Billy Root 1934-2013 RIP

Billy Root was many things in life, father, husband, brother and occasionally a son of a bitch. Most of all, he was the best natural musician I ever knew, maybe just one of the best to others, but I’m biased, I’m his son. I believe my father was both liked and disliked in equal measure. He was truly gifted in many artistic areas and as the gifted often are he was a “love him or hate him” kind of guy however indisputably talented. Most of you know him as a musician, which was not his only talent; he was also a fantastic photographer, and speaking as a photographer I only hope to create images like his. He was also a model airplane builder; he loved airplanes second only to music.


There were many things he was good at others not so much. He was horrible around the house ,handy man wasn’t a name you would call him, if he didn’t like doing it he didn’t do it well, I think as  young man I disliked helping him around the house more than anything , he would cuss and bitch and projects would often end up unfinished, I know now some of the reasons was he was stoned  to the bone on weed. As a younger man he was a fervent advocate for pot use and expressed it by smoking ridicules portions of it, conducive for playing the sax not so much for hammer and nails


I think one key along with natural musical talent was relentless practice, every morning I remember the same thing, him in the kitchen in his tidy whites practicing. I would wake up the same scales over and over. First the Tenor sax da dldly didly didly da--- snap and again da dldly didly didly da---snap “fuckin cane sucks”  He would have a box of Rico Royals out and dozens of broken reads on the table, He would put on play a scale and if not up to his standard brake it, (this was from a box he had picked thru at Mahoney’s  selecting only the best, ) Finally he would get on with promise  The two scales became 4 ending with the same flourish , like clockwork,”AH HA!) he would say , then came the flute, He would go through this routine form flute to alto flute to clarinet to contra bass clarinet to baritone .This would go on for 5 to 6 hours every day it was maddening now I would give anything to hear it once more.


Dad was committed to the music and his family, as a child I never know how tight funds were. He always found a way to make things happen like Christmas and Birthdays , I now know it was with layaways and extra gigs and whatever it took, he did what a fathers is supposed to do every time. I only remember two time he didn’t make a show he had a sub for both. I spent many nights with him back stage I remember one night , I think it was Siegfried and Roy at the Frontier he had like eight Doubles , no BS, I helped him carry the instrument. I was watching him play and turn pages on the music stand but not in time with the other’s turning pages. I got a closer look and he was reading a model airplane magazine playing notes like mad and reading a magazine I couldn’t believe it.


The great musicians I was introduced to a as a young person are a dying breed like the heroes of WWII they are almost all gone The one I consider one dads best friends died many year ago, Vienne Tanno In my opinion he had the same spark as dad did. One day when I was walking into the Orleans Hotel I heard a band playing Dixieland (not really my thing) when all of a sudden I heard a trumpet blast , whoever it was he left rest of the group in the dust. Vinnie had stayed with us and I had many opportunity’s to hear him and I thought” that sounds like Vinnie” it didn’t seem like a spot he would be but I walked over anyway. It was Vinnie blowing his brains out, he saw me and shot me a simple smile. I realized that Dad and Vinnie were the only two musicians I could always recognize by sound. I also realized it wasn’t because I was familiar with the sound it was because they were talking to me in a voice I understood., like a child instinctively knows the sound of his mother’s voice I knew there’s . I’m sure you all have the same recognition of the heroes in your life, Dad and his friends, Vinnie, and Leo were mine and I miss them. In a small way the world is enriched by their legacy and diminished by their loss.

There are some left ,Ronnie Rueben, Bill Trujillo and a few others. I’m sure there is a new crop doing new things that the old guys don’t appreciate “That guy sucks you should have heard this guy” and so on. There probably was a cave man who said “you should have heard the way old Ug beat the rocks man was a genius”  . It is, I believe as it has been forever, the way of things, the old pass the new move on.
Rest in Peace Pop I miss you,
You’re Son Eric

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