From Dinosaurs to Prog Rock

Many have heard his music. He divides his time between performing, songwriting and recording. Right here in the area and beyond.

And everyone has seen his drawings. Through a lifetime, his illustrations of exotic wildlife and mysterious creatures have been jumping off the pages of books and magazines and galloping across Discovery channel episodes–Monster Quest, Lost Tapes, History Mysteries, Southern Fried Bigfoot and more.

Music and art are the two halves that make up this multi-talented man. He is Fort Smith’s very own William (Bill) Rebsamen. And it all started at age 6 when he began drawing dinosaurs.

“I asked my mom to take me to the library during the summertime,” he recalled. “She’d pack me a lunch and I’d stay there all day while she worked. I read just about every dinosaur and animal book that captured my interest.”

Music for Rebsamen had a different beginning. One day he heard a song on the radio that he liked.

“All of a sudden in my mind I could see what the player’s hands were doing on the piano,” he said softly as if he were back in that moment. “I walked over to the piano there and played it on the first try. I had no idea then that I was playing a 1,4,5 dominant 7 progression.”

Rebsamen was brimming with talent on two fronts. What flowed from those early years became a life of exceptionally creative, unique and interesting accomplishments in the world of arts and entertainment. He graduated with a fine arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute and since 1989 has worked as a graphic artist at Fort Smith’s Weldon, Williams & Lick.

During his melodic adventures this past year, local guitarist Chris Cameron asked him to learn all the synthesizer parts for two hours of original music from singer/songwriter Robert Tepper. Tepper wrote hit songs in the 1980s for Pat Benatar and other artists.

“We performed the original music at The Founder’s Room in Alma,” he said with glowing excitement. “Robert is an enchanting storyteller. This was one of the highlights of my modest musical career.”

The scope of Rebsamen’s talents in music and art is far reaching. What began with his fascination with dinosaurs today has expanded to include unique musical opportunities.

“In art and music, don’t ever be afraid to start over or try new things. Maybe you messed up a drawing–get a new piece of paper. Maybe you haven’t drawn since you were a kid–pick up a pencil. Perhaps you took piano when you were a child–buy a digital piano and try again,” he said. “For you never know where it could take you.”


Candise Montemayor is a seasoned journalist and freelance writer/photographer who has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout Arkansas,Texas and Oregon. She has taught several young adult creative writing classes in the Fort Smith area. She is passionate about community involvement and contributes part-time to the Fort Smith Public library as a teen specialist in the youth services department.