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But what? The dissolution of the band had left a musical vacuum, and I couldn't imagine accomplishing anything with a different group of players that I hadn't already with my guys. The Lonesome BillysI had been fooling around again with the pedal steel, on a cool 1965 ZB that a friend happened to give me, and this much-needed fresh outlet soon became a passion. The challenge was incredibly stimulating; my affinity for this instrument was a revelation. I went to Nashville to study with the late Jeff Newman, which provided a good foundation, and also learned a lot from Russ Wever, who was in New York with the Hank Williams musical Lost Highway. My good friend John Widgren has also provided invaluable guidance and technical assistance from day one.

Within a few years the Debonaires reconvened as a country covers band, with me on steel, fronted by a series of vocalists; first as Lonesome LTD, with George Gilmore on rhythm and lead vocals, and then as the Lonesome Billys, with a couple of different female singers. Over time we evolved into a sort of dusky Memphis hayride revival combo, with Miss Monica on vocals and pizzazz, along with Mike, Chris, Nat, and yours truly dragging the bar.

In mid-2008 Miss Monica decided to move on, and the Lonesome Billys folded, thereby ending my long association with my old Debonaires mates. Chris and Mike still play together with our dear friend Stan Mitchell as his Band of Buddies, and I sit in with them from time to time.