For years now, Billy Morris has stood as a guitar and musical icon in the rock scene, earning a name for himself in the Cleveland music industry. He is most notably known for his time as the lead guitarist in the band Warrant and has built his musical resume through the years with his previous tours with Paul Gilbert of the band Mr. Big and Quiet Riot.
The Cleveland guitarist got into the music game early, hailing from a family line of musicians; before he was an up-and-coming guitar player in the music scene. He began his early career at the mere age of six, playing a live performance alongside his father, Bill Morris’ band, Eddie and the Edsels. Also skipping the average high school student’s lifestyle to perform as lead guitarist in his mother’s all occasion’s band on the weekends. “So that was my start of guitar playing…all my life, I didn’t per say have a day job”. Morris says, recalling his early beginning.
He then went on to hit the music scene in 1983, spending time with metal cover band Fractured Image. Throughout the colorful, loud, and fresh 80s, the band revamped themselves over time to become the glam rock band, Spolyd. Also resembling themselves to look like glam rock band, Poison. “We had the big hair, the lipstick, and the flashy clothes…” Morris said, “We were Cleveland’s answer to Poison”. They gained success playing their way through Cleveland’s local clubs. After his time with Spolyd, he decided to front his own band, Kidd Wicked. “We had this instant success, because I was already popping with the other band [Spolyd], and already established in all the clubs, we got to the top of the Cleveland music scene, and every time Warrant would come into town I would finagle my band to open for them” says Morris. Which caught the attention of Jani Lane, lead singer of Warrant, who landed him a gig as lead guitarist for the big time, hair metal band.
Morris spent four years (2000-2004) as lead guitarist with the band. He has toured across the entire United States, as well as several other countries around the world. He is even featured singing “Down Payment Blues” a song by the band AC/DC on Warrants 2001 album, Under the Influence. Among the years of experience touring alongside high-profile bands; Whitesnake, RATT, Firehouse and many more, it has given him the overall professional and rock and roll experience that we see on stage today.
After the downfall of Warrant, Morris made his departure from the band and came back to his home town, Cleveland, to pursue new projects and continue his musical desire.
Now, he plays in the band Billy Morris and the Sunset Strip, a through the decades’ band that covers 80s hits from legendary hair metal bands. Alongside Morris, is guitarist Rob Samay, drummer Ray Brown, and bassist Paul Lewis. “The four of us together form this great, wholesome, solid unit” He said, describing the bands overall combined sound. Beginning its life as a cover band, then expanding its roots and signing with High Vol Records to produce their debut album, Holdin’ All The Aces released in August 2018.
Their debut album features fourteen songs that cover all the waves of the rock and roll sound. When he performs, he takes into account his audience. “I look at the crowd, I identify the crowd. We are the only band you’ll look on stage, and there’s no set list. The set list is in my head”. He uses this to take in the crowd and play songs that will attract their overall taste and to make them dance. “So, we’ll come up with a song, and if they’re not dancing, we’ll go in a different direction”, he explains.
Even though Morris made his break into the big leagues of heavy metal late, he has made the most out of it. “I always never stopped the music scene. I stayed true to the chores [of Rock and Roll] and put together my band [Billy Morris and the Sunset Strip]” He says. “I don’t care what people think, I am what I am, and I have a great past that I am very proud of”. Which he has proven true through the years with his experiences, opportunities and using his talents to make an impact in the Cleveland music scene.
“I think that’s what’s just enough for me to keep my rockstar attitude and persona going,” Morris says. “And there’s a saying in show business. Leave them wanting more”.
Billy Morris and the Sunset play shows just about every weekend on their current tour around Northeast Ohio on their “Holdin’ All the Aces Tour” playing a mixture of covers based through the decades of rock and roll, and also some songs off of their debut album, Holdin’ All the Aces.
Be sure to check out the band where they are set to hit the stage at Parma’s Rib and Rock, hosted by Cuyahoga Community College’s Western Campus on Friday, June 7th, 2019.