1979: (L-R) Jim Carver, John Posey (RIP), John O’Brien and Billy Atkins (RIP).
Every year, I honor the friendship on the passing anniversary of Billy Atkins. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we physically lost Billy from this world. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t remiss our friendship! The bond, stories, fun and mischief were special and considering how easy Billy made friends and was liked instantly by strangers, I consider myself so lucky to have earned a close friend for decades!
Nothing’s The Same
Billy was technically my big brother, although we were the same age and weren’t related. His advice, wisdom and professional demeanor was a guiding light often during our friendship. I respected him and he returned the favor despite my flaws. Our hearts were often in the same place in regards to faith, beliefs and honesty. Those qualities of knowing right from wrong and what really matters in life were shared even though we often deviated off the beaten path for fun and let our hair down.
Forevermore – My Friend!
His laugh was as big as his heart and Billy had a way of lighting up a room with a story or a tale. His personality was a shining star! He would give you a bed to rest, a place to stay, meal or even the shirt off his back to help you. Nothing would stand in his conquest of helping a friend in need. This was another reason he was so loved and had genuine qualities, that are rare these days.
The Band of Our First Concert
Billy’s love of music was persuasive as he turned me onto great bands, I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. We attended my first concert together at age 15 and from there my hard rock musical journey began at a Uriah Heep concert in Columbus, Ohio in 1973. He was an accomplished bassist who astounded me as he played the bass behind his head and back, giving his personalized aura; once again letting you know he personality was a gift through music!
Throughout the years we hung together often daily and life was a blast! I regard those years as a huge learning curve in my personal life. With it’s ups and downs, good times and bad; Billy often attempted to keep me grounded while undergoing various addictions and possible catastrophes. His friendship and love always looked after me throughout our time together! Had it not been for many nights with Billy, I can’t imagine how much damage I could have caused for my life and others. While it is embarrassing to say he was my personal babysitter on those nights, our talks, time spent together is forever appreciated!
While our friend was sadly suddenly taken-away to a far better place; his legacy, memories and stature has withstood the test of time. Billy is with me every day. If I had one selfish wish it would be he could’ve joined me in my current journey of covering and interviewing bands. I could only imagine his excitement and encouragement as I’ve had the pleasure to cover and meet many of the artists we grew-up listening too!
As I receive goose-bumps on my arms as I type this letter, I also know he shares my journey daily with me in spirit!
God Bless You Billy for your gift of giving me my introduction into Rock N’ Roll, which ironically was our calling and during my own personal time of need, led me to return to what I was meant to do all along! Beside your friendship and love; there is nothing more important than receiving this gift and sharing it with others. It all began in your bedroom impressing me with your turntable and powerful PA system with music resonating loudly. No one can take that away. The musical appreciation and respect was the moral of the story!
That lives on every day as I operate The Rust Belt Chronicles, perhaps giving people a slight glimmer of your personality and heritage as it’s represented in all I do. Rest In Peace my friend, keep the music cranked and a seat warm for me!
Blessings to Michelle Atkins, Dawn and Rob Kamen, John, Kim, Pete, Suzie, Deb and Mary O’Brien and their extended families. It’s been a tough year for all of you, but you know as I do; Billy walks beside us! God Bless!