Front Porch

Forbidden Pig Tales: Friends Remember Billy Bacon

Billy Bacon.

I loved the thought of being a “Forbidden Pig.” I had that illuminating realization that we all were Forbidden Pigs in the middle of my first Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs experience.
Back in the day I only saw them a couple of times, but the music played in my head and on my turntable for many years. I never imagined then that at some point in my life I would get the opportunity to book them into a club and get to meet William Russell, the great Billy Bacon. I didnt know him very well or for very long, but there were times on the phone when I was fortunate enough to experience the essence of Billy Bacon. The middle of the night chats riddled with twisted and poignant humor that left my head and sides aching. Now I’m left with an aching heart. That’s my tale.

Mike Hebert, Adrian Demain, and Jerry DeMink, have their own tales to tell.

Jerry DeMink
I joined Billy Bacon in 1997 after he released his third album. He had already racked up years of road miles. We hit it off immediately at our first rehearsal. I had just moved home from Chicago, where I played with blues legend A.C. Reed and was looking for a road gig. Billy was working at Radio Shack while in between bands. Soon, we were playing local gigs and preparing for our first tour. The old Dodge van died, so Billy upgraded to a box van equipped with an equipment ramp and dually wheels. We built it out with bunk beds, a closet, windows, curtains, a fold-out table, a TV/VCR, and Nintendo 64. Dubbed “the pig van” we were the envy of every road band. We logged more than 300,000 miles on that van in my eight years of touring with Billy. We played all over the US, Canada, and Western Europe. During that time we released five albums. Billy and I became close friends and shared thousands of laughs. One night we had an inside joke going during our set. When the joke came to a climax at the end of the song, we buckled over and laughed for a good five minutes. So many great stories. We were brothers. One thing that amazed me about Billy was that when his health started to deteriorate he still gave stellar performances despite his pain. Two weeks prior to Billy’s death, he called to tell me that he had been on stage and couldn’t stop laughing about a memory from one of our gigs. I’ve done a lot of laughing and crying these past few weeks.

Adrian Demain
My name is Adrian Demain and I was the guitarist in the Forbidden Pigs from 1993-1996. In 1992 I had just started cutting my teeth in the San Diego blues community. As my interests in blues and roots music grew, my wife suggested I listen the Pigs’ first album, Una Mas Cerveza. I continued to pay my dues on local bandstands, making the most of all the guitar licks I “borrowed” from Mario Morena, who played guitar on that first Pigs record. Then I received a call from Billy Bacon who said he was looking for a guitar player to do some local shows. Rather than having a formal audition, he put together a show at a pizza place in North Park and invited me to sit in for the night. I was still finding my voice at the time, both figuratively and literally, but Billy and I had a rapport and he asked me to play a few shows he had booked around town. That first run of shows went smoothly and Billy asked me to join the band as the permanent guitarist. We got along well and the Forbidden Pigs gave me my first taste of a true working band. The band’s touring schedule was grueling and it could get pretty rough at times, but I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience. Billy’s songwriting was as varied as his musical tastes and playing his songs night after night taught me to be versatile and respectful of the many styles we tackled. His creativity seemed to flow effortlessly and I still believe that he wrote some of the best songs I’ve ever heard. I feel so fortunate to have played a role in shaping some of those tunes for our album, The Other White Meat, which was released in 1995. During my three years in the band we crossed the U.S. numerous times and toured Europe, running the gamut of outdoor festivals in front of thousands of people to a mid-week show at a bar in the middle of nowhere, playing for a bartender, a waitress, and the soundman. Through all the highs and lows Billy and I developed a friendship that continued beyond my time as his bandmate. His continued touring and, ultimately, his move from California meant we didn’t have much opportunity to get together once I’d left the band, but when we did it was like we hadn’t skipped a beat. Whether it was sharing some silly thing that happened or airing our frustrations about how ridiculous the music industry or “scene” could be, our camaraderie and mutual respect was always there. I can only hope he knew how thankful I am for the friendship we shared.

Mike Hebert
I first met Billy Bacon in 1985; Billy was 21 and came from a large family with 11 siblings—he used to say he had a lot of brothers and sisters because his dad couldn’t afford a television. I was 10 years older and he was drawn to my years of music business experience and was eager to learn the ins and outs of band booking, studio recording, etc. he was already an accomplished songwriter and we collaborated on many songs over the next five years. He had an eclectic blend of musical influences—the early Beatles, Carl Perkins, the Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll trio, Alice Cooper, the Guess Who, CCR, Paul Weller and the Jam, and Doug Sahm. He also loved the early jazz of Cab Calloway and jump blues of Louis Jordan. For years the bathrooms in his homes were decorated with Elvis Presley memorabilia, a strange memorial to the fact that Elvis died in his bathroom. He had started the band known as the Forbidden Pigs in high school with guitarist Pete Conway and later drummer Chris Giorgio. By 1987, the band was a trio consisting of myself on guitar and vocals, Billy on bass and vocals, and various drummers. 1988 was the year the band became a professional outfit, releasing our first single, buying a tour van, and performing at venues throughout the Southwest. We made weekly trips to Los Angeles to play showcase gigs at the Palomino Club, Club Lingerie, the Roxy, and many others hoping for a record deal. This was also the year we engaged the services of band booking agent and promoter Jeb Schoonover from Tucson, Arizona. Jeb was his manager, friend, and soulmate for the remainder of his life. Early on Billy realized that by performing stunts with his upright bass, standing on it, and playing it like a guitar he could really fire up the crowd and this became our set closing routine. He called it the “monkey act” and always hated doing it, wishing instead that the audience would accept the band for its songwriting and originality. The band signed its first record deal in 1990 with Triple X records, this is where Billy and I parted ways as I knew it meant 250-plus touring days per year, but our friendship endured, with many great memories… of the life he left behind.

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