Bill McCrory, a University of Mississippi alumnus from the mid-1980s, was a child when he picked up a guitar for the first time. Since then, he can’t keep his fingers off the strings.
“When I was growing up, my favorite musician was always my dad,” he said. “He taught me how to play when I was 4 years old.”
The Mississippi native began playing music more seriously in high school. He later discovered the sound and genre that helped define his life.
“I’m old school,” he said. “I often looked up to Jimmy Rogers, a Chicago blues guitarist, singer and harmonica player from the early 1950s, Hank Williams, and then to Keith Richards and Pete Townsend when I was turned on to rock-and-roll.”
Though McCrory appreciates various genres and musicians, he loves to make music organically, without planning or structure.
During his time at the University of Mississippi, he pursued a degree in business and marketing.
As a rising freshman, in the line at Ole Miss registration, McCrory met George McConnell. Luckily, the last name of the two students was similar, so they sat near each other alphabetically.
“We overheard each other chatting about playing music and eventually planned to meet up to play together sometime. So we did,” said McCrory.
The two young musicians became bandmates and formed a friendship that has lasted a lifetime.
McCrory and McConnell often played for friends at parties after the bars on the Square closed.
“Back then, the bars closed much earlier than they do now, and there was always a ‘late night’ party at this house located at 1313 Beanland Ave.,” McCrory said. “We would go there and play for our friends for these parties.”
The band name Beanland originated from the address of these parties. It just happened when people began to identify them as “the boys from Beanland.”
Just like the unintentional band name, the passion and authenticity of the band was apparent to the audience.
“Everything involving the band organically happened,” McCrory said. “We never got together and said we will be called this, play here at this time at this place—it all just happened.”
For a while, Beanland consisted of McCory and McConnell, but it later had a few different drummers, and continued to grow and evolve.
The band remained together for eight years before the members explored different career paths and pursued different dreams.
McCrory is a pharmaceutical sales representative in Memphis, where he lives with his wife, Allison McCrory. They have two children, Abbey, an Ole Miss alumnus, and Ethan, a senior at the university.
“Music has always been a huge part of my childhood,” said Ethan McCrory, son of Bill. “Just like my dad learned from his dad, I learned to love and appreciate music from mine. It is one thing that has remained consistent throughout various stages of my life.”
McCrory often visits his children in Oxford to attend football games and perform at one of his favorite spots, Proud Larry’s. On Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, McCrory and McConnell returned to the stage there.
The audience becomes part of the performance when they are on stage. McCrory’s humble, classy showmanship creates a performance about the audience rather than himself. The comfort and genuine nature of the musicians creates an environment that keeps the audience dancing, even after the music stops.
“The air is different when he plays,” said audience member, Grace Cartwright, an Oxford resident who looks forward to shows by bands that originated locally. “When the Oxford ‘classics’ come back for a visit, it is different from a performer at The Lyric. The room is filled with friends and families of all ages that love to reminisce.”
She said it’s important keep an admiration for local artists alive in the hearts and minds of community members.
“Oxford is Oxford because of the spontaneity and colorful air of the town,” said Cartwright. “It has held this value so true because of the artistic individuals that keep creating things that everyone loves to celebrate.
McCrory said Mississippi is a part of musicians who are from the state and beyond.
“Musically, most of the influence came from the old blues sound that has been instilled within us since birth,” he said. “Most of us from Mississippi, don’t even know it; it’s just a part of who we are. It is hard to explain, but most of our musical influence was already within us before we really got started.”