Jan 9, 2020
I am so delighted to be able to talk to the lovely Yuriko Byers, the wife of the late great arranger, composer, trombonist and musician Billy Byers.
In a career that spanned over a 100 movies, dozens of Broadway shows and arrangements for hundreds of TV shows, Byers is regarded as one of the greatest arrangers in music history.
He’s worked with the biggest names in music such as Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Count Basie, and really, too many to count. Perhaps even more impressive, is the legacy he’s left outside of the entertainment industry, with a stellar reputation as a good person, a wonderful loving family and many friends.
1:14 How much work did Billy Byers approximately ghostwrite?
2:50 Did Billy have to give up the piano in his youth because of early onset arthritis?
3:25 Writing in pen because it was easier on his arthritis
3:55 The Byers family
4:08 When did you meet Billy?
4:28 Are you a musician yourself? Is that how you met Billy?
5:20 Was Billy a down to earth type of person?
5:50 Who were Billy’s musical heroes and inspirations growing up?
6:46 Did he have a mentor or was he self taught?
7:45 Was it true that Billy’s father didn’t want him to do music?
8:12 Was the trombone his main instrument?
8:23 What was his history like before you were married?
9:57 Did you meet Billy in Vegas?
11:18 What were you studying in college?
11:36 Did you get married after that?
11:52 How many years were you married to Billy?
12:10 34 years of marriage
12:27 What was your family plan once you got married?
13:24 Why was it rough in New York at the time?
14:19 Was that the 70s or lates 60s?
15:26 Did he practice at home a lot?
15:44 Did he ever express any regret that he had arthritis?
16:32 Did he have perfect pitch?
16:47 In what way was perfect pitch not a blessing for him?
17:08 Writing music on a plane with no instruments
17:19 Was he a fast writer or did he take his time with it?
18:00 Did he have a schedule for writing, in the morning or night?
18:54 Was he a mentor to younger musicians?
19:19 On teaching Paul Newman to play the trombone for Paris Blues
20:07 Talking about Billy’s contributions to the movie The Sting
21:10 Johnny Mandel’s friendship with Billy
22:57 Who were Billy’s best friends in music?
25:20 Was he friends with Nelson Riddle?
25:36 On always being busy but still having time for family
26:20 Did he experience racism for being a white musician in jazz?
28:59 Dizzy Gillespie not caring about race
29:48 On recording two albums with Frank Zappa
30:43 Talking about Billy’s work in Broadway
33:32 Being a music director for big television specials
34:36 Going from Broadway to a Classical Orchestra
35:44 Did he go to all these award nomination ceremonies?
37:21 Talking about Joseph Curiale
38:28 Did Joseph Curiale meet Billy?
38:48 Talking about Sammy Nestico’s relationship with Billy
40:19 What did Count Basie think of Billy?
41:05 Working with Frank Sinatra?
42:07 What did Quincy Jones think of Billy?
42:29 On Quincy and Billy’s close friendship
42:45 Did Billy have an album or show that he did that he really found special
43:38 What were Billy’s favorite things to do in music?
45:51 How did he approach music with his kids?
47:42 On their successful family unit
48:38 What would be some good albums to check out to hear Billy at his best?
50:31 Did he have music that he personally enjoyed listening to?
52:12 Talking about Robert Farnon
52:33 Talking about Yuriko’s Yoga teaching career
55:04 More on the great example of the Byers family
57:17 Wrapping Up