It’s hard to imagine a more eventful life than the one lived by music legend and Vietnam Veteran Billy Terrell.
Desperately poor, Billy dropped out of school to support his family by waiting tables in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He taught himself how to play guitar, began performing, got discovered, and landed in New York City as a songwriter for Kama Sutra Records. His first record was “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” by The Duprees, B-side of the hit “Around the Corner.” Billy was on his way.
Then, he got drafted. In May 1966, he arrived at Tuy Hoa, Vietnam. One of the few bright spots of a brutal year was Billy’s volunteer work helping Catholic nuns build the Mang Lang Orphanage.
His time with the children there remained a buried memory after his return to the World in 1967. Like so many other Vietnam veterans, Billy came back to an ungrateful nation that treated him like a paroled criminal, rather than a soldier who’d sacrificed for his country. Billy turned to alcohol to escape PTSD and the isolation he felt in a country so changed from the one he’d left.
Just how Billy regained his balance, started writing songs again, and found a prominent place in the music and entertainment industry are among the stories captured in his memoir, The Other Side of Rock and War: One Man’s Battle to Save His Life, His Career, His Country, and the Orphans He Left Behind.
The book tells of traveling with Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Cream in the summer of 1968. He shares about writing and producing hit records for Shangri-Las, Debby Taylor, the Three Degrees, the Manhattans, Frankie Avalon, Helen Reddy, Bobby Rydell, Larry Carlton and dozens of others.
But Billy’s story is more than an account of music and show business. It’s an inspiring memoir of service, before the war and after, when he returned to Vietnam and re-connected with the nuns and children he’d known at the orphanage decades earlier.
Join us for a wide-ranging conversation with Billy Terrell, a Vietnam veteran with a one-of-a-kind story to share.
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