Look out Miley Cyrus - the Silver Fox Crooner is making his way up a Myspace music chart raising awareness for mastocytosis and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
Local resident Bill Callas, also known as the Silver Fox Crooner, has been singing on and off since the age of 4. Recently, after a friend suggested he record an album, Callas has reinvented himself as a legitimate singer and may make it big.
Last November, Callas spent his days alone in his apartment battling a deep bout of depression.
Having battled lung cancer, he already had been through more than most people can bear. His family had long been away, moving to various parts of the country to start their own families.
"I went to all these classes and read all these books about depression and it really didn't help," Callas said.
Callas said he tried listening to the advice of others, but nothing any of them said helped.
Then one day a friend told him he should do something with his voice since he could sing so well.
"I'd been singing all my life but had never done it professionally, so one of my friends asked me if I'd ever heard of MySpace," Callas recalled. "He told me to check it out, so I created this musician's page and I dedicated this page to all the musicians of the world."
In February, he took his music one step further and recorded an album containing 12 pop ballads from the early 1950's including songs by Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Perry Como.
The recording session proved to be the remedy Callas needed in his fight with depression. He posted the album on his MySpace music page and it has since attracted much attention.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Callas started singing behind closed doors at his home because he was too shy to be seen. He said people would listen to him through the door and marvel at his voice.
"I would sit on the steps of the basement and close the door and sing," he said. "People would come over to hear me sing, but I was so shy I had to close the door."
Eventually he overcame his bashfulness and started singing in public. At the age of 12, after his sister submitted a postcard to a local radio station, he passed a radio audition and went on to sing in front 500 people.
"When I went out in front of those people, I fumbled through the first three notes I sang," he said. "But after that I felt totally comfortable and haven't had a problem singing in front of people since."
Callas never gave his music much thought after that and it took a back seat to everyday life. After a seven-year stint in the U.S. Army, Callas worked as a surveyor in Columbus, Ohio until he moved his family to Atlanta in 1980 to take a sales job. Once in Georgia, Callas went back into surveying until he retired in 1997.
"After I retired, I needed something to do so I opened a bait and tackle shop and produce stand in Conyers," Callas said. "I made the best boiled peanuts in the world. People loved my boiled peanuts, even with me being a Yankee."
In 2001, everything changed.
"I was diagnosed with a tumor on both lungs and that kind of put a hold on things," he said. "Physically and energy-wise I wasn't the same. I haven't been the same since. So I had to sell the bait shop."
At first, his prognosis didn't look good. But Callas battled and ultimately defeated lung cancer. He said the bait shop was great while it lasted and he met many good people and made several new friends. But, his cancer left him void of the daily activities he enjoyed and that eventually led him into depression.
Now everything has changed once again. Callas no longer sits alone in his apartment thinking about the path that led him to feel so alone. Instead he spends 10 hours a day on the Internet, networking and following the activities of his friends on MySpace.
Callas practices his singing daily and looks forward to each new sunrise. His deep, soothing voice is intoxicating. When one hears his music he or she can't help but wonder how he has gone unnoticed for so long. However, that may change soon.
Soon after he started his MySpace page, Callas entered an online contest where he's been pitted against 1,800 fellow musicians to see who can garner the most votes and become the top musician.
The winner receives a $10,000 payout. As of May 26, the Silver Fox Crooner is No. 9 on the list, just two spots behind Miley Cyrus.
The contest is administered by a fellow amateur musician from Fairfax, Va. Callas said he hopes to win the contest, but raising awareness for the disease is first and foremost. As it stands, he has a good shot at winning. In the past two weeks he has moved up six spots and the voting doesn't end until Aug. 1.
In the meantime, Callas has 13 performances lined up over the summer and already at least one wedding gig.
He recently received a message from Simon Cowell urging him to submit a video of a performance for a possible appearance on the upcoming showing of "America's Got Talent" reality show.
As of now Callas has no plans to submit a demo recording as he has been unable to find someone who can record a video for him. He's open to the idea and said he is hopeful he will sign on to a major recording contract by the end of the year.
"I had one offer to be signed by a company from California," he said. "I thought about it but I figured I could do better on my own. I feel like I can get better exposure on my own and that will get me recognized by a larger record company, so that's what I'm waiting on."
Whether or not he makes it big, Callas is at peace these days. He regrets never giving his music career a serious attempt earlier in his life, but knows he can sing with the best of them.
He said the online MySpace music career has rejuvenated him and he now looks forward to the future.
"I have a lot of health issues still. I have failing kidneys and need help with my breathing a few times a day," Callas said. "I told Dr. [Michael] Cecil [at Newton Medical Center] I went from depression to a music career at 72 years old.
"I have a gift from God and I want to share it with everyone."