Coconut Times - Ocean City Maryland
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Written By: Vincent Paez
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Billie & Leo Carlins
Early days in the career of singer/songwriter Billie Carlins.
The Billie Carlins Band playing at Adolfo's
In the early 1900’s, a Christian Romani Gypsy family immigrated to the USA from Romania. The father and mother had many children and were very poor. The family grew up in the USA with the love of music, as most Gypsy families did. One of the sons was so poor, even as he grew older, that he “saved some food after a meal in his moustache, so that he would have some for later.” This young man was quite smart and grew up to work hard and marry an American girl. He played music nightly, and they had a daughter, who they named Billie. Billie grew up around love for the Lord, passion, happiness and lots and lots of music. Music was played almost every day at home, so rhythm and musical structure is nothing new to Billie Carlins. I have known Billie for several years, as she is married to Leo Carlins, the bass player for Randy Lee Ashcraft and the Salt Water Cowboys. I caught up with her on the phone recently, so that I could get her back story.

Vincent: “Billie, if you could tell me several words that describe you, what would they be?”
Billie: “Well, Vince, I would say Blues, Jazz and Beyond. That’s the style I perform.”

Vincent: “Now, that’s something you really don’t hear a lot of in Ocean City. It’s usually rock & roll. So, you play a niche kind of music here.”
Billie: “Yes, and I do originals that have that same beat.”

Vincent: “So when did you start performing?”
Billie: “I’ve been performing at home since I was eleven. Later in life, I met my first husband, Wayne Stevens, who, despite having a day job at Westinghouse in Baltimore, still performed on the side in Baltimore. He trained me and pushed me to a different level. I had terrible stage fright for about ten years; then he would put me out in front more and more. I overcame my stage fright. Then, after eighteen years of marriage in 1997, he passed away of cancer.”

Vincent: “Oh, I’m so sorry, Billie.”
Billie: “Yep, I needed to pick myself up and find some work. I went to Ocean City to recharge myself.”

Vincent: “And that’s where you started performing here?”
Billie: “I went to a restaurant in Bethany Beach called Chit-Chats and met the owner, who wanted to start a band. He picked me to sing, and we became the house band there for five years. I was still kind of a side person in the band, and I needed to make some money to survive, so I started writing songs. Josh Clindaniel, an early DJ at Seacrets Radio, used to play my stuff.”

Vincent: “So, how did the Billie Carlins Band start?”
Billie: “Well, I have to say first that I always wanted to play with a person who could play a standup bass. It suits the style of music that I like to sing. About sixteen years ago, my friends dragged me out to a bar called Mellow Beach, because I never used to go out to bars. A friend was playing guitar there, and we were having a good time, when suddenly a guy walked into the bar with long hair, a leather jacket, and an unusual aura about him. He tried to talk to me, but my friends tried to protect me from him. He introduced himself to me and told me that he played standup bass, and I became interested, despite his aura. We exchanged telephone numbers, and it took me three months to finally call him. On our first date, he told me that I would be his wife. Three months later, we were married. That was Leo Carlins of the Salt Water Cowboys. We decided to form our own band, called the Billie Carlins Band, about six years ago. Our guitar player, Howard Wimbrow, has been a friend for about fifteen years. Michael McShane, our drummer, has been with us for several years, and Mickey Meiklejohn plays harmonica for us frequently.”

Vincent: “Billie, I always ask the following question: What is the craziest thing that has every happened to you in a gig?”
Billie: “I would have to say that it was way back when my husband died, then my mother died, and I needed a lot of support, especially when I needed a new heater installed in my home, and I could not afford it. The man who owned the restaurant where we played grabbed the mic and said, ‘Hey, everybody, Billie needs a new heat pump and all the duct work installed at no charge. Is there anyone out there willing to do this for her?’ And someone raised their hand. A man did a ten-thousand-dollar job for free for me. Amazing. And all I had to do was feed him meals.”

Vincent: “There are some good people out there, for sure. So, Billie, where can folks in OC hear you play?”
Billie: “The summer is winding down, so we are not as busy. We played for a long time at Adolfo’s, which is now Ocean 13. We have some gigs coming up at the Southgate Grill, so just check us out on the Coconut Times entertainment magazine,”

If you have not yet heard Billie’s band perform, go out to the South Gate Grill and hear them. The musicians are first rate, Billie adds castanets to the act, and her voice is well-trained and pure. The band is tight, and you will hear a genre of music that is rarely played in Ocean City, as she calls it: Blues, Jazz and Beyond.

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