There was a time, mid-to-late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when Rev. Billy C. Wirtz seemed to be right on the edge of becoming a superstar of comedy.
His “routine” – humorous, satirical songs about professional wrestling, redneck romance and other vestiges of trailer park culture, set to a rollicking boogie piano – placed him on the comedy timeline between Lewis Grizzard and Larry the Cable Guy. He was the Joe Dirt of the ‘88s (keys, that is).
Although he made more than a dozen albums (including the unforgettable Deep Fried and Sanctified, Pianist Envy and A Turn For the Wirtz: Confessions of a Hillbilly Love God), Wirtz ultimately found that near-immortality wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
He’s happier now than he’s ever been, Wirtz said Monday on The Catalyst Sessions, between tunes – a born storyteller, he’s parlayed his extensive knowledge of early rhythm ‘n’ blues, gospel and jazz into a new career (of sorts) as a musicologist. In his live shows, which still draw from the well of his greatest comedy hits (hey, he’s got fans to think of), he talks with preacher-like fervor of music, and its roots, and how this piano style begat that piano style, and how all things – black, white, dance music, gospel and boogie – are inter-connected.
Wirtz has hosted the WMNF-FM show Rhythm Revival (Fridays at 3 p.m.) since 2014.
Today on The Catalyst Sessions: Keep St. Pete Lit executive director Maureen McDole.
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