Bill Culp

GRAND RIVER: A local musician, now author, has plans to keep performing and writing.

Have Guitar, Will Travel: Bill Culp’s Rock & Roll Road to Cape Breton was released late last year, but thanks to publisher Breton Books, it has a wider audience.

“It’s published, and it’s in Chapters stores, Indigo, Coles, all those stores,” Culp told The Reporter. “It’s selling all over the place, so it’s really cool.”

To aim for the holidays, and to get the book into bookstore catalogues, Culp said last year’s launch was modest.

“The very first batch of books that went anywhere, it was me just selling them live off the stage,” he recalled.

Fortunately, Culp said Breton Books president Ron Caplan has local connections and a virtual presence.

“We were in several stores in Sydney, but right around the island. He’s got these independent retailers, gift shops, all kinds of interesting stores, many of them independent,” he noted. “He’s been selling quite a few online.”

The other big break was getting Nimbus Publishing as a distributor.

“Once it’s in their catalogue, it opens up a lot of portholes because they’re the distributor for the major chains,” Culp stated. “When you’re with a publisher and with a distributor that have those connections, it offers you distribution channels that you couldn’t otherwise get as an independent.”

Breton Books describes the book as a bold, intimate and often hilarious story of Culp’s life in Canada’s Rock ‘n Roll scene. They said Culp rode wave after wave as the music world carried him forward, as a member of the Rubels, with the Punk band called Problem Children, and eventually as the businessman who created tribute shows that brought back to the stage a wide range of performances devoted to early Rock & Roll, like Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley.

While most of his readers won’t know Culp’s name, Breton Books said many have likely seen “Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Sun Record Story” in which Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison shows played across Canada, Europe, and Australia.

In Have Guitar, Will Travel, Culp shares the story of how he built a monster business of gigs and tribute shows that preserved the music he loved, and then watched it crumble in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Breton Books noted.

After buying a new home in Grand River, and with his wife Debbie, Breton Books said Culp had a base from which to start all over.

Breton Books said Have Guitar, Will Travel is a tale of joy, love, nostalgia, heartbreak, and despair; the makings of great Canadian music, and ultimately delivers redemption and hope.

With 43 lively photographs, Have Guitar, Will Travel is available in stores across Canada, at Amazon and Indigo, and from Breton Books at: www.capebretonbooks.com, or 1-800-565-5140.

“It’s moving along pretty well,” Culp said of book sales. “It’s been a great experience meeting Ron and working on the book. It was a great learning experience for me as a writer, and a great personal experience for me as well. Now I’m excited to have lots of people reading the book. I’ve gotten so many great comments back from people.”

As for the possibility of another book, Culp pointed to a fiction project he is circling, and said he has more tales from the road that didn’t make his debut literary effort.

Culp said he can be seen these days running a trivia night at the Bras d’Or Lakes Inn and performing with The Capetones at the Doryman, or serving in a new role as Creative Executive for the Cape Breton Partnership. He is also working on some theatre projects as a consultant, and volunteers with the Richmond Warriors Boxing Club in St. Peter’s.

After being shut down since late last year, Culp said he is glad to be playing with The Captones at an Easter dance on April 16 at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 150 in Arichat from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

As for his Johnny Cash tribute act, Culp added he will be playing at the Judique Community Centre on July 9.

“I’m looking forward to getting back gigging and subbing at gigs too,” he added.