Amazing Stories – Fingerdance – the Comeback of Billy McLaughlin

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

There are lots of amazing stories in music. Sometimes, I run across a story that I find particularly amazing – so much so, that I put them in the AWESOME! category. Here is the second of the ongoing series of Amazing Stories.

Billy McLaughlin is a Minnesota New Age acoustic guitarist and composer who uses an extremely complex method of playing the guitar. Rather than strum or pick the strings, he plucks and hammers them at the neck of the guitar, incorporating multiple melodies at a very rapid pace. This unique style creates a harp-like sound from the guitar. He started performing in 1988, and he earned fans throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan. In 1996, he released his sixth album, called Fingerdance, which peaked at #7 on the Billboard’s New Age Albums chart.

Soon after, after he fell on an icy sidewalk, he started to struggle with muscle spasms and contractions in his hands. For 2 years, he struggled through performances. By 2001, he was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder named focal dystonia – which is incurable. By 2002, his career as a virtuoso guitarist was finished…or so the world thought.

In 2004, McLaughlin decided to teach himself how to play the guitar LEFTHANDED – one note at a time – using the same complex method of playing the instrument. By 2006, he was performing again, and in 2007, he released his first album of music as a left-handed guitarist. Since then, he has released 5 additional albums, playing lefthanded, with his backing group Simple Gifts. He also is a keynote speaker, sharing his inspirational story and acting as an Ambassador for Awareness for the Distonia Medical Research Foundation.

I’ve attached 2 YouTube clips. The first is McLaughlin performing his classic song, Fingerdance (lefthanded). The second is a very short piece that describes his setback and his ultimate triumph. Amazing music, and amazing inspiration – take the time to watch these, it is worth it!


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