The talent: Billy Heller The music: Acoustic guitar The gigs: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday @ Java Creek Cafe, 588 Boyson Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids The rest of the story: If you have been a follower of music in Eastern Iowa, you might be familiar with Billy Heller. The first time I heard of this guy was many years ago, when my brother, a drummer, let me listen to a few songs he said he recorded with a couple of guys he called “Heller” and “Frank Boyer.” I was blown away. The music was intense, progressive fusion rock. For years Billy was a staple of the local rock band scene with groups like Public Disturbance, Redwing, Tower and Sgt. Rock, just to name a few. Then for several years, he played with the popular Christian rock band, Fighter, performing all over the country. They recorded a couple of CD’s and Zion Guitars selected him as an official “endorser,” making custom-built guitars for him. After that, Billy continued to stay busy in the local music industry as a studio musician, guitar teacher, member of the band at Living Hope Wesleyan Church, musician with Theatre Cedar Rapids’ band and as a member of the Janelle Lauer Band. And now, he’s made it to the Music Notes page of Hoopla, for yet an additional reason: his solo acoustic gigs. Let’s talk to Billy – shall we? PL: Describe the type of music you play these days in your solo act. BH: Uber-Folk and Acoustic Muscle. PL: Who are some of the bands/musicians that you cover? BH: Pretty much ALL of ‘em – from James Taylor and Willy Porter, to 70s TV theme songs. PL: Where do you like to play, and what are some of your favorite gigs? BH: Java Creek Café and Fireside Winery are my faves. And I absolutely LOVE playing fretless bass every Sunday at my church. Oh and TCR, which I’ve also played for a lot. PL: You play such a variety of styles. Who are some of your musical influences? BH: Ed King and Steve Gaines from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willy Porter, Peter Mulvey, Warren DeMartini, David Wilcox, Eddie Van Halen, James Taylor, Jeffery Foucault and Shakira. PL: There’s not enough space here to name them all, but who are some of the more interesting people you’ve played with? BH: Dave Ellefson (bass for Megadeth), Barry Binger (RIP), Tommy Bruner, Don Timmons, Steve Jennings and Tim Looney. PL: Have you ever won any awards for your talents? BH: 1993’s “LONGEST BELCH” Champion PL: Nice. How about other interesting stories – got any? BH: I got a call from Michael Sweet (now with Boston, but formerly with Stryper) to go on his first solo tour, after he heard my work with Scott Wenzel of Whitecross. I also got a call once from an early musical idol of mine – Kerry Livgren (Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind composer) to thank me for a T-shirt design I did for him. I argued with him at first, because I didn’t believe it was really him. — PETE