“Your first show can feel like the hardest because you spend the entire time in your head just trying to get from start to finish,” said Bill Worrell.
In 2009, members of the classic rock band America, known for hits including A Horse With No Name and Ventura Highway, tapped California State University, Northridge alumnus Worrell ’08 (Classical Guitar Performance) to sub in for lead guitarist Michael “Woodzy” Woods. The pressure was immense, but Worrell’s skill and dedication proved to be greater.
As a guitar technician, Worrell had spent his time tuning guitars and setting up equipment for the band. The job helped the young guitarist hone his own skills, he said. In 2011, Worrell chose to leave the position to focus on his own music.
“The band knew I was a competent guitarist because of my CSUN degree and from the countless hours I was spending with them on tour,” Worrell said. “I really practiced hard to make sure I learned all the parts; I knew this was a rare chance to show my stuff. Not only was it guitar, but it was keys and vocals too.”
When Woods retired in 2013, the band asked Worrell to stay on permanently.
“Touring with a prominent band like America is definitely a hard gig to come by,” he said. “It was such an awesome experience. I was able to share the stage with people like The Beach Boys, Chicago, Peter Frampton and Christopher Cross.”
Since he was a child, Worrell has played with and hung out with professional musicians — starting with his own father, a music engineer and guitarist. This early introduction to music inspired him to enroll at CSUN in 2006 to study classical guitar performance in the university’s acclaimed Department of Music.
“Music has been the family business,” Worrell said. “It’s the one thing that I truly am passionate about and love.”
Worrell’s first two years of college were spent at Glendale Community College, where he received his associate degree in music. Growing up in Thousand Oaks led him to keep CSUN in mind, as a top-notch university in his own backyard.
“CSUN was a great experience for me as a guitarist because classical training is a whole different approach and discipline, compared to contemporary guitar playing,” Worrell said. “The classes that I took paid so much attention to detail and nuance that it took me to a whole new level.”
During his years at CSUN, Worrell worked for the International Guitar Research Archive in the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, helping to preserve guitar history and important research.
After graduating in 2008, Worrell taught guitar and “gigged” around LA. He started playing lead guitar for an Eagles tribute band, The Long Run, in 2012, that performed at local venues across the country. Soon, his father helped Worrell land the position as a guitar technician with America. The work helped him prepare and learn a great deal about life on the road with legendary bands, as well as what it took to be on the band, he said.
The band gave him the stage name “Billy the Kid” because of the 20-year age difference between Worrell and the original band members, he said.
After touring with America for three years, Worrell decided it was time to start his own music career as a solo artist, he said. He has released various demos, EPs and an album that is available on his website. Worrell lives in “Music City” — Nashville, Tenn.