Billy Burnette (full name: William Beau Burnette III) was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Dorsey and Alberta Burnette on May 8, 1953. Having been born into a musical family, it seemed only natural that young Billy Beau would also go into the “family business”. His father, Dorsey Burnette, was part of what became the Rock’n Roll Trio, which included himself, his brother Johnny Burnette, and Paul Burlison in the 1950's. All three would later have successful solo careers as well. It is written that Billy also performed occasionally with the Trio when he was three and a half years old. Johnny's son Rocky Burnette also became a musician. The term "Rock-A-Billy" comes from the combination of the two cousins' names, Rocky and Billy, and describes the musical style of both men.
Billy officially started in the music business at the tender age of seven, when he made his record debut for Dot records as Billy Beau with the song, “Hey, Daddy (I’m Gonna Tell Santa On You)”. According to FreeFalls Entertainment, (and also confirmed by Billy himself) Billy had recorded his very first album for A& M Records when he was only eleven years old. He went on to tour with Brenda Lee at age thirteen, and spent the rest of his adolescent years teaching himself how to play the guitar.
As with other guitar geniuses, Billy learned by listening to other guitarists rather than taking lessons, and quickly mastered both the acoustic and rhythm guitars. In the early 1970’s, Billy would expand his talent to include songwriting. Over the years he has written many songs which became hits for some very famous people: Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart, Cher, Jerry Lee Lewis, Greg Allman, and Ray Charles, just to name a few. Billy has made a name as a singer/songwriter/guitarist, and has even taken the role of producer. In fact, one will notice on all of Billy’s albums that most of the songs are written by Billy himself and the occasional co-writer(s).
In 1972, Billy signed with Entrance Records and released his first solo album, which was self-titled. In 1976 Billy became the father of a son, named Billy, Jr., who also shows signs of carrying the musical torch for a third generation. Billy remained a single father and continued on with his promising solo career. In 1979 Billy signed with Polydor and released two new albums that year. The first, (self-titled) and the second, Between Friends. The title track, “What’s a Little Love Between Friends?” peaked at Number 76 on the Billboard U.S. Country Top 100 Singles and spent five weeks on the charts. In 1980, Billy signed with Columbia and released his fourth album (also self-titled) and made the Billboard U.S. Hot 100 Singles with “Don’t Say No”, which peaked at Number 68 and also spent five weeks on the charts. In 1981, Billy released his fifth solo album, Gimme You. Billy next signed with Curb Records and released his sixth album, Try Me, in 1985. The title track peaked at Number 68 on the Billboard U.S. Country Top 100 Singles and remained on the charts for nine weeks. Another track from the album, “Ain’t It Just Like Love”, also made the Billboard U.S. Country Top 100 Singles to peak at Number 51 and spent eight weeks on the charts. In 1986, Billy released his seventh album, Soldier of Love, and made the Billboard U.S. Country Top 100 Singles charts again with the title track, which peaked at Number 54 and remained on the charts for seven weeks. This was also the same year Billy was nominated for Best New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. Unfortunately, Billy lost to Randy Travis.
Billy soon after put his solo career on hold and accepted Mick Fleetwood's invitation to join Fleetwood Mac after the recent departure of long-time lead guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham. Billy, along with his long-time friend and fellow guitarist Rick Vito (who would leave the band in 1990), went on to create a new era of Fleetwood Mac. Both proved successful at filling the large void left by Buckingham, and gave the band a real jump-start. Billy would later describe the experience: “It was an incredible experience. The audience never stopped screaming - never sat down hit after hit - it was amazing!”
After his first two projects with Fleetwood Mac, Greatest Hits (1988) and Behind the Mask (1990), Billy took a break from the band and in 1992 signed with Capricorn records to release his eighth solo album, Coming Home. Although the song never made it to the album, Billy made the Billboard U.S. Country Top 100 Singles again that year with “Nothin’ To Do (And All Night To Do It)”, which peaked at Number 64 and spent six weeks on the charts. Coming Home would later become part of the soundtrack (although an official soundtrack was never released) to Billy’s 1994 movie debut in Saturday Night Special, co-starring B-Movie Queen, Maria Ford.
In 1995, Billy would contribute to his final project with The Mac called Time with long-time friend, Bekka Bramlett (daughter of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett), with whom he was reunited in 1992 after being recruited by Mick Fleetwood to join The Mac after the departure of Stevie Nicks. (Bekka and Billy were also one-time members of Mick’s other band, The Zoo.)
By 1996, Fleetwood Mac had pretty much disbanded and Billy decided to move back to Nashville and “get back to what my life was all about.” Bekka Bramlett soon followed, and in 1997, both signed with Almo Sounds and released their one and only duet album, simply titled, Bekka & Billy. (The duo split in 1998.) Between 1995 and 1998, Billy also found time to appear in four additional films: Not Like Us, Carnosaur 3, The Addams Family Reunion and Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish .
In 1999 Billy signed with Grand Avenue Records and released his ninth solo album, All Night Long. Billy Burnette, Jr., is listed among the musicians on the album, and word is that he, too, will be embarking on a solo career of his own in the near future.
Billy commented on his career: “I guess I can’t imagine doing anything else but music. There was never any question. I love playing live – it’s my favorite thing.”