At age 17, Bill Downey started his career in the US Navy deep in the bowels of the USS America Supercarrier as a boiler technician. Over the decades and through numerous conflicts, the Vietnam War (1955 to 1973), the Lebanon Crisis (1983), the Persian Gulf War (1990 to 1991), Downey rose to the rank of Chief Engineer. Dedicating his whole life to the Navy meant forfeiting the chance to start a family, but Downey was not alone in this world - his faithful companion was a white electric guitar which he won in a gambling den in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam in 1963.
As well as being a slick guitar player, Downey was also an avid collector of sailor tattoos, getting himself inked at every major port. When he finally ran out of space on his body, Downey used his trusty electric guitar to provide extra real estate. “My guitar’s been with me so long, it’s part of me now. If my ship ever sinks, that guitar will either be a paddle or a float.” In 1996 the USS America was decommissioned, which led Downey to retire and settle on land for the first time in his life where he formed blues funk band, “Howlin’ Albatross”.