Best vocalist I've ever known - with a encyclopedic knowledge of music!! Truly a musicians musician! I cannot wait to get his new album! --Peter Hoff
BY JOAN ANDERSON She can’t sing. He can’t paint. But together they possess a boatload of talent that enriches the Shenandoah Valley arts scene. She is Laurel Vaughan who captures the local landscape in dreamy pastels. He is Bill Vaughan who rocks the room as he pounds on his keyboard and belts out the best of the 60s and beyond. They came to Shenandoah County to do what they loved, after a life mixed with music, art, traditional work, children, and one transformative experience. Oh, and they met cute.
Bill and Laurel both grew up in Montgomery County, attending separate schools and not meeting until they were students at Montgomery College. Laurel says simply, “We met on the sidewalk.” Bill’s explanation is a bit more detailed. “First you have to know that Laurel is shy. I’m the outgoing one.” With that background established, he continues, “I was walking to class one day and heard these footsteps behind me. I kept walking and they were still there. I turned around and saw this incredibly good-looking blonde. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, ‘I’m following in your footsteps.’ I invited her to a gig I was playing that night and we’ve been together pretty much ever since.” Ever since is 42 years married now and two children – a son, Billy, in Sterling, VA, and a daughter, Erin, in Austin, TX. Bill’s Music, Laurel’s Art In their early years, Bill was a full-time musician and Laurel a graphic artist. Bill believes he played in pretty much every possible venue inside and around the Beltway in his 16 years as both a band member and soloist. Cellar Door. Clyde’s. Childe Harold. Royal Warrant…the list goes on. He also has performed on cruise ships, at casinos and resorts and with such legends as Roberta Flack, Conway Twitty and Hank Snow. He has written nearly 200 songs and issued two CDs. Laurel, for her part, says she worked for nearly every ad agency up and down Connecticut Avenue, plus for Marriott, and for the Beyda Boutique doing fashion illustration. One of her favorite assignments was working with NBA stars on an anti-drunk driving public service campaign. Changing Course After many years of performing, Bill decided it was time to switch gears and go back to school so he could get a job with benefits for his family, which now included two children. He enrolled at George Mason University and earned a BA and MA in geography and cartographic science. Shortly after that, he began a 20-year career with Prince William County in demographics and community development, serving most recently as chief economist. The family moved to an old farm house on two acres in the countryside near Nokesville. Bill still played music part-time and Laurel continued to work as a graphic artist until… Life-changing event About 15 years ago, Bill went to New York City to attend an economic conference. Laurel decided to tag along “as a vacation,” she says. On the morning of the last day of the conference, Laurel put on her workout clothes and left to use the hotel’s gym. Bill was in the room having coffee. Standing at the elevator, Laurel said she heard an airplane engine, then an explosion, and the building rocked. The hotel’s fire alarm sounded and she rushed back to the room. She had put her purse in the room safe and tried to get it out but under pressure of the emergency, couldn’t remember the code. The couple gave up on that and rushed off. They walked down 16 flights and were told to run as fast as they could across the street and not look up. “Of course, we looked up,” Laurel said, despite the debris that was raining down. That’s when the second plane hit the other Twin Tower. You see, Bill and Laurel were staying in the Marriott Hotel, which was in between the Twin Towers and served as a staging point for emergency personnel as it connected with both towers. “The Marriott is seldom mentioned in reports about September 11, 2001,” Bill notes, “and yet it played an important role.” Bill is on the board of the Marriott Hotel World Trade Center Survivors group that hosts reunions, collects stories, honors those lost and raises funds for their families. About 50 people were killed in the hotel, a few guests and employees, but mostly firefighters. When the two towers collapsed, they fell on the hotel, Bill explains. After leaving the hotel, the two headed for the apartment of Bill’s aunt and uncle who knew they were in town for the conference. “We must have walked 50 blocks,” Laurel said. They kept phoning Bill’s aunt and uncle. When they finally reached them by phone, Bill’s first words were “We are alive,” thinking he needed to calm his aunt and uncle’s fears. “That’s nice,” his aunt replied. “They had no idea what had happened at the towers.” That was 2001. In 2005, the Vaughans moved to Shenandoah County for good. Many reasons fed that decision, but the events of 9/11 were a key motivator. Bill wrote a song inspired by the event which he performed at World Trade Center Memorials in 2014 and 2015. It took him nearly 10 years to publish the song on a CD as he did not want to commercialize it. Called A Phthalo Lullaby*, it opens: Last night as I lay sleeping I dreamed that you were there, just like you were alive again And I could swear, too, all the saints were there too Like feathers in the sky, like feathers in the sky Oh, can’t you see it, don’t you believe in it just think of all the days gone fading in the haze before you left me, the grieving cleft me The blues become a gray that’s with me every day
