Billy Prine and the Prine Time Band Present: The Songs of John Prine
Billy Prine was seven years younger than his brother, legendary singer/songwriter John Prine. Billy, though, grew to be two feet taller. “He had a big heart, a real big heart,” Billy Prine said about his brother, who died of COVID-19 in 2020. “I know I got way taller than him. But his heart, I think, was bigger.”
The two Prines, the younger of the four Prine brothers, were close their entire lives. When they lost their father when Billy was 17, John took on some of that role. After John’s death, Billy put together a show, “The Songs of John Prine,” to celebrate the music of a man widely regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation. He also released an Extended Play album, A Place I Used to Know, featuring covers of John’s work including “Paradise” and “If You Don’t Want My Love,” a song John wrote with Phil Spector, and Billy Prine’s own work.
The Prines grew up in the Chicago suburbs. Their father was a tool and die maker and often listened to country music when he came home from work. Two of the boys, John and Dave, were musicians and introduced their younger brother to the works of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and the New Lost City Ramblers. Their parents took the boys to live performances and Billy saw Johnny Cash at 4 and Ernest Tubbs at 8. Billy began performing in a garage band at 12 and was with bands in Chicago and California for many years before moving to Nashville, where he worked for John’s record label.
For Billy Prine, John was the best of big brothers and always a brother first. Billy Prine told an interviewer that he didn’t realize what a large body of work John had accumulated at an early age until he saw John perform live at The Fifth Peg in Chicago at the beginning of his career. “I said, ‘Wow,’ I wasn’t aware he had all this material and it was great material. It was kind of surprising, but it happened so fast. It wasn’t like he was doing this for four or five years before he got discovered, but when I thought about it, I said, ‘Well that’s John,’ because he used to like to write stories and he was good at creative writing in high school. It was like a natural progression and his songs were definitely something I’ve never heard anyone write about. Some of the songs and some of the subjects were really unique.”
John Prine went on to win four Grammy Awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Billy Prine attended his brother’s induction into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, where Kris Kristofferson, no mean songwriter himself, said that “If God has a favorite songwriter, it’s got to be John Prine.”
To Billy Prine, who knows the impact his brother’s music had on the world, he’s still, first and foremost, Billy’s beloved brother. “He was a great guy, a great brother,” Prine said. “He was a pleasure to be around. He was funny and someone I could always go to if I needed some advice.”
Now it’s Billy’s time to honor the big brother with the big heart. Keeping the music alive is his way to do it. Come hear John Prine’s music, sung by the man who knew him and loved him best.