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Billy Peek has been selected for entry into our Hall of Fame. A renowned musician with a career spanning eight decades, Billy has entertained tens of thousands of fans both in St. Louis and on stages around the world performing with Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Chuck Berry and Rod Stewart, but stayed loyal to his St. Louis roots throughout his great career.
Billy attended Roosevelt High School from 1954 to 1958, where he was a member of the Track Team. Billy’s love of music started early when his parents played country music on the radio. As a beginning guitar player, he and his dad would often entertain guests at his dad’s tavern, The Peek-a-Boo Inn, on Tower Grove Ave. When Billy was 15 years old, he started his own band performing in small venues around St. Louis. His music was influenced especially by Chuck Berry and his song, “Maybellene.” Billy was also inspired by Albert King, Little Milton, Ike and Tina Turner, B.B. King and Ray Charles, to name a few.
In 1958, as an 18-year-old, Billy and his band opened for Chuck Berry at the Casa Loma Ballroom. He was so intimidated in Chuck Berry’s presence, it was all he could do to ask for his autograph. Little did he know, he and Berry would eventually become lifelong friends. Billy continued to play around the area for the next several years, often on the East Side, where Chuck Berry would see him perform. Berry soon asked Billy to be a regular performer at Berry Park, a music venue he owned in Wentzville. Billy was also a mainstay in Gaslight Square performing there often during the early 1960’s.
Billy moved to Los Angeles in 1965 to pursue his career, performing around the state. He returned to St. Louis in 1969 and reconnected with Berry. Billy quickly accepted Berry’s request to perform at a rock and roll revival concert by being the backup band for Gary U.S. Bonds, Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Billy then joined Berry and his band as a backup guitarist touring the United States and Europe. They made one album, in 1969, “Concerto in B Goode.” This relationship lasted until 1975.
That year, Billy performed on the national TV program, “Rock Concert.” Rod Stewart and his renowned guitarist, Ron Wood, watched the program and invited Billy to audition for Stewart’s band, Faces. Rod asked him to perform the country hit, “The Wild Side of Life,” but Billy played it as a rock song, which impressed Rod so much, Billy won the audition and joined his band. Billy played backup guitar for a short time then became the lead guitarist when Ron Wood left the group. For the next five years, Billy played with Stewart, performing worldwide while recording nine albums with such hits as “Tonight’s the Night,” “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and “Hot Legs,” among many others which often featured guitar solos by Billy.
Rod’s band dissolved in 1980. Billy then moved back home to continue his career, but not until he helped Eric Carmen record his album, “Tonight You’re Mine.” Since that time, Billy continues to entertain thousands of loyal fans and making new ones, performing around the Midwest, but focusing on St. Louis. Billy made six albums during his career, the last being “Tribute to a Poet,” in honor of his mentor, Chuck Berry. Billy’s single, “Can a White Boy Play the Blues?” remains a fan favorite.
Chuck Berry continued to perform around St. Louis having a regular gig at Blueberry Hill on Delmar. In 2014, Berry’s health was hindering the quality of his performances. Blueberry Hill’s owner, Joe Edwards, reached out to Billy who then performed with Berry during his last four concerts. Berry passed away in 2017.
Over his career, Mr. Peek was formally recognized nine times for his contributions to music by Federal, State, and local elected officials in the form of Proclamations and Resolutions. All of them praised Billy for his outstanding career, using such terms as “legendary,” “unique style,” and citing his charitable work. In 2012, U.S Senator Claire McCaskill commended Mr. Peek’s “exceptional career” and as a “contributor to St. Louis’ rich musical traditions.” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay declared February 28, 2002 as Billy Peek Day in the City, saying he is a “pioneer in the field of Blues and Rock and Roll.” The late Buzz Westfall, St. Louis County Executive, declared November 8, 2002, as Billy Peek Day in the County for his “tremendous contributions and influence to Rock and Roll.” Other recognitions are similar in their acknowledgements of Mr. Peek’s long and amazing career. Many mentioned that Mr. Peek focused the majority of his career on St. Louis’ music scene entertaining thousands of loyal fans.
As can be seen, Billy Peek’s long and successful career as an entertainer and great guitarist exemplifies what a true Rough Rider represents and is a credit to the Roosevelt High School community. The Alumni Association is pleased to induct Billy into the Hall of Fame.