William Kleifer, better known as “Blind Bat Billy” or simply “BBB”, passed away at his stepfather’s farm today following an accident with a corn picker. He was 61 years old. The famed Cuka recording artist recorded many hits including, “Standing At The Cow Path”, “Salty Dog and Sour Milk Polka” and many others. How BBB, a southern Negro child, came to the Wisconsin farm where he spent almost all of his life was described in a story written in 1965 in the Clyman Herald.The following is that story generously supplied by the Clyman Herald;
THE CLYMAN HERALD April 23, 1966
Hello friends and neighbors and here is a story about that great Negro musician BBB, who lives on the Otto Kleifer farm and has kept us entertained at the Clyman Fireman’s picnics, weddings and at the Dew Drop Inn for many years. I would like to tell you how much we love our very own Negro and to dispel some of the rumours that he is counterfeit, I got the facts from his father, Otto Kleifer and these are his exact words on how BBB came to live on his farm these past 20 years.
Clyman Herald: Tell us, please, why did you adopt BBB?
Otto Kleifer: Well, my wife, she got into a silage unloader accident and that made her inconceivable, a barren woman. Nothing wrong with me. My wife always wanted a kid, like they all do, i suppose, and i could use some help around the farm so we decided to get one.
Clyman Herald: Adopt, you mean, so did you go thru an agency, I hear that’s not easy and takes a lot of time.
Otto: Yeah, them adoption agencies are pretty hard to figure out with all those technicalities. No, my wife, who is very religious, prayed on it and one day when I was at the feed mill a friend of mine gave me an ad he clipped out of a magazine and that got the ball rolling.
CY: Otto, what did the ad say?
Otto: I remember it now as the day i saw it. It said’ NOW YOU CAN HAVE YOUR VERY OWN AUTHENTIC COLORED CHILD”. So I sent in for one.
CY:I bet you were pretty excited when he arrived but, as I understand it, the child was not a negro but a white child.
Otto: Yeah i thought i got screwed by the place where I got him but they said they got the correct papers on him and he is a certified negro so that voids the money back guarantee . So i got stuck with him but my wife just loved the little guy so we kept him. We didn’t notice he was blind tho, until three years later which made me feel bad because I was always hollering at him for not counting the cows right.
CH: When did you become aware that he was so musical?
Otto: Soon as we got him. Always singing these strange, crazy tunes part english and part something else. Then one day our church donated us an old piano because BBB not only sung in the choir, but would just sat down on the organ and amazed everyone on how well he could play. Did a good job on “Amazing Grace”. Nobody ever heard the other words for it but didn’t matter none, still bought plenty of tears from the old ladies..
CH: So, now your house has a piano and BBB’s talents can finally find an outlet.
Otto: Only we couldn’t get the piano thru the door so we had to leave it in the cow pasture.
CY: That must have been very discouraging for the young lad
Otto: No, as my wife says,”God works in mysterious ways.” BBB loved to play outside, maybe because he is blind and we just told him we put the piano in the big room of the house with the cows.
CH: Otis, there were many rumours concerning BBB. Is it true his music made your cows record setters in milk production?
Otto:: Yep, that’s the gospel truth. Them cows was always so happy mooin’ and shuffling when they heard his music. Can’t tell you how many of the neighbors wanted to rent or borrow him but my wife would have none of it. BBB was sure happy too, never asked for a raise, and i can truthfully say he’s the best farm hand anyone can have regardless of race color or creed.
CH: Thank you Otis and say hi to BBB for me.
William, “BBB”, Kiefer will be funeralized on May 23 at Daigniz Funeral Home And Auto Salvage. The corn picker was not damaged.