Born in Richmond, Virginia, Bill Leverty is best known as the lead guitarist for North Carolina’s finest, FireHouse, a rock group that hit the scene in 1990 with their debut FireHouse. FireHouse might have been late to the game, but that didn’t stop that from storming the charts with cuts like “Reach for the Sky,” “Don’t Treat Me Bad, “All She Wrote,” and several iconic power ballads, “I Live My Life for You,” “Love of a Lifetime,” and “When I Look into Your Eyes.”
In 1992, on the strength of a cohesive lineup featuring C.J. Snare on vocals, Michael Foster on drums, Perry Richardson on bass, and Leverty on guitar, FireHouse was nominated for and won an award for Favorite New Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist in 1992.
Though hair and glam metal died off in the ’90s, FireHouse, like many of their genre cohorts, remained popular in Asia and released new music perpetually guided by Levery’s hard-nosed, gorgeous-toned, inherently blues-leaning licks.
There were many guitar heroes from the ’80s and early ’90s, but few played the game with the low-key swagger, searing chops, and solemn respect that Bill Levery did and continues to. These days, when he’s not rocking stages with FireHouse, Leverty can be found tending to his solo career, with his latest full-length being Divided We Fall (2020) and the single, 2023’s “Hey Mama.”
Bill Leverty dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into the ten records that changed his life. Are any of these records your favorite, too?
Bill Leverty of FireHouse: 10 Albums That Changed My Life
# 10 – Night of The Living Dregs – Dixie Dregs (1978)
We had an AM station in my hometown called WGOE that played underground music. I listened to this station a lot. One morning, they played a song called “Punk Sandwich,” I loved what I heard, so I bought it, my first Dixie Dregs album. I saw them live when they toured to support the album. I have still never, to this day, heard anyone play guitar with the virtuosity of Steve Morse.
He was surrounded by the greatest group of phenomenal musicians I’ve ever heard, playing the most amazing compositions I had ever heard. To this day, nothing has ever come close for me. Anyway, I went home and couldn’t stop listening to this masterpiece of an album. The standout track for me is “The Bash,” which is absolutely astounding.
Other notable tracks are “Punk Sandwich,” “Country House Shuffle,” and “Patchwork.” This album made me buy everything they had previously recorded and then everything they released afterward. Steve Morse is the greatest guitarist of all time and the most genius of all musical geniuses.
# 9 – Casino – Al DiMeola (1978)
In my era of instrumental music discovery, I was lucky to find Al DiMeola. His Casino album was the first of his that I got, and I wore the grooves off of it. Every song is perfect and awe-inspiring. Musically, the album is a trip to an exotic foreign land. His use of atypical scales and modes captivated me.
All his worldly electric guitar-based music played with a Les Paul cranked into a Mesa Boogie amp felt like hard rock but with musical depth. Then, he broke out his acoustic guitar and absolutely tore it up! With both electric and acoustic, he had a picking technique and muting technique that I had never heard before. Al is a true innovator, and Casino inspired me to play notes I wouldn’t have tried.
# 8 – Blackout – Scorpions (1982)
When I look back at the time in my life when I started playing in cover tune bands in front of people, trying to get paid, and trying to make it, this album was spinning on my turntable. The album made me want to learn every song inside and out.
The problem was, who could sing it? Very few people, but that didn’t stop me from playing along with these masterfully written songs and figuring out how to play Mathias Jabs’ solos and Rudolph Schenker’s rhythms. I had no idea they had been around for as long as they had. “No One Like You” was all over the radio, and I aspired to be in a band that could sound like Scorps.
I never got to cover that song live in front of an audience, but we did perform “Blackout” and “Can’t Live Without You.” I still love the ballad at the end: “When the Smoke Is Going Down.” What a mood it creates. After learning about this band via Blackout, I bought their whole back catalog and dug in. I’ve bought everything they’ve put out since. To me, they are the best hard rock / heavy metal band of all time.
# 7 – Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin (1971)
My Godfather gave me this album for Christmas. He was this cool dude from New York who was best friends with my parents and loved music. It stayed on my turntable almost exclusively for a year until the following Christmas, when he gave me my next album (see below).
I was hooked as soon as the needle touched the vinyl on Side One. I loved this album so much that I would put it on with the volume down just enough so my parents couldn’t hear that I had it playing past my bedtime. I set the turntable to play it over and over all night long.
Every song was a masterpiece, but I’d still say that my favorite Led Zeppelin tune of all time is “The Battle of Evermore.” That song took me to a place in my mind that was so unique. There’s so much magic on this entire album. Jimmy Page is a genius. My parents knew it was great music, but this album was the beginning of me hearing them yell, “Turn it down!” It also began me learning about the rock gods: Led Zeppelin.
