Gangsta Grandpa was born Billy Joe White in the small town of Marysville, Washington. His father loved music and exposed him to music from the day he was born. As a young child, he would often sit on his dad’s accordion case, and listen to him play and sing. He started taking guitar lessons as the age of 9 and by the time he entered high school was a pretty talented guitar player. Along with being in several “garage bands”, he participated in the school’s Jazz Band and sang in the Swing Choir.
After graduating high school in 1978, he enrolled at Washington State University, where he pursued a degree in Accounting; like many Gangsta Rappers do.
Something happened in 1979, that would be a milestone in his life. One night at a party at WSU, he heard a song from a group he’d never heard of before. The group was Sugarhill Gang and the song was a tune called Rappers Delight. Sugarhill Gang was one of the first hip hop group and Rappers Delight was the first Rap song to make it to the Top 40 in the United States. Hip Hop was born and Rappers Delight was the song that really launched it.
Now, back in the day, they didn’t have the world wide web which makes it so easy to download lyrics and learn new songs. One had to memorize the lyrics by listening to the album. Rappers Delight was a song that spanned 14 minutes and 45 seconds, but Billy was determined to learn every word. He happened to be living in a fraternity at the time and his fraternity brothers were not as interested in learning the lyrics to Rappers Delight as he was. They soon grew tired of listening to that song over and over and over again. After returning to the frat
after class one day, he went to put on the Rappers Delight song to continue learning the lyrics, but the album was missing. His room happened to be located at the end of the building and had a fire escape off of the room. One of his fraternity brothers had sent that Sugarhill Gang album sailing “Frisbee style” from the third floor of the fraternity house way out into the parking lot. Undeterred, Billy went out into the parking lot and much to his amazement, there was only a small chip on the edge of the album that cut off about 30 seconds at the beginning of the song. SO, after retrieving the album from the parking lot, he went back upstairs to his room, shut the door and listened to it non- stop for the next 8 hours straight; much to the chagrin of his fraternity brothers.
During the 70’s, Karaoke was the newest thing, and Rappers Delight was Billy’s song of choice. He received great response from the audiences and performed the song hundreds of times over the years. As time went on, he’s continued to expand his repertoire to include covers of OG’s like Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (Snoop Lion), Ice Cube and Tupac to name a few. Good thing too, because there’s no way he can do that whole 14:45 long version of the Rappers Delight song now!
The Birth of Gangsta Grandpa
In 2013, Billy and his wife were on a Caribbean cruise and happened to be attending Karaoke on the ship one night. His turn at the microphone came and he started a song by Snoop Dogg called Gin and Juice. Well, it was a hit with the crowd that night, including a large group that were traveling together from Kansas City. Later that week, the ship’s DJ was putting on an evening event on the pool deck and asked Billy if he would sing. After covering Snoop’s Gin and Juice, the DJ asked for an encore and Billy continued with Dr. Dre’s Nothin But a G Thang. After that night, one of the ladies in the Kansas City group, Aunt Charlotte, said, “man, you’re Gangsta Grandpa!” and the name stuck. To this day, the folks from Kansas City are
dear friends of Mr. and Mrs. Gangsta Grandpa.
Gangsta Grandpa has performed for literally hundreds of crowds around the world from Dubai to New York City to Naknek, Alaska and looks forward to performing for you soon!