Party band still adds a dash of chili pepper to Lowcountry life

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comOctober 8, 2013 

The Chilly Willy Band


The Chilly Willy Band has one of its most appropriate gigs this weekend: the Kiwanis Club Chili Cookoff.

For 25 years, the band has been part of a local music and party scene that has had more ingredients than a pot of good chili.

"We all have other jobs, which allows us to fund our music addiction," said lead guitarist David Warren of Hilton Head Island. His day job is marketing director for Dataw Island.

When the band started in 1988 with his brother, Fred Warren; bassist Ed Push; drummer Ed Switila; and harmonica player Kurt Schwartz, they rocked the blues on the old wooden floors at Remy's from 11:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.

Now they probably have trouble staying up until 11:30 p.m.

"The audience has changed," Warren said, "but luckily, we've changed too."

They pride themselves on being able to play to the room, regardless of age. But times have changed. When they started, there was a more direct link between blues and rock 'n' roll. People who knew the Rolling Stones loved Muddy Waters. But after alternative music and hip-hop, the connection seemed to crack. The rhythm and feel of T-Bone Walker or John Lee Hooker suddenly didn't seem so universal anymore.

Years ago, the late-night baton was passed to the Moondahs, Warren said. Today, the Chilly Willy Band is more likely to play festivals, where they think they hit the right notes for the Lowcountry vibe.

The Warren brothers now take the stage alongside Realtor David Carroll, tennis pro Eric Wammock, Sun City Hilton Head retiree Steve Ryden, and Neal Warner of The Greenery staff.

They like to be known as the Chilly Willy and Friends, with guest musicians like Lavon Stevens, percussionist and fishing guru Fuzzy Davis, Fred Warren's son Sam, bluesman Bill Dupont or pianist Duchess Raehn able to come on stage and fit right in.

They're proud of the local live music scene, from Jack Williams to Cranford Hollow, from the Crow's Nest to the Jazz Corner. But they've seen opportunities for musicians shrink, particularly for larger bands.

The Chilly Willy Band once tried its hand in Atlanta, but Warren said they never really wanted a big record deal or a lot of travel.

He laughs about the night their name was in lights at the island's former music club, the Old Post Office Emporium. The playbill read: "The Band, Jorma Kaukonen, Chilly Willy Band."

It's not as if they belonged with those acts, Warren said.

But they did belong on Hilton Head. And they still add a dash of chili pepper to Lowcountry life.


What: 29th Annual Chili Cookoff hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Hilton Head

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.

Tickets: $12 in advance; $15 day of event.

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