If you never heard of Gary Wilson, you can be forgiven. Gary was always an acquired taste--a cult musician on the fringes. His sound has been described as Lo-Fi Funk. I like the Jazz of it. But it's almost as if there was a massive car wreck of Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Sun Ra, Wild Man Fischer, Moby, Bjork, a horny 14 year old and a tractor trailer of duct tape and mannequins. Gary was born in Endicott, New York (which may be the only reason I've heard of him since I had some family there including a cousin who loved any kind of music that his parents didn't). He was a prodigy--learned oodles of instruments before he hit his teenage years. Wrote his first song at 10, recorded his first record when he was 13 or 14.
Gary was always a bit strange. But, after he met the avant-garde composer John Cage, he moved to another planet entirely. Among other things, Cage told Gary that, if your music isn't irritating people, then you aren't doing your job. He took that advice to heart. Gary's shows thereafter were so bizarre that it was a regular thing for club owners to shut off the electricity to get him to leave the stage. He self-financed and self-released "You Think You Really Know Me" in 1977, but it didn't really catch on. He recorded and released a few singles after that, but no one seemed to take notice. After that, he dropped off the grid and wasn't heard from again until around 2000. The thing is that Gary's records were so completely out there that, while they didn't register with the masses, people were listening. Gary was what was under the underground. That so few records were made and sold just made the recordings that much more vital. If you had the record, or if you had a 14th generation cassette of the record, it was the thing that you took to your friends and said, "Oh, man, you gotta hear this." And, of course, they then had to get a 15th generation cassette from you so that they could play it for their friends. And so on.
The process takes a long time but, by the late 90s, people who had cut their musical teeth on Gary Wilson were making their own waves. So, when a young artist named Beck was asked about his musical influences, he cited Gary Wilson. After a few more "endorsements" like that, a record company sought out Gary to get permission to re-release "You Think You Really Know Me". Gary even did a few concerts to promote the re-issue. The kid who had written his first song at 10 finally drawing crowds at 50 (and no club owners pulling the plug). Then came a documentary about Gary's "sick trip" to legend status. And he's been recording and performing since.
On October 28, Cleopatra Records will release "It's Christmas Time With Gary Wilson". As always, I want to hear at least some samples before I lay my money down, but Gary is still doing Gary. I love the Jazz vibe of his music, but, well, I do understand that Gary is an acquired taste. So this is something you're going to have to figure out for yourself. I know my readers. And some of them would never drop something like this into their Christmas playlist because it's not a very good fit between Bing and the Hollyridge Strings. And others absolutely would put this into their playlist because it's absolutely the perfect thing to drop in between Bing and The Hollyridge Strings.
I've done my bit. Now you know its coming. Make your purchasing plans accordingly. For those who vote "yay", you can pre-order through Amazon. It's bound to be a one-of-a-kind sleigh ride. For those who vote "nay", well, that's 5 minutes of your life you're never getting back.
1. Lonely Holiday (Intro)
2. A Christmas Tree for Two
3. I Saw Santa Dancing in the Dark
4. A Sled Ride Tonight
5. The Snow
7. Cindy Wants to Cry
8. Wintertime in Johnson City
9. It's Snowing in Endicott
10. Lost in the Snow
11. She Danced Near the Frozen Lake
12. A Date for New Year's Eve
13. Santa Claus Is Coming to My Lonely Town
14. Lonely Holiday (Exit)