William Elliott Whitmore on Salmon, Green Beans and Whiskey by Nathan Emerson

Recently I was given the time to conduct an interview with Mr. William Elliott Whitmore, an Iowan who travels the world with his guitar, banjo, and kick drum. Being the first time outside of a crowded bar full of his fans, I got to ask some questions I never felt I had time for including the first few -unrelated to music. A special thanks to Will for taking the time, and I hope readers enjoy it as much as I did.

NE: What’s your favorite fish and why?


WEW: My favorite fish to eat is catfish, my favorite to catch is trout, and my favorite to just hang out with would probably be a salmon, because they seem like they’d have a good personality.



NE: Do you have any good garden canning recipes? I’m looking for mean pickled green beans brine.



Here’s a recipe I like for pickled green beans;

4 pounds green beans

5 cups white vinegar

5 cups water

1/2 cup pickling salt

1/2 teaspoon dill seeds per jar

1 clove garlic per jar

1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds per jar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar

     Use hot water bath like you would regular pickles,  yields 7 pints


NE: Your fans know you have a liking for moonshine & whiskey, with Iowa having two fine distilleries known over the Midwest – has the thought of a Whitmore Whiskey crossed your mind as an investment for retirement rather than an old hobby with buddies?

WEW:  I could see making Whitmore whiskey, in small batches.  Maybe bootleg it at my shows.



NE: Both your grandfathers played banjo, do you have fond memories of them playing, and when did you start playing?

WEW: Both my Grandpas played the banjo, yes.  On my mom’s side, he died when I was 1.  On my dad’s side, I remember the banjo sat by his kitchen chair, and he would play in the evenings, making chords with shaky hands in between puffs on his pipe.  He gave it to me before he passed away in 1998, and I played the hell out of it for years, taking it all across the country and over to Europe.  It hangs on my wall in retirement.



NE: Iowans are proud to support your music but also speak highly of you as a genuine and approachable person. You are often found in the crowd ready to bullsh*t with new fans -is that one your favorite parts of touring?

WEW: I like meeting new people.  I like to mill around before the show and shoot the sh*t.  Sometimes it gets me in trouble when the whiskey is flowing. That is one of the best things about traveling.


NE: You started out busking in Iowa City & opening for hardcore bands, do you miss the surprise element of playing in front of these curious & probably baffled crowds you won over?

WEW: Every show is still a surprise, and I appreciate that.   I still play on the street when the mood strikes me.


NE: How was the crowd reaction and touring with my guys Trampled By Turtles?
And did you & Dave Carroll tinker or get some pickin’ on . . . . were there any jam sessions with the band?

WEW: The Trampled By Turtles crowd was into what I was doing for sure.  That’s an example of a tour pairing that really makes sense.  Those guys can play their asses off and are good people to boot.  I never could have jammed with them, I couldn’t have kept up!  My skills and theirs are very different.


NE: Do you get into any of the new Bluegrass/jamgrass stuff? How about the resurgence of old-timmey stuff like Pokey LaFarge & Devil Makes Three?

WEW: I haven’t heard those guys, but I’m glad there’s folks carrying on the tradition.  It’s hard for me to keep up with new music, but I appreciate people doing their thing.


NE: Frank Turner seems like an awesome cat to talk with let alone tour with, what was that like, and do you see another tour happening together again?

WEW: Frank’s a good guy.  He’s fun to tour with and very professional.   We shared many a bottle of Jameson’s, here in the states and down under in Australia.  Him and his band sang happy birthday to me onstage in Melbourne.  Fine English gentlemen.


NE: Do you ever see yourself touring with just a drummer, or just a dobro/pedal steel player still keeping the show intimate? Or even a full band on an album for sh*ts. It seems like you’ve had fun in the past with other musicians. 

WEW: I’ve always had fun bringing musicians on tour.  I prefer playing on my own, but there’s a lot to be said about the musical fellowship that occurs on stage.  It can really add to the show and make it more enjoyable for the audience too.  


NE: Touring the world is there any place that feels like a second home to Iowa? Maybe completely different vibe and all?

WEW: I love playing in Ireland.  It’s got a down home vibe and the folks are appreciative.   San Francisco is great too.   I lived there for a few months in my formidable years, and played plenty of open mics and street performances.  I used to make friends with the bums.   My favorite guy had a shopping cart full of stuffed animals.


NE: I know you are open to a lot of different music what is something new you discovered?

WEW: As I said, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with new music, but a few good recent finds are; Deerhoof – “Break up Songs”, Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music”, and anything on Maximum Ames records.


NE: I really appreciate the music you make & how you represent Iowa. You truly don’t know how much your message inspires people that working hard and overcoming the bullsh*t that life, government, and corporations throw at us -is worth it all for having fun with good friends and family.  Thanks for your time Will and I am looking forward to more music, recorded and live. 

WEW:  Thanks for letting me do this!

Photos by Paul Adams

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