When I called Bill Medley to interview him, he introduced himself to me. I told him there were no introductions needed, this is the fourth time I’ve interviewed him. “Oh God, I’m sorry. You poor thing,” he says in his unmistakable famous baritone voice, and chuckles.
Bill Medley has been performing as one half of the Righteous Brothers (with Bobby Hatfield until his death in 2003 and with Bucky Heard since 2016) for sixty years. This is their “Thank You Farewell Tour” but is it really farewell? Medley tells me, “Well, I haven’t figured it out totally when we’re pulling the plug but travel is getting a little tough. We haven’t made a complete plan yet, but it’s probably coming to an end.” Medley hates the thought of this, as he loves to perform and it’s all he’s ever done. He says he’d love to still play shows where he doesn’t have to travel far. “I’m in Newport Beach, so Fantasy Springs is right around the corner. If I had a weekly gig there, well now we’re talking.” I tell him I know the General Manager and I’ll put in a good word. “Please do!” he jokes with me.
This is the Righteous Brothers fourth time playing out here, and they love it. Medley reflects on some of his fondest memories over the past 60 years and says one that sticks out is when he and Bobby (Hatfield) were the opening act for Jack Benny. “We just thought that was the greatest thing in the world. We got to meet the Beatles, the Rolling Stones,” he says. “Over 60 years, a lot of wonderful things have happened. Going into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame was amazing, and just doing shows and keeping the Righteous Brothers alive all this time.” But, the best thing for him over all those years has been talking to audiences after the show. “We would go out and sell merch and sign autographs for people. Hearing some of the great stories about how our music influenced them has been such a blessing,” Medley says. He recalls a funny story about people telling him that Lovin’ Feeling was their wedding song. “It’s a pretty good divorce song,” he laughs. “Hopefully it was just at the reception.”
After six decades performing, Medley says he still feels the same thrill when he’s on stage as he did the first day. “Yeah, I tell people – and I know they don’t believe me – every time I go on stage I feel like I’m 25 years old. The rush audience gives you… It’s a very special place for me. I love to perform and I love our audiences. Just really a great way to make a living, I’m so blessed,” Medley humbly says.
If this is a farewell tour, who is the next generation of voices that can hold a candle to your beautiful bass-baritone, I ask Medley. “There’s a few in the industry: Joe Cocker, Ray Charles… It seems to be kind of a dying art, having a voice that’s unusual. Maybe it’s just not commercial. But it’s been real good to me! I accredit my voice to my bad sinuses,” he tells me. (I assure him that’s not the case since my sinuses are also bad and I can’t carry a tune, much less sell millions of records and sell out shows. Bill chuckles and tells me I should give it a try next time I go to karaoke. He’s too kind. Medley tells me his throat surgery a few years ago didn’t affect his voice at all. “The surgery was no big deal,” Medley says. “My voice is maybe even better, it took out some of the growl!”
You can hear his famous voice, harmonizing beautiful with bandmate Bucky Heard, this Friday at Fantasy Springs. The Righteous Brothers will be performing with Medley’s daughter, who just had her first child, a grandson for Medley. “She’s out on the road with us and bringing the baby along. It’s so nice to be able to perform with my daughter and to have my grandson backstage hearing us!” See the Righteous Brothers play all your favorites at Fantasy Springs on Friday, January 19 at 8 pm. Head to fantasyspringsresort.com to purchase your tickets!