Jake Ivory’s- Boston, MA

 

Billy started his Dueling Pianos odyssey in 1992 when he was hired by Kevin Clover to play at a new Dueling Piano club on Lansdowne St. in Boston called Rebel Yell. The Rebel Yell club was quickly re-named Jake Ivory’s, as the whole Rebel Yell thing didn’t exactly connect with the people of Boston.

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Jake Ivory’s Piano Staff, 1993. From Left, Kevin Clover, Cyndi Chen, Arthur Offen, Billy Ward, Jon Sherman

Jake Ivory’s Piano Staff, 1993. From Left, Kevin Clover, Cyndi Chen, Arthur Offen, Billy Ward, Jon Sherman

Billy was fortunate enough to learn the gig at Jake Ivory’s from players from Dallas Alley- (Kevin Clover, Arch Hooks, Jon Glazer), Pat O’Brien’s (Cyndi Chen), and other assorted Dueling Pianos clubs (Arthur Offen, and Chuck Christianson). Along the way, Jon Sherman and Matt Mello joined Jake Ivories staff, as did Neal Kern. Billy managed the entertainment staff in the Boston club for a while as well.

In 1995, one of the two Jake Ivory’s clubs closed, and Billy had the opportunity to move to San Antonio, TX, and become part of the piano staff at a club that had opened just a few months prior.

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Howl at the Moon- San Antonio, TX

The year was 1995. Howl at the Moon San Antonio had opened in March. Sam Leatherwood was the Entertainment Director, and Billy, along with Roger Hunt, Kevin Karlsgatt, Ricky Hernandez, and Brooks Manry became the foundation of the piano staff. Jon Sherman came over from Boston as well, and it wasn’t long before Geoff Smith and Eddie Thompson came on board. Tommy Raye Rodriguez joined in, as well as Martha Boles, and Howl at the Moon San Antonio had a tremendous piano staff and was the most successful of all the Howl at the Moon franchises in the country. Jon Glazer came on for a spell, but then went back out on the road as Wynonna Judd’s keyboard player.

Howl at the Moon San Antonio Piano Staff, 1996. From Left, Sam Leatherwood, Jon Sherman, Roger Hunt(front), Geoff Smith(rear), Billy Ward, Brooks Manry

Howl at the Moon San Antonio Piano Staff, 1996. From Left, Sam Leatherwood, Jon Sherman, Roger Hunt(front), Geoff Smith(rear), Billy Ward, Brooks Manry

Howl at the Moon- San Antonio, TX

It was during these times in San Antonio where the Dueling Piano gig morphed into a different musical experience, adding drums and bass. Everyone learned the instruments, and Billy has enthusiastically pursued the drums and bass professionally ever since. Not only that, but Billy and some of the other piano players shook the dust off their horns to create a new aspect of Dueling Pianos, The Horn Section!

As players left for greener pastures, others followed, and so Mike Clavijo and Mark Johnson and Joe Miraglilo, Danny Smith, Russell Boyd and Grey Gregson all became part of the San Antonio show.

Howl at the Moon Piano Staff 1999. From Left- Sam Leatherwood, Martha Boles, Jon Sherman, Billy Ward, Roger Hunt, Brooks Manry, Tommy Raye Rodriguez, Eddie Thompson, Ricky Hernandez

Howl at the Moon Piano Staff 1999. From Left- Sam Leatherwood, Martha Boles, Jon Sherman, Billy Ward, Roger Hunt, Brooks Manry, Tommy Raye Rodriguez, Eddie Thompson, Ricky Hernandez

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Howl at the Moon San Antonio Horns 2001- From Left- Joe Miraglilo, Billy Ward, Mike Clavijo

Howl at the Moon San Antonio Horns 2001- From Left- Joe Miraglilo, Billy Ward, Mike Clavijo

Howl at the Moon- San Antonio, TX

In 2001, Sam Leatherwood and Meredyth (Nichols) Mueller (the General Manager off the San Antonio club) left to open their own club in St. Louis, MO called The Big Bang. Geoff Smith and Eddie Thompson were also a part of the new venture as well. Billy was promoted to Entertainment Director at Howl at the Moon in San Antonio, and ran the club until he left in 2003.

