(This page covers the career of Will Oldham, including work as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and variations of the Palace name such as Palace Brothers and Palace Music.)
Bonnie prince billy

Will Oldham (born January 15, 1970), better known by the stage name Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, is an American singer-songwriter and actor. From 1993 to 1997, he performed and recorded under variations of the Palace name, including the Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music. After releasing material under his own name, he adopted the "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" moniker for the majority of his output since 1998.

Oldham is known for his "do-it-yourself punk aesthetic and blunt honesty,"[1] and his music has been likened to Americana, folk, roots, country, punk, and indie rock. He has been called an "Appalachian post-punk solipsist",[2] with a voice that has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition."[3] (Read more at Wikipedia.)

Links to Peel

Peel was a keen follower of Will Oldham’s work for over a decade across a wide array of performing names, after quickly picking up on the debut Palace Brothers single, ‘Ohio River Boat Song’, which reached #9 in the 1993 Festive Fifty. In The Festive Fifty (first edition, Nevin Publishing, 2005, pg 39) Dandelion Radio DJ Mark Whitby writes of the track:

Ohio River Boat Song - Palace Music

Ohio River Boat Song - Palace Music

“The first experience for many of us of the stunning talent that is Will Oldham came through this gorgeous country ballad that takes a classic formula but deals with it in such sensitivity and pathos that it transcends any easy categories. The voice of Oldham would appear in the Festive Fifty again, though shamefully infrequently, as he constructed a fascinating existence in music treading a path between the traditional and the idiosyncratic.”

There were seven Peel sessions between 1993 and 2002, including a live set recorded at the DJ’s 60th birthday party in 1999. In 2016, the Pond Scum collection featured material from three of them, spanning a period of eight years. In an interview, Oldham recalled the process of recording the sessions for Peel:

“It’s affirming to have that experience. It’s like how I approach recording sessions in general. You put the work in before the studio because you want the record to sound kind of magical. The only way you can stand behind that magic is that if you did something magical instead of meticulously trying to recreate magic.”[1]

For casual listeners, Oldham's best-known song probably remains 'I See A Darkness', which reached #23 in the 1999 Festive Fifty and was also notably covered by Johnny Cash (with Oldham on backing vocals [2]). While there is no evidence that Peel played the reworking by Cash on his show, the DJ did give airtime to Oldham's own cover versions of old favourites by PJ Harvey, Kevin Coyne and Prince, among others. The Bonnie 'Blue' Billy version of 'Little Boy Blue' (originally by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland) was voted #46 in the 2000 Festive Fifty.

In 2012, four Oldham LPs were found, under the Palace Brothers and Palace Music monikers, when details of Peel's record collection were first released by TheSpace and John Peel Archive websites (see Record Collection: P).

Festive Fifty Entries

Palace Brothers
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy


Seven sessions in total under various names, listed below in chronological order. In The Peel Sessions, Ken Garner lists #1, #2, #3, #7 under Palace Brothers and #4, #5, #6 under Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, while noting name variations for #3 and #7. #4 was selected for inclusion in the Peel Sessions: The Best 125. Official releases:
- From #1, ‘Blue Eyes’ released (as ‘Little Blue Eyes’) on the Drag City / Domino compilation 2xLP / CD Lost Blues And Other Songs.
- From #3, “Call Me A Liar” is available on the Domino / Drag City release – Guarapero (Lost Blues 2).
- Sessions #2, #6, #7 on Pond Scum. LP, CD, cassette, digital: 2016 (Drag City CD646).

Palace Brothers

1. Recorded 1993-11-04. Broadcast 27 November 1993 (JP: “A session I’ve been looking forward to for several months.) (JP: ‘Will Oldham writes the songs. He has this gift of making them all sound as though they were all set to Southern Baptist hymn tunes.’)

  • Blue Eyes / Paula / Goodnight Moon / Water

2. Recorded 1994-06-05. Broadcast 29 July 1994.

  • The Houseboat / Trudy Dies / The Cross / The Idol On The Bar / Stable Will
Palace Music

3. Recorded 1995-06-11. Broadcast 07 July 1995.

  • I Am A Cinematographer / West Palm Beach / O How I Enjoy The Light / O Lord Are You In Need
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

4. Recorded 1999-02-02. Broadcast 16 March 1999. Repeated 08 July 1999.

  • I Send My Love To You / Another Day Full Of Dread / Stablemate / O Let It Be / What’s Wrong With A Zoo

5. Recorded live at Peel’s 60th birthday party, 1999-08-31. Broadcast 01 September 1999.

  • Dream Of The Sea / Sweeter Than Anything / One With The Birds / Arise, Therefore

6. Recorded 2001-01-28. First broadcast 15 February 2001. Repeated 05 April 2001.

  • When Die Song / Jolly One / Rich Wife Full Of Happiness / Beezle
Will Oldham

7. Recorded 2002-04-24. Broadcast 08 August 2002.

  • Jolly Five / Arise Therefore / Death To Everyone / (I Was Drunk At The) Pulpit

Other Shows Played

(Listing below is chronological, by first play under artist name, and compiled only from the database of this site and Lorcan's Tracklistings Archive. Please add more information if known.)

Palace Brothers
Palace Songs
Palace Music
  • 03 June 1995: More Brother Rides (LP-Viva Last Blues)' (Domino Recording Company) (JP: 'I think they should have stuck with Palace Brothers, I have to say, because Palace Brothers sounds kind of interesting, and also sounds like them. Palace does sound like some Eastern European metal band of very little interest, but it's up to them, if that's what they want to call themselves.')
  • 12 August 1995: New Partner (LP - Viva Last Blues) Domino
  • 18 August 1995: Viva Ultra (LP-Viva Last Blues) Domino
  • 26 August 1995 (BFBS): The Brute Choir (CD-Viva Last Blues) Domino
  • 01 September 1995: Work Hard/Play Hard (LP-Viva Last Blues) Domino
  • 30 September 1995: Old Jerusalem (LP-Viva Last Blues) Domino
  • 05 May 1996: No Gold Digger (LP - Arise Therefore) Domino
  • 26 May 1996: A Group Of Women (LP – Arise Therefore) Domino
  • 01 June 1996 (BFBS): A Group Of Women (CD-Arise Therefore) Domino
  • 18 February 1997: The Spider’s Dude Is Often There (7 inch – Little Blue Eyes)’ Drag City
  • 27 March 1997: Little Blue Eyes (7 inch) Drag City
  • 08 April 1997: Come In (Lost Blues And Other Songs) Domino
  • 01 June 1996: Black / Rich Tune (v/a album - Succour (The Terrascope Benefit Album)) Ptolemaic
  • 31 August 1996 (vs Ice): More Brother Dub (v/a album - Organised Sound) Jazz Fudge
Will Oldham
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Bonny Billy
  • 03 July 2001: Just To See You Smile (EP - More Reverie) Temporary Residence Records

See Also


  1. Baldwin, C. (March 28, 2002). "The Wanderer". Chico News & Review.
  2. Ashare, Matt (January 20, 2003). "Mystery Man: Palace Brother Will Oldham becomes Bonnie 'Prince' Billy". The Phoenix.
  3. "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" (PDF). Foggy Notion. April 2003.

External Links

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