Published on May 22nd, 2023 | by TLV News0
Obituary: Billy Joe Perry, (better known as) “Howl-N-Madd”, August 20th, 1947–May 8, 2023
Billy Joe Perry (better known as) “Howl-N-Madd” was born August 20th, 1947 in Tula, Mississippi, in a shack with only a coal light to illuminate his mother’s, grandmother’s, and the mid-wife’s surroundings. Howl-N-Madd’s slave ancestors lived in the same shack that he was born in.
His mother always worked and she carried him on her cotton sack while she picked cotton in the fields long before he could walk. He later worked in those same fields picking and chopping cotton. His father was a sharecropper and pulp wood hauler. But his dad’s real job was moon-shining. Making moonshine was a tradition in Howl-N-Madd’s family. His dad, granddad, and great grandfather made whiskey. That’s how Howl-N-Madd got the first guitar he ever owned. His dad won it from a man named Ned Bowles who Howl-N-Madd was fascinated with and learned from. Howl-N-Madd disciplined himself so he could really play. He never learned how to read music, but did learn how to follow chord charts.
Like many African-American’s, Howl-N-Madd’s family moved up north, to Chicago to be exact, and that’s where he really began to cut his teeth in music. Howl-N-Madd played the guitar every chance he got and they lived behind a club and one block over from Madison Street so he could sit on his front stoop and listen to music until the early morning.
At only 14 years old, he got the opportunity to play and record with gospel greats like the Clefs Of Calvary and The Salem Travelers. Howl-N-Madd recorded many gospel albums. He recorded with the Clefs of Calvary “Keep On Marching” (HOB Records 268) and The Salem Travelers “Wait On The Lord” with Chess Records. The Salem Travelers played at The Apollo Theatre for 12 days. He worked with Mildred Clark & The Melodyaires on ABC Records (Changing The World), Rev. Columbus Mann, Rev Earnest Franklin, The Violenaires, Albertina Walker.
Howl-N-Madd was recording a session with Fontella Bass the day his son, Bill Perry Jr., was born. (“I’m Leaving The Choice To You” and “It Sure is Good” Jewel Paula Records)
After 3 years of extensive travel across America, Howl-N-Madd decided to let the music take him in a different direction, The Blues.
Howl-N-Madd had been on the music scene for 50 years. He had an amazing history with many fantastic stories to tell. Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry and his guitar go hand in hand. Where you see one, you will see the other. Howl-N-Madd has played many kinds of guitars but the main guitars are his three Fender Stratocasters’ all named Bessie. It started with his father winning his guitar in a crap game on to becoming a bluesman with a world-wide name and songs played across the globe.
Howl-N-Madd and Shy Perry were the headline act for “An Evening With The Blues” festival in Bolzano, Italy. They performed to sold out shows and had rave reviews on many radio, newspaper, and television stations like RAI. Bluesman “Little Milton” Campbell gave the young Howl-N-Madd his first opportunity to sing when he asked him to play guitar in his band. Milton offered Howl-N-Madd the opportunity to sing a few songs for 15 minutes before Milton himself came on stage. Howl-N-Madd had an extremely impressive career working with musicians like Johnnie Taylor, Little Johnnie Taylor, Freddie King, Cash McCall, and T-Bone Walker to name a few.
Howl-N-Madd went by the name Billy Easton and had a song that got major airplay called “I Was A Fool” with a label called Dispo. Howl-N-Madd was one of the first people to be on Soul Train as Billy Easton. He led his own bands like Bill Perry & Rammit with Fantasy Records and he recorded a song called “Funky Like A Donkey” which received major airplay across the nation.
After a few years away from music while living in California, Howl-N-Madd decided to go back to his roots. He packed his family and they moved to Mississippi where Howl-N-Madd joined a group called The Relaxations for 3 years. Howl-N-Madd inspired his kids to play music and he started a family band called The Perry’s. Howl-N-Madd was on lead guitar, his son Bill was on lead keys and his daughter, Sharo plays bass keyboard and they had a drummer. They performed for five months in Hong Kong, China and three months in Jakarta, Indonesia.
They toured across America and played at Blackeyed Sally’s in Connecticut, many festivals, and they toured through Texas and Florida. They had the pleasure of performing and participating in numerous weddings receptions. The Perry’s have entertained many throughout the years at the Sunflower Festival, Dodgeville Blues Fest, Chicago Blues Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Mississippi Valley Fest in Davenport, music festivals through-out the Mid-South.
They traveled to France, Italy, Brazil, Canada, and Angola Africa. Howl-N-Madd was in the movie thriller “Way Of War” starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. His album called “Way Of Blues” reached #2 at Radio Blues Intense in France. And the song won “The Coolest Blues Song of The Year Award”. He was also in an episode of The Gene Simmons Family Jewels where he played the devil at the crossroads. Howl-N-Madd, his son Bill Perry, Jr., and daughter had the honor of performing at Lincoln Center after the documentary film “True Delta”, by Erickson Blakney and Lee Quinby.
Howl-N-Madd is noted on three Mississippi Blues Markers. One is on the Oxford Square, the second is in front of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the third is in front of Po’ Monkey’s located in Merigold, Mississippi. He is also the subject of an exhibit at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. Howl-N-Madd was a music teacher at the Delta Blues museum for 5 years and he help educate many young children about the blues and they learned to play many different instruments like the guitar, bass and drums.
“Howl-N-Madd” Billy Joe Perry’s legacy is left to this wife of 56 years, Pauline Montgomery Perry, and four children: Billy Perry, Jr., Sharo Perry, Vanessa Winston, and Sherry Perry; two brothers: Clyde Perry and Bobby Perry, half-sister: Rosie Perry, many other family and friends. He is preceded in death by his parents and his baby sister; Carol Hilliard.