On May 11, 1971, Bill was on the roof of a building painting the trim when a 13,000 volt power surge went through an electric line and into the handle of the aluminum-handled paint brush. He was thrown 33 feet off the roof and onto the railroad tracks below. Some months later he awakened with no memory and with no arms.
Many times people would tell him how sorry they were that he could no longer play his honky-tonk music, but for a long time, he didn't remember doing it. Twenty years later, Bill was in an Oregon shopping center when he saw a man advertising a keyboard. He was amazed at the musical arrangements that could be created through that instrument, and he wondered what he could do with his two hook-like prostheses. "It was like riding a bicycle -- you never forget."
Bill had built a home on the mountain land he owned in Idaho, but it didn't have electricity. A nursing home facility allowed him to use its electricity so he could practice. Residents came to listen and soon people began to hear about him. One day in 1991 a television crew asked him if they could follow him around. His story was broadcast in many parts of the country. In 1992 he took a three month trip across the US, playing in nursing and retirement homes. "I love to put a smile on the old folks' faces before I become an old folk myself."
He thanks God for his recovery. "I made Him a deal that I would help others."
For nearly 20 years, Bill Rasmussen has been entertaining at retirement and nursing homes in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, northern Colorado and Wyoming.
He has played for actor John Crawford and song-writer Jay Livingston and was invited to the White House.
Bill has entertained at the Spokane Fair; the Boise and Spokane Organizations of the Retired Telephone Pioneers, Washington State Cattlemen Association, the Eagles, Masons, and Elks in Great Falls, Walla Walla, and Spokane; Cour'de Lane Casino; schools, city community days, funerals, dances, school class reunions and private parties.
Donations have averaged from $50 to $200, which make it possible for Jim-Bill to continue his travels to retirement centers and nursing homes.