Q & A with the Perry siblings
Published 3:05 pm Saturday, September 9, 2023
By Susan Mah
It’s been four months since the passing of Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry. Known as a true blues musician and master of all genres of music, we connected with his two kids, Sharo and Bill Perry, who have also made names for themselves in the music world. Our staff reporter, Susan Mah, learned more about the Perrys’ dad, his legacy, and how they will bask in the light of his spirit moving forward.
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1) Can you tell me a little about your dad’s story? Where was he from and how did he get into music?
Sharo: My dad was born in Tula, MS. He was a self-taught musician and practiced all the time. He never learned how to read music, but did learn how to follow chord charts. He started playing gospel first. Little Milton gave Dad his first opportunity to play blues, and Dad also opened up for Milton, so that gave him his first chance to be a front man.
2) How did music get brought into your home as kids? Did your dad play at home or sing to you?
Sharo: Dad had tapes and masters of his music so it was always around. My brother and I listened to and loved Dad’s music just as much or more than what was popular at the time. We had a family band called “The Perrys.” But it didn’t all come from my dad. My mom is a big music lover and music is loved in her extended family.
Bill: Music was always a fixture in our home, but it wasn’t until 1993 before we embarked on our journey as a family band. From motown to funky music from the 70s and 80s, our home was rich with great music!
3) When and how did you discover you had a passion for music, too?
Sharo: I knew I wanted to sing at 7 years old. My parents said I was always singing and performing around the house. I was blessed to have parents who believed in me. It’s a dream that I am so thankful and grateful that I was able to share with my father and my family. We traveled to many cities in the USA, China, Italy, France, Canada, Brazil, and my dad’s last show in Angola, Africa.
Bill: For me, it all started in the 1980s with the early days of rap music! I was heavily into Run-DMC, breakdancing, and just being a Bboy (dancer in hip hop culture). I also was taping myself. And in the 90s, I ventured into playing keyboard with my family band, and that started my journey towards piano. Jazz pianists were my biggest influences on piano.
4) How did your your mom support your dad’s and your musical interests?
Sharo: My mom, Pauline Perry, has always been our number one supporter. She believed and supported my dad’s dream from the moment they met in 1967. She has always encouraged us, advised us, believed in our dreams, and supported us financially, if needed. My mom made sure we had vehicles, and she bought a trailer so we could haul our instruments and so much more. She’s the best.
Bill: My mom Pauline Perry has supported my father, as well as my sister and I, throughout our whole careers and lives. She’s been the backbone to our family unit and continues to be very supportive of our goals and dreams. Mom is absolutely the best! We love her dearly!
5) How did you guys go from music as a hobby to working as professional musicians?
Sharo: It’s funny because my dad, brother, and me all started out as professionals. When my dad started as a kid at 14 years old, he was performing with professional gospel groups and traveled the country. And the same thing happened with my brother and me. We practiced like crazy, then started playing professionally at different places, like clubs, restaurants, weddings, and country clubs.
Bill: Well, music became a profession for our family in 1993 with the formation of our family band, The Perrys! We travelled all around Mississippi, performing in Oxford, Tupelo, the Delta, the Gulf Coast, and many areas outside of MS, like New York and Chicago! We even performed at Lincoln Center in New York some years ago.
6) I know that the recent loss of your dad was a big blow to the music community. What kind of legacy do you think he has left?
Sharo: My dad was an amazing man and he is missed and left a hole in the music community. He had a pretty amazing life story. His music is loved and timeless. Many of his songs are still played in the USA and overseas. He’s had biographies made of his life and now there’s another one in the process. Many people remember my dad as being a kind, funny, down-to-earth guy who was easy to talk to. I think that is just as important as his music. He truly touched people when he met them.
Bill: I’m hoping that my father’s legacy will live on through his many albums and accomplishments as a music artist. My dad was a genius, in many ways, not just music. He was also a great craftsman who built many things, from a restaurant stand, a cigar box guitar, and the coolest bird house I’ve ever seen! And I also hope that the future generations will keep his name alive in this world and remember the great man he was to everyone.
7) Music has been known to be a great source of healing. How have you used music to cope with his passing?
Sharo: At first I didn’t want to listen to anything and it was especially hard to hear his music and listen to his voice. When I started learning his lyrics to carry on his legacy, that really helped me. It helped me to hear his voice and listen to him play his guitar. I cried the first few times, but it has really helped me heal. I haven’t listened to any other music, but I know things will come in time. I’m still learning the lyrics to my dad’s songs and will add other artists’ to my repertoire. And of course, I’ll perform my original songs.
Bill: Music has always been a comfort for our family. So in light of my father’s passing, my sister and I are continuing his legacy by performing live and sharing his music and merchandise with the public. We plan to solidify our father’s legacy for all time.
8) Despite the loss of your dad, his spirit obviously still lives in you. How will you keep the passion alive and create your own legacies?
Sharo: I know my passion and love for music will always be inside me, and I am so thankful to my dad and mom for introducing us to music and having it as our careers. One of my dad’s favorite things to say was he started this (musical) journey, and his kids were going to finish it. Not only will we focus on keeping my dad’s legacy alive, but we will release more music by next year. I just released an album so I can give it the attention it deserves. We will continue to travel for publicity and shows in Mississippi and out-of-state. And there are more shows overseas that are in the works.
My dad never gave up his dream, and I know I’II be the same way. My dad had 60-plus years in the music industry. He truly had a lifetime of achievements and we’re so proud of him. And I have to honor my dad and his memory and everything he stood for by continuing this musical journey that he started so many years ago as a child. I’m very proud of the things I’ve accomplished and have many ideas and goals to achieve more. I’ll make my mom and my dad proud. We will carry the Perry name and music into the future.
For more on Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry, visit the family’s website.