If you enjoy listening to live music, no doubt you have witnessed the talented Billy Ichida playing in at least two of Payson's local bands.
Ichida is an accomplished guitarist, but drives audiences wild when he pulls out his fiddle or his saxophone.
"Right now I'm playing with Code Blue and Junction 87," Ichida said.
During the day, Ichida is a guitar teacher and recording engineer. His high-tech studio is located in a back room at Shaker Music.
Ichida was born and raised in Kobe, Japan. He came to the U.S. in the 1970s.
"I was playing guitar semi-professionally in Japan," Ichida said. "I started liking American music and the best way to learn American music is to come to the U.S. So, I grabbed my guitar and hopped on a plane."
When Ichida arrived here, he didn't speak a word of English. He and a fellow musician packed up a Volkswagen bus and took off from California, headed for Nashville.
"The engine blew up at the Grand Canyon, so we ended up on a bus to Nashville," Ichida said.
Ichida's first job was teaching guitar to kids at a Christian summer camp in rural Alabama.
"The kids didn't even know where Japan was," Ichida said. "This was 30 years ago before Honda and Toyota -- Japan was a cheap toy country, nothing like it is today."
Teaching guitar to kids is how Ichida learned English.
"The kids taught me English," Ichida said. "After three and a half weeks, I understood it."
After a few years in vocational school in Los Angeles and some time in Japan, Ichida ended up in Phoenix, playing with a well-known band called Coyote.
"Coyote was a number one country rock band," Ichida said. "I played with them for 10 years."
It was while playing with Coyote that Ichida learned to play the fiddle.
"At first I gave up, but then after a trip to Japan, I picked it up again and began playing," he said.
As Ichida's favorite music is old country and bluegrass, the fiddle fit right into his repertoire.
"To me, there is no difference between the country music and pop music," Ichida said. "Old country like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard -- the words are so much better than new country."
For the next decade a long-haired Ichida jammed with Coyote. Through the band, he became familiar with Payson.
"We'd come up and play at the Ox Bow and I loved Payson," Ichida said. "It was a nice, laid-back town."
Ichida quit Coyote when he got hired by a Japanese computer company.
"I cut my hair," Ichida said, and became part of corporate America.
"Three years ago, I quit my computer job and decided to move to Payson," he said.
Now, he is back in the world of music -- not just playing, but recording.
His company, Backstage Studio, records and produces CDs for up-and-coming musicians.
"I have already made seven CDs," he said. "There are very talented singer/songwriters here."
The studio, inside Shaker Music at 307 South Beeline Highway, has all the high-tech equipment for professional recording. When Ichida is not teaching his students or recording CDs, he is studying the art of sound engineering.
"This is how I make a living now," Ichida said.
When he's not involved in music, he still has a love and fascination with computers, he said, but his first love will always be music.
For information on guitar instruction or Ichida's studio, call 472-7393.
Name: Billy Ichida
Occupation: Musician, Recording Engineer
Employer: Bands: Code Blue, JCT. 87, Backstage Studio
Birthplace: Kobe, Japan
Family: Wife, Ginny and son, Billy Jr.
Personal motto: If there is a will, there is a way.
Inspiration: My sister who is helping the Japanese government to establish laws for people with disabilities in Japan.
Greatest feat: Quit corporate job and moved to Payson to start music career.
My favorite hobby or leisure activity is ... Nature hikes and all kinds of sports.
The three words that describe me best are ... positive, happy, precise
I don't want to brag, but ... I can go from corporate life to music and back -- I can adjust.
The person in history I'd most like to meet is ...Thomas Edison.
Luxury defined: Drinking Sake wine in a hot tub.
Dream vacation spot: Australia to see a live kangaroo.
Why Payson? Nice people, beautiful nature and just the right size.