Billy Hamilton was born in Cincinnati and grew up listening to bluegrass music. He learned to play mandolin in the Bobby Osborne style as well as fiddle and guitar. He was once offered a job with the Osborne Brothers as guitar player and third voice in the trio, but turned it down. While attending Yale University, he had a band called the Gray Sky Boys that was very popular with the students at Yale. He was acquainted with rocker Jerry Garcia while Garcia was still playing bluegrass. Bill continued on at Yale to acquire a PhD and formed another band that he called the Ohio River Boys. After graduation he secured a teaching job at the University of Buffalo and formed still another band, the Bluegrass Almanac. In 2021, he was Professor of German and Russian and Associate Dean at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

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