 

The Big Bang- Tempe, AZ

In 2003, Sam Leatherwood contacted Billy about a situation his brother and business partner George had come across in Tempe, AZ. Tempe had recently instituted a smoking ban in restaurants and bars, so needless to say, there were a lot of vacant clubs available, and George had found a spot right in the heart of Tempe on Mill Avenue. Billy and Sam worked out a deal, and Billy moved to Arizona to be part Owner/Entertainment Director/ Performer at the newest Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar.

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Big Bang Tempe, AZ Piano Staff 2006- From Left- Julie Martinez- Simpson, Billy Ward, Paul MeGee, Joe Brown, Mike Clement, Travis Byers

Big Bang Tempe, AZ Piano Staff 2006- From Left- Julie Martinez- Simpson, Billy Ward, Paul MeGee, Joe Brown, Mike Clement, Travis Byers

Big Bang Broadway, Nashville Grand Opening- 2008. From Left- Geoff Smith, Sam Leatherwood, Billy Ward, Paul MeGee

Big Bang Broadway, Nashville Grand Opening- 2008. From Left- Geoff Smith, Sam Leatherwood, Billy Ward, Paul MeGee

The Big Bang- Tempe, AZ

The Big Bang in Tempe was a great opportunity for Billy to work with a whole new group of very talented new players- Mike Clement, Julie Martinez-Simpson, and Paul MeGee had all moved from St. Louis to perform at the club, and other local talents came on board. Players such as Joe Brown, Travis Byers, Johnny Greco, Ben Murphy, and Collin Freestone all got their start in the Dueling Pianos gig at The Big Bang, Tempe.

Billy performing at The Tempe Music Fest, 2009

Billy performing at The Tempe Music Fest, 2009

Caricature of Billy Ward and Julie Martinez- Simpson at The Big Bang Tempe 2010

Caricature of Billy Ward and Julie Martinez- Simpson at The Big Bang Tempe 2010

Billy at Big Bang Tempe, AZ 2011

Billy at Big Bang Tempe, AZ 2011

The Big Bang Piano Staff 2011- From Left- Ben Murphy, Billy Ward, Mike Clement, Julie Martinez-Simpson, Collin Freestone(rear), Mike Clavijo

The Big Bang Piano Staff 2011- From Left- Ben Murphy, Billy Ward, Mike Clement, Julie Martinez-Simpson, Collin Freestone(rear), Mike Clavijo


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Billy left the full time nightclub environment in 2011. He joined forces with Pete Wilson and his staff at Casino Arizona at Talking Stick in Scottsdale for their Dueling Piano Show

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Dueling Pianos at Vincitorio’s Restaurant and Wine Bar Tempe, AZ- Billy as Pitbull, Halloween, 2018

Dueling Pianos at Vincitorio’s Restaurant and Wine Bar Tempe, AZ- Billy as Pitbull, Halloween, 2018

Billy performing Devil Went Down To Georgia with Julie Simpson and Matt Medrano at Vincitorio’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, Tempe, AZ 2019

 

Billy and Pete Wilson also started up a show monthly at Vincitorio’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in Tempe, AZ. The monthly Dueling Pianos Show is still going strong at Vincitorio’s restaurant and Wine Bar, with Billy joined by Julie Martinez-Simpson on piano and with house drummer Matt Medrano. Billy also plays solo at Vincitorio’s on the weekends, with Jermaine Lockhart on Sax on Thursdays, and on select Sundays with Sarah Vanell on vocals.

 
Dueling Pianos at Vincitorio’s Restautant and Wine Bar in Tempe, AZ 2015. From Left- Pete Wilson, Billy Ward

Dueling Pianos at Vincitorio’s Restautant and Wine Bar in Tempe, AZ 2015. From Left- Pete Wilson, Billy Ward

Billy performing Shout! with Julie Simpson and Matt Medrano at Vincitorio’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, Tempe, AZ 2017

Billy performing Rock and Roll All Night with Julie Simpson and Matt Medrano at Vincitorio’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, Tempe, AZ 2019