Billy Hector

BILLY HECTOR'S office is wherever he plugs in his old sunburst Fender Stratocaster, and on this night -- the night of his 52nd birthday -- it was three blocks, and three decades, away from the place where he first started playing locally, back when everybody with a guitar around here was planning to be a star.

Most of the other musicians from those heady days, when record scouts were trolling Shore bars for the next Bruce Springsteen, have long since surrendered to day jobs, but Mr. Hector was where he always is on a Friday night, and on four other nights most weeks: at work, playing his guitar. Dancers filled the floor in front of the stage at the Wonder Bar, many of them shouting along to the lyrics of "Vagabond," one of the several hundred songs he has written.