Friends and Fans Remember Veteran E.C. Musician Billy Krause
folk musician had 50-plus year career in Chippewa Valley and beyond
Tom Giffey, photos by Titus Williamson |
The passing of longtime Eau Claire Eau Claire musician, poet, and stone carver Billy Krause is being mourned by family, friends, and fans around the Chippewa Valley.
Krause, 71, was a fixture on the Eau Claire music scene for more than 50 years, beginning as a teenager performing at the legendary Fournier’s Ballroom. Later, he hitchhiked to the East Coast, sometimes sleeping atop the soft clothing in Goodwill donation bins. After returning to his hometown, he took a job at Johnson Monument and worked as a stone carver for 45 years.
Cutting dates on tombstones undoubtedly informed his folk tunes, which always told a story. As he told writer Patti See a few years ago, “Death was my employer.”
In a 2017 Volume One article, published to coincide with his final album, Last Call, Krause talked about what inspired his writing process:
“It could be something that someone says, or a thought that I have during the day that sparks a song,” he explained, mentioning that he likes to write lyrical stories that listeners can insert themselves into in one way or another. Ballads – songs that narrate stories – have always hit home with Billy. As a child, he listened to artists such as Peter, Paul & Mary, Dave Van Ronk, and Phil Ochs – all singer songwriters who produced sprawling folk ballads. The benefit of storytelling is that it provides clearer meaning in a song, making it easier to digest. “If the lyrics don’t make sense,” Billy asked, “what is the point?” He repeated, “What is the point?”
In addition to multiple albums and countless performances, Krause penned a book of poetry, A Collision of Words, in 2021. Last year, he also recorded a version of the Wisconsin folk song “Pinery Boy” as part of Volume One’s commemoration of Eau Claire’s sesquicentennial:
“Pinery Boy” ended up being one of his last performances, his wife, Margie, wrote in a Facebook post.
News of Billy’s death on Saturday, Feb. 25, prompted numerous tributes on social media from those who knew and admired him. Fellow musician Jim Pullman wrote of first meeting Krause years ago: “I could tell right away that this was someone that I should be learning from. He was a true professional, his performance commanded attention, his songs were well crafted, and his lyrics painted vivid images. I felt very fortunate to have received a crash course in ‘How it’s done’ so early in my musical journey. But above all else I was struck by how kind and supportive Billy was. We hit it off right away and a lovely friendship was born.”
Eau Claire writer Julian Emerson had this to say: “Billy touched many lives in a positive way, mine among them. His generous heart was on display when he and I performed as part of fundraisers for Eau Claire’s homeless population and others down on their luck. I have such good memories of those events, of Billy’s heartfelt lyrics and guitar notes. Through the way he lived his life, and through his words, Billy inspired me to keep a positive view of life, to have gratitude no matter the struggles.”
And former local radio station manager and writer Scott Morfitt shared this following:
Like many of us in our community, I’ve been feeling through the unbelievable loss of Billy Krause. I’m truly missing that dear soul.
But turning to his own words brought comfort with another well of tears.
“When dust displaces flesh and bone,
It’s you, not I, who’ll be alone.
I’ve gone to walk the sands of Mars.
Set free, at last, to roam the stars.
At peace before the galaxy’s surrender.”
Funeral arrangements for Krause are pending with Hulke Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services.
The Local Store (205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire) will soon be restocked with Billy’s book, A Collision of Words, as well as his final album, Last Call. At the request of his family, proceeds from book and CD sales will go to the Community Table.