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August 1922 Born in East Liverpool, OH
October 1942 - February 1946 U.S. Army Air Force
1946 Joined Don Ragon Band
August 1953 Married
1953 Moved To Elko, NV left Don Ragon Band
January 1960 Joined Hoosier Hot Shots
June 1962 Married Barbara
September 1964 Moved to Oxnard CA
June 1984 Returned to Elko, NV
June 2003 Died
Drummer, vocalist, whistler
It was little Billy Keith walking home from school over in Van Wert, just across the Indiana line,
singing and whistling at the top of his lungs. This was nothing new. He did it every day morning and evening to and from school.
But today was a bit different.
Now we'll let Mike Hachquet, Keith's stepson, continue the story...
As a baby-boomer, my exposure to the Hoosier Hot Shots was during the 60’s and 70’s. Keith was my stepfather – which allowed me to watch several of their live performances. They played clubs in Nevada, Knott’s Berry Farm, Colleges, a few private functions and played on Hee Haw a few times. Most of the Hot Shots were retired, so they played sparingly. The bookings were usually arranged to coincide with fishing season in the area.
I remember many parts of the shows – usually a journey through music and humor. Hezzie would start the show by asking if any in the audience remembered their movies, and many in the crowd would respond with applause. Hezzie would then peer out and say – “Oh, we have some old ones out there”, and Ken would respond saying, “That’s OK, we have some old one’s up here”. And the show was on.
The hour long show would start with corny humor and ragtime music. I was always impressed how they could make each show sound so fresh. After a few tunes, it was time for the unveiling of the washboard. Hezzie was known for his great washboard, but it wasn’t just an instrument. The washboard was concealed under cover for the first part of the show. After much fanfare – he would unveil the washboard – and then start playing it. Those that had never seen the washboard were amazed at the music he created with a collection of horns, bells, and other attachments.
After a few nonsensical songs like “I like bananas because they have no bones”, it was time for my favorite part of the show – Keith would sing. Ken would introduce Keith, “Here is our singing drummer, Billy Keith Milheim”. Keith was not very tall, about 5’6”, and moved a little slow due to chronic back problems. After about 30 minutes of zany humor and music, the audience is wondering what can be next – as the short and stocky singing drummer slowly climbs out of the drum set, and wanders to the front of the stage with a boyish grin. The music begins, and Keith starts into a ballad, quieting the audience with his unbelievable voice. He would sing a few songs, and then follow up by whistling a tune. He also was a great whistler.
As Keith would return to the drums, the Hot Shots would return to a few ragtime tunes, often featuring Gabe on the clarinet. The show would get a little nostalgic and close with a reminder to use your memory to visit them any time.
Keith attended Ohio State University after high school. He served in the Army Air Force for over 3 years during the 40’s. He rarely said much about his military service, except the length of time. During the next few decades he performed with bands and developed his tree trimming business.
He performed with the Don Regan band, as Keith put it, “for 7 years of one nighters”. Keith started as a singer. He played around with the guitar and drums – for fun. During one of their performances, the bands' regular drummer was unable to perform. The band leader looked around the stage for a replacement, and Keith Milheim the crooner became Billy Keith Milheim the singing drummer.
Keith joined the Hoosier Hot Shots in the 50’s, while living in Elko, NV. The Original three Hot Shots were retiring, so the performances were a steady part time job. Keith had a tree trimming business that allowed him to get away whenever the band had a booking.
He married Barbara in 1962, along with 3 kids - Karen, Debbie, and myself. Roxy was born a few years later. The new family moved to Oxnard, California in 1964. Keith was able to play at more of the local spots with the Hoosier Hot Shots because the rest lived in the Los Angeles area. Keith continued to trim trees, and cut a lot of firewood. He later was employed by the City of Oxnard as a tree trimmer.
After semi-retirement, Keith and Mom moved back the Elko area, settling in Pleasant Valley – a quiet community nestled against the Ruby Mountains. He continued trimming trees – as long as his back would allow.
Barbara Milheim, Keith's wife, told me this story of how Keith became a Hoosier Hot Shot...
A while back I got a phone call from a radio station wanting to know who the whistler was on Indian Love Call.
It was, of course, Keith. But it brought to mind a story J Frank Brown had relayed to us.
Now, the historical significance of this is... that at around 4-4:30 in the afternoon, parrots get very raucous... calling in to roost... the straggling members of their flock. I remember, whenever Aunt Maymie's birds got too noisy, she would play the Hoosier Indian Love Call, Be Bee would sing his little heart out along with the music... and those birds clammed up like a stone! After the song ended, Mayme would say: "nigh-nite"... all the birds echoed her, and they all settled down. I believe that the birds thought that the song was some other bird calling in his flock, and by the very nature of the song... they yielded to the higher voicing.
Today, I tend to some 70-odd "homeless" parrots... on a 5-acre sanctuary in North Florida, and you can well imagine that I'll, also, be "training" my family of birds to the sound of the Indian Love Call. I hope that the Hoosiers can smile down... knowing that their music is still generating great Karma.
We thank Frank for the story I think Keith would have been proud to be a part of it.
You can hear Keith sing by going over to the listening room or...