Billy Constable grew up in a very musical family in Avery County, and played music for most of his life. Billy was part of Avery County’s Wiseman family, which includes a number of professional musicians including Scotty Wiseman, Lawrence Wiseman, David Wiseman, Fiddling Jimmy Wiseman, banjo picker Kent Wiseman, and Billy’s mother, Lois.
Billy began playing guitar professionally as a youngster with bluegrass great Charlie Moore, who had married Billy’s mother. He also played in Douglas Dillard’s “post Dillards” bluegrass band The Doug Dillard Band from Hollywood, which also featured Byron Berline and occasional guests like Vassar Clements and Sam Bush.
After touring with The Doug Dillard Band, Billy took a break from the road in order to work on his banjo skills while playing in a family’s band, The Constables, who were living in California at the time. He later had the opportunity to tour with two more bluegrass greats, Kenny Baker, a veteran fiddler from Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, and Josh Graves, a long time Dobro player with Flatt & Scruggs‘ Foggy Mountain Boys.
Billy’s approach to the banjo was firmly rooted in Appalachian string music, but it could be deceptively eclectic. His influences began at home and with his family, but Billy’s repertoire was vast, and he was comfortable in most musical situations. In addition to being a master banjo player, Billy was also an accomplished musician on the guitar, mandolin, and violin.
In his later years, Billy carried his banjo into more jam-oriented groups such as Acoustic Forum from New York and New England’s Max Creek. He toured extensively and recorded with Hypnotic Clambake and The Larry Keel Experience. Billy appeared on many shows with Leftover Salmon, and he was also a featured guest on a handful of String Cheese Incident shows and one of their recent albums “Carnival 99.” Billy was also a member of the seasonal Big Daddy Bluegrass Band with Steve MacMurray, Curtis Burch, and Larry Keel.
Billy Constable passed away on August 22, 2015 at the age of fifty-six.