THE exotic Spaghetti Western sounds that emanate from Billy Buckley’s Gretsch Duo Jet guitar would be perfectly at home in a make-believe saloon, a dust-sprayed track or a sun-drenched vista.
But actually, Buckley’s epic soundscapes were penned in Wigan where the guitarist is more likely to be driving across the wet Pennines than the red-roads of Arizona. Buck’s foray into Western sounds and rockabilly is not a fad, either – it’s an aesthetic preoccupation he’s had since he was a boy. And that’s how he got his name.
“They used to call me Rockabilly Buckley at school, even though my name’s Steven, so I got galled ‘Billy Buckley’” he says. “My dad always listened to Chuck Berry and other rock and roll and I remember really liking these records as a kid. So I would Brylcreem my hair in a quiff when I was a teenager at school in the late 80s – I was never taken seriously and I was laughed at a lot but I just didn’t care what people thought.”
Buckley may have ditched the Brylcreem, but his Spaghetti sensibility has remained intact. “I have no connection with the area of the Mid-West and the land of the Pioneers but I love the sound. There’s something about the music that takes me back to being eight or nine years old again and some of the tracks – although there are no lyrics – are very emotional and can bring a tear to your eye.”
But Buckley doesn’t just play Spaghetti Western music. “There are three of us – me, John Ellis – the bassist - and drummer Eryl Roberts and our repertoire includes a bit of Western, Spaghetti-billy-psychedelic music and soul - Eryl has a huge Hammond so when we play old school soul funk it has that real late Sixties sound.”
Buckley and his backing band, The Wagon Train, play across Europe – from London’s Jazz Café to Gibraltar blues festival. And it was at one of these gigs where Sheffield producer Colin Elliot approached Buckley and suggested he met up with another lap-steel and Spaghetti sound fanatic – Richard Hawley.
“It was a long while back now but I remember Colin Elliot coming up to me and saying ‘I work with someone who’ll love what you do’ – then Richard Hawley started coming to some of the shows and we’ve been in regular contact ever since. But it’s a long time ago when we first met though, before Richard became really popular.”
It all began at the age of seven years-old when his fetched his old electric guitar out of the loft. Buckley studied at Leeds College of Music and has worked as a musician ever since. With a background in jazz as well as rockabilly, Buckley’s tracks have the ambition of jazz with the structural solidity of pop and rock and roll.
He is at The Greystones on Saturday.