# 6 – Innervisions – Stevie Wonder (1973)
My Godfather gave this one to me for Christmas the following year. The standout tracks on this album for me were “Living for The City,” “Higher Ground,” “Don’t You Worry’ Bout A Thing,” and my favorite song from the album: “Jesus Children of America.” I actually covered that tune on my Drive album that I put out in 2013. Innervisions greatly influenced me at a very young age, long before I started playing guitar.
The guitar isn’t the foundational instrument on these songs, but somehow, my ear gravitated toward the guitar parts in Stevie’s music and I wanted to be his guitar player, playing air guitar, and jumping off my bed at climactic parts of the songs. The mixture of soul, rock, pop, and funk combined with Stevie’s musical genius made me want to listen when I got home from school, putting my homework on the back burner.
# 5 – Wired – Jeff Beck (1976)
I had been playing guitar for a few years, and I heard guitar players who were older and better than me talking about this guy named Jeff Beck. He wasn’t on the radio or anything, but I bought Wired because the album cover looked so cool, and I couldn’t believe what I heard. This guy made his guitar sing like no one else, and the songs were mind-blowing.
At the time, I was at an early intermediate level as a guitarist, still playing the songs wrong, but I could play along and absorb his unique approach to the instrument. I learned so much from this album. I think this was the beginning of my love for instrumental guitar music. Wired was my first taste of fusion music.
Jeff Beck fused jazz, rock, blues, and funk into this amazing collection of brilliant songs. My favorites are “Blue Wind,” “Head for Backstage Pass,” “Led Boots,” “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” and “Come Dancing.” At that time in my life, I already had a great love for funk, but Jeff Beck’s Wired took that love to a deeper level.
# 4 – Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent (1975)
I bought this one because I heard “Stranglehold” in the headphones at a friend’s house. I was blown away; that song was just the tip of the iceberg. What a great album! A few months later, my mom dropped me off with a few of my friends, and we saw him live in concert. I couldn’t believe what I experienced.
Ted made that guitar scream, roar, cry, and burn. His band was amazing, with Derek St. Holmes singing just like the album, and Ted: the wildest guy I’d ever seen. This was one of those cases where the live show really made the album rock me even harder because I experienced it live. I got home from that show, and all I wanted to do was play guitar like Ted Nugent.
On this album, Ted was so melodic and so outrageous at the same time. My favorites are “Stranglehold,” “Stormtroopin’,” “Hey Baby,” “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” and “Snakeskin Cowboys.”
# 3 – Aerosmith – Aerosmith (1973)
I was very early in my musical journey when I heard this album. I think that I really got addicted to this album. Aerosmith immediately became a band that I couldn’t get enough of. The guitars were so cool. The rhythms and the leads made me want to come home from school and play along with Aerosmith. I learned every song that I possibly could.
I loved dark moments and minor key sound of these songs. I would sing along with Steven Tyler at the top of my lungs (and range) in my bedroom. I loved this album from start to finish. Looking back, I think it’s the greatest debut album of any rock band ever. My favorite song on this one is “One Way Street,” but “Mama Kin,” “Dream On,” and “Movin’ Out” are a few of my other favorites from this timeless disc.
# 2 – Second Helping – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
“Sweet Home Alabama” was the first song I ever learned to play on guitar. Like all of the songs I’ve learned to play, I learned it wrong, but I got the basic idea and could play along with the record, which was encouraging and made me want to learn more. This is still one of the most perfectly written and recorded songs ever.
The album is full of world-class musicianship and vocals with an untouchable vibe and spirit. My favorite Skynyrd song of all time, “Workin’ For MCA,” is the ultimate. I was drawn into the stories that Ronnie told in his lyrics. Other high notes for me are “The Needle and The Spoon,” “Swamp Music,” and “Call Me the Breeze,”
# 1 – Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
My most life-changing album has to be this one. When I heard the rhythm guitar for “Runnin’ with the Devil,” I couldn’t believe what was coming from the speakers. I had never heard a guitar sound so amazing. The band was perfect: drums, vocals, background vocals, and the guitar were stunning. The song had a great, catchy chorus and a melodic solo that shredded. I wanted to learn it.
Then, “Eruption” came on, and it was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. How did he do that? His tone was far beyond everyone else’s, but his groundbreaking technique in this solo knocked me (and everyone else) to the floor. All the rest of the songs on the album were masterfully written with spectacular choruses and harmonies.
The album had a magical energy that I had never felt before. Eddie’s rhythm playing was just as genius as his lead playing. He had so many embellishments in every song, making the guitar so interesting and cool. Every song on the album is superb. Besides the ones mentioned, my other favorites are “I’m The One,” “Little Dreamer,” “You Really Got Me,” and “Ice Cream Man,” Magnificent!