Album jacket of “Stone” Photo by Barbara Walsh

It seems that the old expression “everything old is new again” is accurate, especially for Winthrop resident Bill Stone. He released his first album more than 50 years ago. Out of the blue he started receiving strange emails in the fall of 2019 asking if he was “that Bill Stone, the one that did the 1970 album.” That LP was getting a lot of press from writers in England and France where he was being compared to the likes of Mark Fry, Tom Rapp and an early Leonard Cohen. On this side of the pond, Steve Krakow of Drag City Records asked Stone if he could re-issue that album and invited the Mainer to be a part of this year’s Million Tongues Festival to be streamed online Sunday, Feb. 21. Needless to say, I just had to chat with Stone to find out the history behind this new development. Fortunately, Barbara Walsh, executive director of Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, was more than happy to assist me in this endeavor by giving me links to his YouTube samplings of his first album and scheduling a phone interview for the 9th of this month. I called him at his home.

Q: I really appreciate the fact that you’re willing to talk with me on such short notice.
Stone: Well, I appreciate your interest.

Q: Barbara sent me the information about your upcoming performance on that Million Tongues Festival on Sunday the 21st. When I read that you were being compared with Tom Rapp, I was intrigued, because the album “The Use of Ashes” by his band Pearls Before Swine was, in my opinion, one of the best groups I discovered when I was in college. “The Jeweler” song on it is one of my all-time favorites.
Stone: And understandably so.

Q: Now, 1970 — were you in college at that time?
Stone: I was just finishing up. … I was at USM.

Q: Son of a gun, so was I … it’s a small world after all!
Stone: Indeed it is.

Q: Well, you released your album “Stone” that year, correct?
Stone: Yeah, basically I was writing songs and playing with aspirations of making it as a folkie with rather modest success in the Portland area, very modest, and I could see that that was all it was ever going to be (chuckle). So, I went back and got my guidance degree and went on to education. I was a guidance counselor for 18 years.

Q: Was that in Winthrop?
Stone: No, for some time I was at Carrabec High School in North Anson, the garden spot of Somerset County. That’s where we raised our children. For 10 years I was at Skowhegan. I got my doctorate and ended up at the University for a while, worked for foundations and did some work at consulting, just basically a whole bunch of things. Then got back into music, and I’m doing that now.

Q: And “Stone” was your first and only album?
Stone: Yes, but since then, just before the cootie season erupted, I created a CD which was probably more of a vanity piece than anything. Although I’ve got some good musicians on it, so it sounds pretty good. But as the saying goes, “I’ve got a million in my cellar — it’s a million seller!” I was going to have this big release and, of course, I couldn’t. So, that’s the extent of my publications in music: that LP and this CD.

Q: Now, I’ve heard that the LP is going to be rereleased, is that right?
Stone: That’s correct. It’s already hit the streets about a week ago. An outfit in Chicago called Drag City which specializes in this sort of thing, found it and wanted me to let them reproduce it. So of course I was highly flattered, and I let them go ahead.

Q: Is that going to be a CD or vinyl?
Stone: Vinyl.

Q: Well, you might as well stick with the one that brung ya, as they say.
Stone: Yeah.

Q: I hope they kept the packaging just the same as the original. Now that cover illustration is you, correct?
Stone: Correct.

Q: When I first saw a photo of it, I said, “I know this guy, I must have seen him some place.”
Stone: Well, I played out around, and I played around in Gorham, so you may have heard me play. The pinnacle of my career in the area was at The Bard there in Portland, which is now Forest Gardens. I also played in all of the watering holes in the area like The Old Port Tavern and The Eastland.

Q: Yeah, I’m sure I caught you at some point back in the day. Now, let’s talk about what you’ll be involved with on Sunday the 21st, this Million Tongues Festival, what are you going to be doing for it?
Stone: I’m going to pre-record, with two of my bandmates, a couple of tunes from the CD and a couple of tunes from the LP, and then that will be broadcast from Chicago. I’m working now getting the technical stuff straightened out, because I’m like a babe in the woods here trying to make all the lights come on.

Q: I have a question about your new material. How does it compare to what you did originally?
Stone: Well, in some ways it’s more eclectic, because as my skills have matured — I’d like to think. I’ve been paying attention to other genres. Some of the stuff I’ve done on the CD has more of a country flavor, and it isn’t quite as mystic … as some of the stuff that’s on the LP. And (chuckle) the recording is a whole lot better.

Q: Is there anything, Bill, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Stone: Well, just that I’m very pleased that people are enjoying it, and I am a bit intimidated by it all. But I certainly hope that they can continue to enjoy what I do. www.facebook.com/bill.stone.5201

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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