By Danny Burns
Born and raised in Baltimore to a musical family, Bill Evett was surrounded by music in his childhood years. His maternal grandparents were in Vaudeville and his parents, Bill and June, followed in their footsteps as half of The Bill Evett Quartet. His mother, influenced by her time on the road as an entertainer, discouraged him from pursuing a full time career in music. She suggested he acquire a teaching degree and just play music on the weekends.
He eventually took her advice, though it took a few years. When he was playing in a band doing shows along the east coast, he met Betsy, the woman who would eventually become his wife. She also encouraged him to go back to school. She knew that starving for a cause would not satisfy the needs of their soon-to-be family. It took him a few tries to make it through college.
“I dropped out three times ‘cause I’d get a gig and I’d be gone,” said Evett.
He did eventually get his degree and he and Betsy married soon thereafter. When he finished college, he went into the medical sales field to earn a steady income. He started out in Maryland, then New Jersey, and eventually moved to Nashville. Bill spent over twenty years in the medical field going from one profitable venture to another until retirement at age 55.
Ten years ago, Bill and Betsy moved to the Emerald Coast and he thought “well, I’ve got all this free time now. Maybe I could still play and get people to pay me to play.”
“The first year down here, there wasn’t all that much competition. I started playing everywhere. From one end of 30A to the other, I played everywhere you could possibly play. The place I liked playing the most was The Courtyard Wine Bar (now Edward’s) in Rosemary Beach,” said Evett, who played there every week for the better part of six years. “It was so cool. It was like a community thing. I really enjoyed that.”
Currently, Evett’s the music minister at Seaside Chapel. (Yes, a properly ordained minister.)
In 2005, as a parishioner at Seaside Chapel, he learned that the guitar player, Marc Harris, was moving to Birmingham. The minister at that time, Jeff Miller, told him “we need a guitar player. You need to do this with us.” Bill remembers thinking, “Oh man, I’ve never played any Christian music, but I’ll try it.”
“So, I did it and thought this is pretty cool,” said Evett. “I’m kind of in a band. I’ve got David Seering out front…I’ve got Billy McConnell playing bass. Jennifer Steele would sit in. But the church kind of outgrew itself and they shut it down.”
The Seaside Chapel remained closed for about a year and a half. It reopened with visiting pastors preaching on Sundays until December of 2010, when David Wiley and eventually Gary Wingo took the helm. Bill has played Sunday services there since its reopening.
“I like to do traditional hymns with the congregation because you get them up and involved,” said Evett. “Praise songs are great, but if they don’t know them, then it’s just you performing. I don’t like the church to be about me performing.”
Bill has released several CDs, both Christian and secular in the last ten years since moving to Santa Rosa Beach, and he recently began to write inspirational songs. His style is a kind of beachy, Bossa Nova/Pop.
“I wrote a lot of Christian music. [Playing for the church] was so creatively inspiring. I’ve got one [CD] that I sell now and donate the money to Caring and Sharing, a charity that supports the local community. The CD is called The Path of Faith.”
So in a way, Bill has come back to where it all started for him. He has come full circle, back to his music.
You can also download and enjoy these free samples of Bill’s music: