Sunday marks the year anniversary of Billy Peitsch’s death. I knew him for twenty years and I can safely say he was the coolest person I’ve even known. His death, coming so soon after the deaths of my close friends Bob and Alice Quine, Kelly Keller, Dee Dee Ramone, Cordell Jackson, and Hasil Adkins sent me into a state of shock that I’m just now starting to emerge from. I’m not a good enough writer to do justice to his life and achievements,but if you knew Bill you know what I mean. He was one of a kind in the best way. And one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I never had less than a great time when Bill was around, he could take the piss out of lames like no one I’ve ever seen, he could fix your car, explain to you why the Brooklyn Bridge didn’t fall into the river, expound on why Chuck Berry was the greatest songwriter ever, and when Andre Williams would go missing in action five minutes to show time it was Bill who could find him, get his false teeth back in Andre’s mouth
and get him onstage.
For the unfamiliar he was best known as the drummer/singer of the Church Keys, as well as several other bands like Purple Wizard. Visit film maker Danny Rose’s site Wayne County Ramlin’ which is chock full of photo and video material.
I have two funny stories I can share. At the bar I own, the Lakeside Lounge, some lowlife suburban squat slummer threw a brick at my bartender. Bill chased the perp down but they got into the door of their squat and threw the bolt just in time— they thought. The next day Bill returned with a sledge hammer and a posse, and we never had trouble in the bar again.
My other story is when I set Bill up with some goofy VH1 film crew who were making a tv show about “male groupies”. I was trying to publicize a band I was managing at the time called the Prissteens (two of whom would later form Purple Wizard with Bill). So VH1 came to film Bill as a Prissteens groupie (which he really wasn’t, although he’s credited on their LP as their Fluffer). When the camera started to roll so did Bill and he had the host so flustered they had to stop filming four or five times. The guy was simply no match for Bill in mental chess and the crew concurred, basically letting Bill direct his own segment. He was inter spliced with a Sarah McGlaughlin (or however it’s spelled) groupie in the final edit. It’s quite hilarious. I lost my copy, if anyone out there has it please post it on Youtube and let me know. It aired half dozen times in Febuary of ’98. Bill was a natural and had quite a few film credits including Bruce Bennett’s short Shirt Sleeves, Chris Frieri’s I Was A Teenage Mummy and Danny Rose’s Wayne County Ramlin‘. He recorded a killer LP for Norton (The Church Keys Ale Up) and a couple of amazing 45’s (“Peephole” is particularly brilliant, a work out on Bill’s Chuck Berry obsession)
I miss Bill Peitsch as much as I am proud to have known him. They’ll never be another like him. He left behind his wife Andrea and two young children– Wendy Jean and Billy Ray Jr., and I’ll try to find out if there’s any sort of official channel for helping them out and post it here as soon as I know. I think I need to go take some heroin now.
BTW the above Japanese beer commercial featuring the Church Keys classic “Ale Up” was shot at my bar the Lakeside Lounge, I think I’m show up when the camera pans the bar. Also, notice in the photo, even the cop is smiling. The girl on the left is Lori Yorkman who was in the Prissteens and Purple Wizard.