The Reverend Billy C. Wirtz was one of the original featured artists in what was then known as the CBC Lounge Bar.
Goateed and copiously tattooed, he is the antithesis of anyone’s ordinary concept of a preacher. Yet, as his name implies, Billy often employs this stage persona to set the scene in a song. Like an itinerant revivalist in a carnival tent, he’ll begin slowly and gradually build to a rapid fire torrent, as if he were whipping the congregation into a frenzy.
Accentuating the lyrics with wild hand gesticulations and exaggerated facial expressions, he becomes a comedian, twisted televangelist and barrel house piano player rolled into one. Just when the crowd senses that he’s about to explode in some massive spasm, he’ll compose himself and segue into a slow blues number while asking the assembled multitude to forgive him for being “overcome by the spirit.”
Naturally, his fans, the “faithful,” are accustomed to this denouement and even shout “Amen” but not before egging him on to even more histrionics before that ultimate crescendo is reached. “Testify, Billy, testify,” they cry, and the Reverend Billy, gathering strength from their exhortations like a hurricane from warm waters, is always willing to accommodate them.
The Reverend Billy C. Wirtz is a comic genius, gifted pianist and American musicologist who defies easy classification.
“I like to think of myself as the Victor Borge of the blues,” he said.
But Billy goes way beyond Borge both in scope of subject matter (from politics to social commentary) and, of course, in taste. In fact, no theme is too extreme, taboo, or undignified for the Reverend, so long as it garners a good laugh.
The Reverend Billy C. Wirtz will be holding services in the Red Room of the Crystal Bay Casino on Friday, May 16. This 21 and over revival is free and will begin promptly at 10 p.m.
The Rev. Billy C. Wirtz
When: 10 p.m. Friday, May 16
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room