Billy THUNDER Mason was the dynamic Thunder behind Tim McGraw’s touring band, The Dancehall Doctors for 18 years having played on the same stage with icons such as Tony Bennet and Elton John. However, now he is one of Tom Proctor and the A-Listers, one of the most prolific new bands around thanks to singer/songwriter/actor/stuntman/storyteller,Tom Proctor.
I spoke with Billy regarding his music and experiences as one of the most sensational drummers in the industry today. He has many cool stories to share as well as knowledge and memories…
So then you’re a drummer?
You know what they say about drummers don’t you? They are amazing lovers….you didn’t hear it from me..
I love to interview drummers because I feel like they don’t get enough attention.
That’s true in a way I guess, I think because they are in the back they think nobody loves them.
How long are you playing the drums?
I’ve been playing drums over 40 years. I think with that many years you start to learn what not to play. When you first start you’re playing everything you could think of, but as you get older and wiser you learn it’s not how many licks you can play it’s how to make it sound really good. There’s a lot of wisdom in getting older as a musician I think.
Do you have a drummer idol?
I’d say probably Ringo Starr is the one that inspired me. I’d say it’s between Ringo and Buddy Rich. My dad was a drummer first of all. There’s three drummers, my dad of course and Ringo and Buddy Rich. They really inspired me. Ringo was always so happy so I try to live my life that way always being happy and smiling. People want to see you on stage smiling not mad at the world like you don’t want to be there.
What was it like playing with Tim McGraw?
It was good, I spent 18 years with him. We traveled the world. We’ve been to Rome, Australia, every city and every country you can think of. The best part about it was we got to play on 10 of his albums. He did three or four albums without the band, when he first started. When he got really powerful and he could do what he wanted he decided to use the band in his albums and he said he sold more than he ever had. We actually helped his career tremendously by playing on his albums also.
So then what’s it like playing with Tom Proctor?
AWESOME! Playing with Tom is like working with a combination of Creedence Clearwater, James Taylor and Don McLean. He tells stories in a song which I love. I didn’t really know Tom as an actor but when I heard his music and the stories that he wrote about that’s what got me really excited to play with him. You know he’s old-school, like those guys and those guys all told stories. They all told stories and his stories are stories you can relate to. And that’s what I really enjoy about Tom. Tom is a storyteller. Tom is doing things that most people would never do for their bands. He is really a sweetheart of a guy. He plays all those tough rolls. He’s the kind a guy that will walk into a bar and clear it out. He’s a tough guy but he really has a heart of gold with his band. That’s really, really rare. He’s a good soul and he cares about people.
Tom reminds me of Kenny Rogers a little bit.
Yeah. Kenny songs are all written for him. Kenny doesn’t really write songs. Kenny came to one of our shows in Atlanta, and he got up and sang with us. So I know Kenny personally and he doesn’t write any of his songs. The thing that makes Tom different than all of these country artists out there now is that other people write songs for them, then the artists have to go through them and pick out the songs that they think will sell for them. Tom write songs about truth and stories in his heart. He doesn’t care what people think, his tongue is going to tell a story. So it’s a great package.
I agree with you. So now drummers are a little mysterious to me…
They can be I guess. I pretty much lead with my heart. A lot of drummers, I don’t know how they feel about that but when I play as well as in my life, pretty much everything I do comes from my heart.
By the way you’re a really GREAT drummer.
Thank you for saying that. I don’t really think that I am, but Tom thinks the world of my playing. He said he never met a drummer who plays with so much heart and passion. But thank you for the compliment I appreciate it.
What has been the proudest moment in your career thus far?
I think when we played Madison Square Garden and Tony Bennett came up and sang with us. I thought about my mom and dad because my dad as a drummer would’ve given his right arm to play with Tony Bennett first of all. To have his son playing with Tony Bennett at Madison Square Garden in a sold out show, my parents were so proud of me it was unbelievable. That’s got to be my proudest moment. First of all to play at Madison Square Garden is a dream of a lifetime, playing with Tim McGraw and then Tony Bennett comes in and gets up and sings with us. We can’t really get any bigger than that. Well we played at the American Music Awards and Elton John actually got up and played with us on TV.
Wait that might be bigger….
Yeah, that’s definitely bigger I think. We did his song ” Tiny Dancer” on one of our albums. So Tim got word that Elton John wanted to play with us on TV. So here I am playing drums with Elton John on national television. I had some huge, huge highlights playing with him.
That’s a huge one. If you could say anything to the people that follow you what would you say?
I think I would want them to know that Billy is the guy that truly loves to play his drums and loves to make other people happy. It’s not about me on that stage it’s about me bringing joy to the audience and making that artist that I’m playing with sound as good as I can.
How’d you get the nickname Thunder?
That happened because when I was with Tim McGraw we used to do a song and at the end of it there’s this big ending and I would do this double role with this bass drum, and it sounded like thunder. So Tim actually came up with a nickname for me, Thunder. I am a rock drummer so I play really hard. I play dynamically and good and when I hit those drums I really mean it. Hopefully the audience is feeling my passion and my spirit when I hit those drums.
Tom Proctor and the A-Listers debut album “Working Man” is now available worldwide on all digital download platforms.
Get “Working Man” here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/working-man/1389268109