Life in the Valley: Laurel Life in rural Prince William County did not prove as bucolic as the Vaughans had imagined, so when they moved to the Valley, they chose a home in the heart of Woodstock. It sits partway up a hill with a good view of Massanutten Mountain. That view became significant as Laurel entered the local arts scene. She was introduced to the arts community by Dan Voss, who had taught at Montgomery College before he moved to Woodstock. Coincidentally, he was succeeded at the college by Bill Vaughan’s sister. On a whim, Laurel painted the view of the mountains out her window nearly every day for a year. That collection of mountain paintings turned into a set of notecards, one for each season. “It was a good exercise,” Laurel says. From there, she moved on to barns and then to trees. She made her own frames for her barn paintings out of old barn wood. Her newest project is quite different-- “portraits of the elderly in an attempt to expose the hidden beauty and wisdom that is all around us if we only take the time to look,” she explains. Making it a true multi-media project, Laurel is also conducting interviews of her subjects as they talk about one aspect of their long lives. One of those subjects is her local mentor, Dan Voss. Three of her pencil portraits are on display through February 24 in an exhibit called Both Sides Now in the Media Arts Gallery on the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College. Laurel’s work can be seen regularly at the 7 East Gallery in Woodstock. She shares her talents in classes she conducts for VECCA. Her next one is Drawing II. It will meet every Saturday in February from 10 am to noon at the studio in the back of 7 East Gallery, 123 South Main Street. Email Laurel at vaughan@shentel. net to register or for more information. Life in the Valley: Bill “Generous,” “Welcoming,” “Immediate,” are words Bill uses to describe the way people helped him enter the Valley music scene. He gives particular credit to Coe Sherrard of the Woodstock Cafe who fosters local musicians by making the cafe a venue for performances, and the late Ricky Wilkins, with whom Bill became good friends. “I still miss him,” Bill says. “We complimented each other and developed harmonies I haven’t known with others. We blended so well.” The two could have been competitors since they both played keyboard, but he was “very generous,” Bill said, leading to a close friendship between Ricky and his wife, Amanda, and Bill and Laurel. For the first ten years in the Valley, Bill commuted one and a half hours one way each day to his job in Prince William County while also playing on weekends in local cafes, wineries and clubs. Finally, in February, 2016, Bill retired early to reduce the pressure on him and begin to enjoy life in the Valley even more. Their footsteps now have long been side by side since that fateful day on the sidewalk at Montgomery College. *A Phthalo Lullaby is on Bill’s CD Phthalo Blue, named for a particular shade of blue that Bill says he associates with New York City. It is pronounced thaa-lo with the ph silent. For more information • On Laurel: facebook.com/Laurel VaughanFineArt/ • On Bill: billvaughanmusic.com • On the Marriott Hotel: sept11marriottsurvivors.org
“Courier_Feb_17-facebook.pdf” - Joan Anderson
— Mountain Courier
“ WOODSTOCK - Sometimes something good can come out of a tragedy.For Bill Vaughan and his wife, Laurel, theirfirsthand witnessing of the 9/11 terroristattacks in New York City brought on aperiod of self-reflection, and ultimatelyrecharged each one's creativity.Vaughan, an economist by day and musician at heart, will soon release his first solo CD, "Songs From the Valley," an ode to places, people, feelings and other things he has experienced since moving toWoodstock in 2005. His wife, who workedfor years as a graphic designer, is now ableto devote all of her time to painting.Sitting on his living room couch recently,Vaughan recounted the day of Sept. 11,2001.He and his wife were in New York for abusiness conference and were staying inthe Marriott at the World Trade Center, he said.It was the last day of the conference ... we were in the building when the thing happened," Vaughan said.After the first plane struck the north tower,Vaughan said they heard the noise and felt the building shake. His