The Billy Manzik Blitzkrieg

Billy Manzik

This time it was way different.Two years ago Billy came though town with an upright slap bass player to do a single gig in a local pub. There were less than a dozen people in attendance. This time Billy came though and blew the doors off just about every where he played. A total of six local engagements in four days. Two band gigs at the Byng, a solo gig at the Burito Grill in Kimberley; two outdoor performances in Rotary Park in Cranbook and a duo performance at The Heid Out  (also in Cranbrook). And, oh, there was quick side trip to Spokane to play a bikers bar. Needless to say by day four he was getting somewhat tired.

  • Thursday July 31, 2014 at 5:30 pm: BILLY MANZIK  at the Burrito Grill in Kimberley
  •   Saturday August 2, 2014 11am-2pm and 7-10pm – BILLY MANZIK , at Rotary Park in Cranbrook.
  • Friday August 1, Saturday August 2, 2014, 9:30 to closing: BILLY MANZIK at the Byng Roadhouse in Cranbrook.
  • Sunday August 3, 2014, 6-8:30pm: BILLY MANZIK at the Heid Out in Cranbrook
  • and a side trip for an engagement in spokane


Billy Manzik (vocal, guitar and harmonica) is originally from the “Canadian Heartland”, ie Thunder Bay, Ontario. The urban myth claims that “the Blues Highway” (US Route 61) starts in New Orleans, Louisiana and ends in Thunder Bay. Although not strictly true (the highway doesn’t quite make it to Thunder Bay) there is enough truth in the notion for us to believe that the classic blues tradition did travel all the way and become lodged in the musical traditions of that Canadian outpost. Bob Dylan travelled both ways on Highway 61 and performed north of the border bringing more Americiana traditions into the mix . Thunder Bay may have been the Canadian end of “the Blues Highway” and yet, in another sense, it was the beginning of yet another highway heading west to Winnipeg and Calgary and eventually all the way down to California. It is the road travelled by Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to everlasting fame and fortune. Billy Manzik is the latest Canadian to follow that route. He started out in Thunder Bay and worked and performed in “The United States of Alberta” before heading down to California. Billy is a real road warrior and just looking at his itinerary is enough to exhaust mere mortals. This tour was one of his periodic Canadian visits. In this area he kicked off with a solo engagement in the Burrito Grill in Kimberley and, fortunately, he dropped into check out James Neve’s set at the Green Door. I was playing percussion for James and managed to worm my way into sitting in with Billy when he was to play The Heid Out. In exchanged I promised him a photo shoot of the gig. Billy had hired a couple of other musicians from Nelson and Vancouver to fill out the sound for a full on bar band gig at The Byng and the outdoor engagements at Rotary Park in Cranbrook. Billy’s music leans heavily on  country blues traditions. He has a voice that just fits the genre so well. His finger picking slide guitar playing is strong and so, so clean (no fret rattles here) that it is a perfect complement to his “blues harp”. He kicked off the Heid Out gig with That’s all Right Mama that owed nothing to the Elvis Presley version but was more in keeping with the original Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup version. From then out there was lots of blues and roots rock and roll tunes that included Who Do You Love?, Highway 61 (of course), Make me a Pallet on Your Floor, No Where to Run (by J.J.Cale), Bright Lights – Big City, Long Gone, Corrina (Taj Mahal), Helpless (Neil Young), Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Chuck Berry), Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, On the Road Again, an original song dedicated to Billy’s mother (a cancer survivor), a Gerry Garcia tune and last but not least  J.J.Cale’s classic The Breeze. It was a great evening of low keyed but intense music by an exceptional performer. Plus the fact that I got to take some great photos while I sat in on percussion. Here are some images from the evening.

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Here is a special treat – Billy Manzik on Highway 61

Special thanks should go to the Cranbrook and District Arts Council and Louie Cupello for organizing this series of events.


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