Larry Hiskett alias Washboard Willy Speaks

In the summer of 1976, I was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, working on my Bachelor's of Landscape Architecture degree when I saw Washboard Leo playing with a banjo player named Cornbread. As a percussionist, my curiosity was stimulated. I remember saying to myself, "That looks like fun.  I can do that."

One day in 1980 while working for the City of Aurora (Colorado) Parks and Recreation Department, I went to the mall on a lunch break.  While I was browsing through an Antique Show, I looked down and there was an old washboard ... a National 134 model.  A light went on and I bought it.

Over the next few years, I started to add things to the washboard.  I played around with it a lot in my spare time and actually broke through 5 boards.  I realized I needed an "industrial strength" model.  I designed and built the Whiskett Rhythm Board out of oak and stainless steel hoping that it would last longer.  And, it did because I still play it today.

I continued my career as a Landscape Architect with my own business for 5 years until I went to work for the City of Loveland Parks and Recreation Department in 1985.  This was a dream job where I could have retired.  However, a motorcycle accident in 1987 changed my life and was a wake up call for me.  I survived with scratches and bruises, but my friend was paralyzed from the waist down.

A year later, my supervisor asked me "When do you think you can give 100% back to the City of Loveland?"  My immediate response was: "It's time to give me a hundred percent."  I gave my notice and began my journey as Washboard Willy.

I felt I had been given a gift of extra time and a special purpose.

The beginning was hard.  I performed with bands, duos, and trios playing Country, Cajun, and Bluegrass trying to find my niche.  I landed in Steamboat Springs in 1989 and found my true spiritual home.

I traveled to Japan in 1990 as a Colorado Cultural Ambassador with a duo and in 1991 with a trio.  In 1992, I was asked to return for six months as a single act playing in a flower garden/theme park.  For the first time as a drummer outside the co-dependent arena of bands,  I was challenged to become a one-man band.  At first, I was having a difficult time connecting with the children.  Although they were curious about the washboard, they were very shy about approaching me because of my stature.  That's when I started passing out handheld rhythm instruments, so they could play along.

By the time I returned to Steamboat, I knew I needed to change my focus to being a children's entertainer.  But I needed more experience.  For the next 2 years I played at local pre-schools, elementary schools, at the Ski Resort's Kiddie Coral, birthday parties, special events, parades, etc.  Because Steamboat was a small town, soon ALL the kids knew Washboard Willy and I had played for all their events.  I needed a larger market in order to survive as a full-time children's entertainer.

Even though my heart was in the Yampa Valley, I moved on.  I had the opportunity to move to Laguna Beach, California in the fall of 1994.  WOW ... Talk about a "culture shock" ... it took me months to begin driving around the interstate highway system of southern California.  Laguna Beach was like an island in the midst of chaos for me.

Work began to trickle in.  I played at the Sawdust Festival which led to a Pacific Bell radio advertisement.  I was on my way.  Soon I was playing libraries, senior homes and schools and spreading the music of Washboard Willy.

One day at the library, I discovered a reference book on Associations of California.  Listed there was the Western Fairs Association.  I contacted their office to find their deadline was only 2 days away for submitting paperwork to "showcase" at their 1995 Convention.  With fast foot work and my part-time job at Kinko's, I met the deadline.

The next turning in this adventure as Washboard Willy, was that the committee turned down my application for a Stage Showcase.  In the same breath, the question was asked:  would you consider a Strolling Host showcase? ...  "Strolling Host I asked?"  It was explained that a strolling host was an ambassador for the fair and  walked the grounds entertaining guests all the way.  I agreed, and set about designing my act as a strolling host.

It was a success.  Several major fairs hired Washboard Willy for their 1995 season.  I soon realized that I needed to be more strolling that I had originally planned.  So I redesigned myself, again, and did another showcase in 1996.  The fair industry accepted me with open arms and has continued to keep my gainfully employed for over 10 years now.

In addition to fairs, the showcase resulted in other event's awareness of Washboard Willy.  One of those was The Harvest Craft Festivals.  I began working for them in the fall of 1995.  These were 3 day festivals from Labor Day to early December and kept me busy after the fair season ended.  Between fairs and Harvest Festivals, Washboard Willy's exposure on the West Coast grew and I became a successful Children's Entertainer that I had set out to be. 

My music has also taken me to other countries around the world.  In 1998 I played in Germany, Belgium, Norway, England and Iceland.  I recognize that I have a positive impact on people, especially children.  Rhythm is the common language of all people. Rhythm is the common language of life.

In San Francisco, on a Saturday in November 1999, I was playing my last set of the day to the ticket line for the Harvest Festival.  This was a challenging day as my traveling companion, my dog Penny, was in post-op after having surgery the day before.  I had on my show-face, but found that I was looking down more then usual.  All of a sudden I looked up and see before me a familiar face.  "Donnis?" I asked.  She said, "Larry it is you" ... Two old friends that hadn't seen each other for 14 years were now standing face to face.  Click on "Who Is Wishboard Wanda" to finish this saga of our lives coming together.

People ask, "What's the hardest thing about being Washboard Willy?" We tell them:  "Getting to the gig."  "You pay us to show up, we play for free" is our philosophy.

There is magic in never knowing where our next "gig" will take us.  We really enjoy playing for different audiences, and traveling.  From my new perspective, I enjoy having a partner.  It makes living on the road so much better and healthier. with my dog, Penny."

Many of you have asked about my dog, Penny.  We have very dear friends, Theresa and her daughter Zoe, that live in Sacramento.  On a couple of occasions, we needed to have them dog-sit for us.  After a couple of times of having a big backyard to run freely without the security guards suggesting we take her inside, Penny decided this was "doggy Shangri-La" and let us know that she was ready to retire as a gypsy dog.  Since we visit often, she is very loved by all and couldn't be happier in her new home.  

We follow our hearts, and do what we love.  It's all worth it if we give some child a spark, and inspire them with the love of rhythm and music.  The secret: once you find your gift, perfect it, and use it.  Washboard Willy makes people smile, and we love to see them laugh.

We come in as children and we leave as children.  It's in the middle years where we feel we lose sight of what's important.  "It's the child in us that plays to the child in you."

Home       Washboard Willy Bio       Photo Gallery

WashLine       Dry Goods       Schedule

Wishboard Wanda Bio