wife saw debrisfalling. They thought maybe it was some sort of construction accident. They went out into the street, where they were when the second plane hit, he said. Then they just started walking..Bill Vaughan, of Woodstock, plays a digital keyboard that he had retrofitted into an old piano he bought at a local yard sale. Vaughan, an economist for PrinceWilliam County, is releasing his first solo CD called“Songs From the Valley.” Valley inspiration: Woodstock musician draws from area for first CD - We were eight or nine blocks away when the towers came down," Vaughan said.The Vaughans were able to get a cab and made it to the home of some relatives who lived in New York. Luckily, he said, they also made it out of the city the next day.That [experience] had a lot to do with the art that came afterwards," Vaughan said of both himself and his wife. "The feeling, the need to create was heightened after that.Although he has written hundred of songs over the years, Vaughan said he chose not to write about that day when putting his new CD together.I did not want to make money off that experience," he said.The couple were living in Manassas at the time, and Vaughan still works as the chief economist and demographer for PrinceWilliam County. They bought a cabin in Mt.Jackson in 2004 and came out on weekends or whenever they felt the need to get away and enjoy the "peace and beauty," he said. "And we were really quite captivated by [the area], and we decided this is where we wanted to live.The move allowed his wife to work full time as a creative artist, Vaughan said, adding that she's "quite gifted.As for Vaughan, returning to music was like reconnecting with an old friend.I was a full-time musician before I was working for the county," he said.Born and raised in Maryland, Vaughan said he studied piano and guitar and alsoplayed other instruments, like the trumpet,while growing up. He never took voice lessons, however. He said that just came naturally.Vaughan began working as a full-time musician in the '70s and '80s -- singing, playing piano and always writing songs, he said. He has been a lead singer in various bands, as well as played the piano or keyboards, and has recorded and performed with musicians such as Hank Snow, Doug Wray, Conway Twitty, Roberta Flack and Brenda Lee.During the '80s, he went solo and played in piano bars, on cruise ships and even a train.I played on the Montrealer, a train that ran [overnight] from Union Station to Montreal," Vaughan said. "I had some tough jobs and some good ones. I spent a summer on a cruise ship out in the ocean.Then we had children and I decided I needed to be a responsible dad.Vaughan went back to school at George Mason, earning his master's degree while still playing gigs at night.In the early '90s I didn't play as much, and I didn't have to," he said. "I was focused on family and work more.Then came 9/11, and the move to Woodstock four years afterward.I don't know how you can live out here and not be creative," Vaughan said. "It's easier to be creative here, and it's encouraged.Samples Although Vaughan had written hundreds of songs, he said most were just melodies. "The lyrics andthemes were more difficult.I wanted songs that had a story to them.Living in Shenandoah County, the stories began to emerge. Lyrics for most of the CD's 13 songswere put to music that Vaughan had written years before.There's a song on the CD called "Cantaloupe Pie," which is about a pie Vaughan had at Candy'sDiner in Woodstock after first moving to the area. Another song, called "A Lowly Way," came froman area Civil War story abut a young boy who was hunting in the woods during the war when someUnion soldiers caught him, brought him back to town and hanged him for being outdoors with a gun.A song called "Where the Highway Meets the Sky" is about Vaughan driving back home fromWoodbridge during his commute and seeing the mountains from Interstate 66 at Linden.Then there's "Oh Virginia," the only song on the CD with no vocals.I wanted this song to have a tenderness to it, a gentleness," Vaughan said. "I've had the melody for40 years. It was waiting for something.The genre of the music on "Songs From the Valley" is difficult to categorize because there have been a lot of different musical influences -- rock, soul, blues, country and even some classical -- in Vaughan's life. He lists The Beatles, The Band, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and The Rolling Stones among those influences, "so all of that I think probably comes through [on the new CD]," he said.But there's also a country influence, which Vaughan said wasn't intentional.When I listen to it, it has a strong country sound," he said. "I don't know why.The CD has been a year and a half in the making, and brings together some of Vaughan's old bandmates. Local musician Amanda Wilkins also sings on a few tracks.Vaughan said he expects to release the CD next month. ” - Laetitia Clayton
— Northern Virginia Daily