Otis Pianist Takes Second Spin At Fame And At Life

Union News

Monday December 4, 1989


OTIS - Earlier this year Otis musician Bill Wampler Sr. hoped to form another band, resume playing the nightclub circuit and eventually make it back to the recording studio after a three-year layoff.

But his plans for renewing his career were interrupted when his motorcycle crashed into a truck along Route 8 last May.

Wampler sustained serious injuries to his head, leg and hand during the accidentt and had to be resuscitated three times after his heart stopped beating.

Seven months after the accident, Wampler is back behind the piano, banging out songs and hoping to make it big someday.

'When I got out of the hospital, the thing I was most happy about was that I still had my fingers because playing the piano has been the most important thing for me for years now," he said during an interview recently.

Holding out his left hand, he points to the scars where the tips of three fingers were reattached.

Wild Bill's Party Army became popular in the area nightclub scene, playing a rocking mixture of original and cover songs. From 1983 to 1985, the band recorded three singles that, while not selling well, received good airplay on college radio stations.

He remembers little of the accident other than seeing the truck heading toward his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

From the time of impact, until he woke up four days later, he knows only what people told him. “I guess they picked me up 298 feet away from the point of impact. That's a long flight,” he said without any trace of irony.

"The guy behind the truck said I went by his car doing cartwheels,” he said. “They said when they got to me I, was sitting up, trying to put the bones back in my leg, saying'I'm OK, help me up.'”

Despite wearing a helmet, his skull was fractured. His left leg was shattered, and his left hand and wrist were mangled. He has no left kneecap and his left thigh is held together by a foot-long metal plate and 11 screws.

For a while it appeared he would die from the injuries, but Wampler said his strength and determination to live pulled him through. Doctors credited his survival to his years of running, martial arts and weight training, although Wampler places more importance on his mental strength.

“Our father taught us a long time ago never to give up until it's impossible to even say you quit,” he said.

"I guess if there's any game worth not quitting, I guess it's this one, being alive.”

Shortly after getting out of the hospital, he sat back down at the piano, unsure if he would ever be able to play-again.

“The first time I sat down at the piano, my hand was still in a cast. I wasn't sure if I could use my fingers and the slightest pressure hurt.

“With some renewed determination, I feel my playing is even, getting better, which is good because for a while I felt I was at a plateau.”

Although he describes his style of playing as unique, he cited Jerry Lee Lewis as an influence.