The Lincolnton band, Low Willie, has a variety of musical influences â€“ all of which can be identified by various accessories worn by band members.
Randy Walker, lead singer and guitar player, wears a cowboy hat perched on top of his head with boots to match.
Lead guitarist Ultra Dave prefers to accessorize with a big iron cross. His fellow metal-head, Russell Kip, the bandâ€™s bass player, has a mop of curly hair.
Shannon Hill holds the harmonica like heâ€™s Joe Cool clad in wing tips, a backwards hat and sunglasses.
Pete DeGregory sits behind the drums with his leather bandanna shining in the light.
â€œWeâ€™re so wrong weâ€™re right,â€ said Ultra Dave of the bandâ€™s musical stylings.
Low Willie, which made its metal-country-blues debut three years ago at Hog Happeninâ€™ will once again play the festival this Saturday at noon.
Expect Americana, country tunes with a mix of blues and metal â€“ which Walker characterizes as â€œthe cherry on the top.â€
â€œThat loud, turbulent noise on the top,â€ clarified Ultra Dave.
Since its debut three years ago, Low Willie has perfected its sound and put out a 10-song album titled â€œLivinâ€™ the Low Life.â€ Walker penned all the tunes.
â€œIdeally itâ€™s music about the average guy or girl â€“ that working man scene,â€ he said.
Songs cover the old West, love, loss and drinking and dialing.
Walker was originally hesitant to take his music out of his living room and into the spotlight.
After his first few gigs, however, he was hooked.
â€œYou get this adrenaline going that you want to expand on,â€ he said.
A native of Ohio, heâ€™s lived in Lincolnton for 15 years. He met DeGregory four years ago and the two started playing music together.
â€œHe has a reputation,â€ said Walker. â€œHeâ€™s been playing music and been parts of bands since the mid-80s.â€
When DeGregory heard Walkerâ€™s original songs, he took an immediate liking to them.
â€œIt really didnâ€™t sound like anything Iâ€™d ever heard,â€ said DeGregory.
Although the music started out pure country-rock, it evolved as new members joined the band.
Ultra Dave and Kip both had a strong background in metal. Back in the â€™80s, the two were members of the group â€œIon Briton,â€ which had big followings in Japan and Germany.
â€œWe were 100 percent metal-heads,â€ said Kip.
DeGregory acted as their manager helping them through â€œthe perilous roads of rock and roll.â€
As manager, DeGregory acted as something of a father figure, although, as he puts it â€œDaddies wouldnâ€™t let you do the things I did.â€
Since then, the three old friends have calmed down somewhat. DeGregory is now owner of the Rock Garden and works as a post master.
â€œHeâ€™s the mailman â€“ he delivers, baby,â€ said Ultra Dave.
Kip works in manufacturing. Ultra Dave is an electrician, and Walker is in social services.
Hill, the blues-cat of the band, plays music and deals in real estate. His harmonica was the last instrument added to Low Willie.
Originally he just played with the group unofficially.
â€œI just have fun with these guys more than anyone else,â€ said Hill.
After sitting in on so many performances, however, he ended up joining the band.
The members of Low Willie have tentative plans of going on small tours. The fact that four of the five members have children will keep those tours to long weekends.
For now, theyâ€™re happy playing local gigs and are ready to get back to the Hog Happeninâ€™ stage.
â€œWeâ€™re brothers. We have fun,â€ said Kip. â€œIf we lose the fun in it, we wonâ€™t be here.â€
by Sarah Grano