on Dogwood Road at that event. I forget the name of the place, but I think it was an Athletic Club. Of course The Paradise Pickers came in first. I was so honored to play on the same stage as you guys. We all got a T shirt with the contest name written on it. 🎵🎸 Memories🎙️🤠. Stay Well in our crazy world. MJ

  2. Billy
    What year did Roger Cox leave the Nashville Express, and who replaced him? I need to know. Did you know keyboardist Jerry Kennedy (not THE Jerry Kennedy)?

    1. Good morning, KBM. What a surprise to hear your questions. The last time I saw Roger Cox was in the early ‘90s in Philadelphia. I have not seen Jerry Kennedy, the piano player, since 1983. I toured with Tommy Overstreet for one year during 1983. Roger and I performed together in Nashville for a few years with various songwriters as well as my music. I have been thinking about releasing a live recording from The Bluebird Cafe from 1984 with Roger on drums. What a good drummer he was and hopefully still is. Jerry Kennedy was a very song friendly piano player, never flashy but tasteful fills and comping. I’m not sure who replaced Roger in the Nashville Express. I lost touch with Tommy Overstreet after he moved to Oregon with Diane, his wife. She would probably know the answer to your question. Best of luck to you, please let me know what you find out. Thanks for writing. Cheers, Billy

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