Billy Joe Anderson – Piano, Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Musical Director & Arranger
Playing the role of Billy Joel is Madison’s own “Billy Joe” Anderson. Yes, that’s his real name! Born William Joseph Anderson in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Bill’s love and affinity for Billy Joel’s music started early on in life. Growing up, Bill didn’t start the fire, it was his mother that always had the piano man playing in the house. At age 7 he started playing piano by ear and began classical piano training at 8.
His musical influences span a broad range — from Beethoven, Mozart, & Bach, to Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, & Buddy Guy, through to Prince, Queen, Elton John, Billy Joel (of course!), and many others. Now, with over 25 years of experience behind the ivory keys, Bill plays with numerous bands as well as performing solo and dueling-piano shows. Current gigs include the Ivory Room piano bar and being a backup player for a number of Wisconsin bands including MadCity Funk, The Rascal Theory, Madtown Mannish Boys Blues band, Whoz Playing, Spicy Tie Band, and others.
By day Bill is an artisan cheese maker with his own brand of French-style Cheeses — Creme de la Coulee Artisan Cheese — as well as a Research & Development Scientist for another local cheese company.
Gail Smith – Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Auxiliary Keyboards, Backup vocals
Gail lives in Middleton and has taught middle and high school band for more than 25 years. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from UW Madison. Gail has performed in many area jazz bands, concert bands and pit orchestras. Perth, Australia was her most interesting performance location. She has been a huge Billy Joel fan ever since she was a kid and is excited to be part of this Billy Joel Tribute.
When she is not playing or teaching music, she can often be found roaming natural areas taking photographs of birds and other beautiful natural subjects. One of her butterfly photos was recently published in an Audubon newsletter. Gail prefers summer to winter and she travels to warm weather destinations whenever possible.
Rod Luther – Drums, Backup Vocals, Lead Vocals
As a kid, Rod was raised on “old school” Billy Joel — The Stranger, 52nd Street, and others — spending hours in front of the record player learning every lyric and singing every song. Rod spent most of his teen years in some type of band, sometimes as the lead singer, sometimes as drummer, always in the rock genre.
Rod moved down south in the mid 90s and soon became drummer/vocalist with different bands and vocal groups. In 1998, he was hired as the baritone for a professional trio, singing harmony and occasional lead vocals. Rod traveled throughout the south with this group and with two other vocal groups that he assembled and managed for about five years before returning home to Wisconsin. During his time in the south, Rod also wrote a number of songs that are published.
Rod’s excited to be a member of Billy Joe and the Affordables, playing songs that basically made him want to be a musician many years ago. He has no formal musical training, but definitely has a love and passion for this band.
Rod and his wife Cassey have 5 children. Both he and Cassey work in healthcare for large kidney dialysis organizations.
Tom Wakeen – Lead Guitar
Tom Wakeen started playing acoustic guitar around age 10, got an electric at age 14, and was playing in a variety band in the Wausau area at age 16. He later moved to Madison, Wisconsin, took music courses at UW Madison, and played and taught Music in the area for the next ten years. Tom has a variety of music styles in his background, which he brings to Billy Joe and the Affordables. Expect Jazz, Blues, Funk, and Rock ‘N Roll at a Billy Joe show!
Jeremy Henning – Trombone, Auxiliary Keyboards, Backup Vocals
Trombonist, arranger, and Madison-native, Jeremy Henning has performed throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, performing in rock, jazz and classical settings. Jeremy is also a member of the award-winning Madison-based rock band “The Lower 5th”. By day, he is a passionate music educator, serving students in the local public schools. Jeremy holds a Masters in Music from Bowling Green State University, and a Bachelors in Music Education from Luther College.
Mike Buerger – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Backup Vocals
Michael Buerger is a Wisconsin born multi-instrumentalist and educator who has a passion for all things music. After his time in the military, he attended the University of Wisconsin La Crosse where he earned a Bachelor Degree in Music Performance. He has performed and taught lessons in schools spanning the globe for over 15 years teaching a myriad of musical genres and techniques. Billy Joe and the Affordables, has given him a chance to expand and showcase his talents in a new way culminating in a high energy performance that will leave the audience wanting more!!
Spenser Svehla – Bass, Backup Vocals
Spenser is an accomplished bass player and has been playing bass since 2003. In 2016 he
toured all over the United States and finished and 89 city tour. He’s been providing bass
and back up vocals with his family band Denny Diamond and the Jewels, a Neil Diamond Tribute, since 2005 where he plays bass and drums at the same time. In between performances with Billy Joe and the Affordables, Spenser occasionally backs up other Elvis and Cher tribute artists in the midwest helping him round out his playing styles of pop, rock and rockabilly.
Eric Jay (Jazdzewski) – Percussion, Backup Vocals, Backup Drums & Bass
Eric’s never had a formal music lesson. He started with guitar at 8 years old but shifted to drums, percussion, bass, and vocal harmonies. Eric has performed in various pop, rock, and country-rock bands, including “Gypsy Holler” who opened for Kip Moore, Brett Eldridge, and others. Eric is excited to perform with “Billy Joe and the Affordables.”
Tim Gruber – Guest Percussionist
Tim Gruber is from Madison, Wisconsin. As a child, he played percussion in school band. As a young adult, he became fascinated with African rhythms and learned to play hand drums. He went to UW-Madison and received a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in music performance. He is a music teacher in the Madison public schools. He also plays with Kikeh Mato (afro-pop band), Atimevu (traditional drumming from Ghana), and the Madison Marimba Quartet. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, gardening, outdoor activities, playing with his two children, and watching his son’s soccer games.