Gunning for stardom
By Fran Odyniec
There was a lot of energy swirling around the main performance stage to begin with as evening slowly descended on Pastime Park .
But when Billy Starrett and the Hired Guns went into “Play That Funky Music, White Boy,” Plain City’s Independence Day Celebration took off like a Roman candle.
The band really showed what they could do as drummer Rob Gibson and rhythm guitar player Mitch Stalling took turns with Starrett on vocals that would make Wild Cherry, the group that did the original, a bit wild with envy.
While bass guitarist Allen Vogelsang and lead guitarist Josh Smith did not join in on “Funky Music,” and only now and then served as backup singers, they did what they do best: kept the band on track with some mighty fine guitar work that is an essential ingredient for this self-styled powerhouse country rock band. There’s really nothing fancy about the band, but they left no doubt that they can live up to that billing.
Not any worse for wear after going non-stop through two sets, Billy, who also plays guitar, gave a hint as to what gives him the energy to perform at such a high level.
“It’s the music,” said this 1992 graduate of Jonathan Alder High School. “I get real excited about the music. And the guys up there are like brothers to me.”
It’s becomes readily apparent that this quintet knows how to function as a musical family unit.
For example, right after “Funky Music,” the band slowed things down with “Colder Weather,” by the Zach Brown Band, which gave Billy an opportunity to put his voice through a number of octaves. Overall, his voice has a baritone fullness that he uses to its fullest advantage, which went into country overdrive with “Ragin’ Cajun.”
He first noticed his vocal capabilities back in high school.
“I’d sing along with the songs of Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, and Travis Tritt,” he recalled. “That’s when I realized I could do it.”
Curiously enough, his grandfather, Ray Starrett, was still the band director at Alder while Billy was in school.
While he did not play in the band, Billy credits his grandfather as being his inspiration to finally get into music.
However, he ran track and played football as an offensive guard. In fact, he said he thinks a plaque still hangs on a wall over at Alder noting that he and the Headings boys set a track record in the 1600-meter relay in 1992.
Billy is no stranger to Pastime Park.
“I was pool manager for two years,” he said motioning over to the site where the new Plain City Aquatic Center stands. “I lifeguarded and taught swimming lessons.”
On average, the Hired Guns do a gig somewhere in Central Ohio two weekends a month.
Billy feels that there are a couple of “next steps” for himself and the band.
“I want to work more on original stuff,” he said about his plans for songwriting. “I want to write a song that becomes highly popular (for the band).”
“But I’m my own worst critic,” he said, as if to caution himself.
Spending as much time as possible with his family is right up there on his priority list.
“I love my family,” he said of his wife Alanna, son Trenton, 7, and daughter Gracyn, 3.
Nevertheless, he is the consummate front man, who, with his warm personality and seemingly endless store of energy ties the show together and keeps this powerhouse of a band humming.
To keep tabs on the band, click on billystarett.com.