Ricky Wilson (American musician)

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Ricky Wilson
Rickywilsontimecapsule.jpg
Wilson as seen in a photograph (with the message "We love you, Ricky" written over it) used on the booklet for Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation
Background information
Birth nameRicky Helton Wilson
Born(1953-03-19)March 19, 1953
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
DiedOctober 12, 1985(1985-10-12) (aged 32)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres New wave, post-punk
Occupation(s)Instrumentalist, musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, bass guitar, keyboards, vocals
Years active1973–1985
Labels Warner Bros., Reprise, Island
Associated acts The B-52's, Black Narcissus, Loon, Tom Verlaine, The Zambo Flirts
Website www.theb52s.com

Ricky Helton Wilson (March 19, 1953 – October 12, 1985) [1] was an American musician best known as the original guitarist and founding member of rock band the B-52's. Born in Athens, Georgia, Wilson was the brother of fellow member Cindy Wilson. The B-52's were founded in 1976, when Ricky, his sister Cindy, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and Fred Schneider shared a tropical flaming volcano drink at a Chinese restaurant and, after an impromptu music session at the home of their friend Owen Scott III, played for the first time at a Valentine's Day party for friends. [2] Wilson's unusual guitar tunings were a large contribution to the band's quirky sound. [3]

Contents

On October 12, 1985, at the age of 32, Wilson died from complications related to AIDS following the recording of the band's fourth studio album Bouncing Off the Satellites . According to Strickland, the album had been completed and mixed before Wilson's death, with only the cover art not yet designed (an illustration by Kenny Scharf was ultimately decided upon). Devastated, the band went into seclusion and did not tour to promote the album, though they did several photo shoots and TV appearances and filmed a video for "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland".

In addition to his work with the B-52's, Wilson played the guitar on the song "Breakin' in My Heart" on Tom Verlaine's self-titled debut album in 1979. This was his only non-B-52's appearance on record. He also appeared in various films, notably One Trick Pony . Posthumously, he also appeared in Athens, GA: Inside/Out , The B-52's 1979–1989, and The B-52's Time Capsule: Videos for a Future Generation 1979–1998 through archival footage.

Early life

Wilson was born on March 19, 1953 to Bobby Jack Wilson, a fireman and a veteran of the United States Army, and Linda J. Wilson (née Mairholtz), [4] in Athens, Georgia. At an early age, Wilson developed an interest in music and learned how to play folk guitar from the PBS series Learning Folk Guitar. [5] Upon entering Clarke Central High School, Wilson had upgraded to a Silvertone guitar and, to tape his music, purchased a two-track tape recorder with money earned from a summer job at the local landfill. [5]

In mid-1969, Wilson met former Comer resident Keith Strickland at the local head shop The Looking Glass. [6] The two shared common interests in music and Eastern mysticist culture and quickly became friends. [5]

Wilson quietly came out as gay to Strickland while the two were in their teens, becoming the first member of the band to do so. [7]

Musical career

1970–1976: Black Narcissus

During mid-1969, both Wilson and Strickland collaborated in writing and performing music, loosely calling themselves Loon, and aspired to perform live. [8] [9]

From 1969 to 1971, Wilson and Strickland collaborated with high school friends Pete Love of Louisville and Athens native Owen Scott, III in performing together as the four-member band Black Narcissus. [10]

Upon graduation from the University of Georgia in 1976, Wilson kept in touch with Strickland and they toured Europe, eventually returning and taking jobs at the Southeastern Stages bus station in Athens, Georgia where Strickland's father was manager. [10]

1976–1985: The B-52's

In late 1976, Strickland and Wilson returned to Athens in search of further employment. [10] The two joined the B-52's when they, Wilson's sister Cindy, Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider of local protest band the Sun-Donuts, [10] formed the group in an impromptu musical practice session after sharing a tropical flaming volcano drink at a Chinese restaurant. [3] [11] They played their first concert in 1977 at a Valentine's Day party for friends. [10] [3] [11] The band's quirky take on the new wave sound of their era was a combination of dance and surf music set apart by the unusual guitar tunings used by Wilson.

Wilson cited various children's records, the Mamas & the Papas, and Esquerita and the Voola as sources of inspiration in his musical career. [12] Wilson also played the guitar on the song "Breakin' In My Heart" on Tom Verlaine's self-titled debut album.

Illness and death

In 1983, during recording sessions for the band's third studio album Whammy! , [10] Wilson discovered he had contracted HIV. He confided his illness to Keith Strickland, as stated in several interviews including one with The Age . [13] [14] In 1985, during recording for their album Bouncing Off the Satellites , Wilson's illness became more severe; both Strickland and Pierson have stated that despite this, he kept his illness secret from the other members of the band. [14] [15] In an interview, Pierson stated that Wilson did so because he "did not want anyone to worry about him or fuss about him". [15]

On October 12, 1985, [10] in the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center, Wilson died of AIDS, at the age of 32. [14] He was later buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens. [16] Devastated, the band did little promotional work and did not tour to promote the album. [17] Upon reforming in 1988, the band continued as a four-piece, with Strickland replicating Wilson's riffs from their earlier material in live performances.

Related Research Articles

The B-52s American rock band

The B-52s is an American new wave band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1976. The original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson (guitar), and Keith Strickland. Ricky Wilson died from AIDS-related illness in 1985, and Strickland switched from drums to lead guitar. The band also added various members for albums and live performances.

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Kate Pierson American singer, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist

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Bouncing off the Satellites is the fourth studio album by American new wave band the B-52's, released on September 8, 1986. It was recorded in July 1985 and was produced by Tony Mansfield. Founding member and guitarist Ricky Wilson died of AIDS after most of the work on the album was completed, but a year prior to its release. The B-52's had gone on hiatus by the time Bouncing Off the Satellites was released, and it took three years for the band to recover from Wilson's death and release their next album, Cosmic Thing.

Cindy Wilson American singer, songwriter

Cynthia Leigh Wilson is an American singer, and is one of the vocalists, songwriters and founding members of new wave rock band the B-52s. She is noted for her distinctive contralto voice and also plays percussion during live shows. She is the younger sister of the late guitarist Ricky Wilson (1953–1985), who was also a founding member of the band.

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References

  1. Sexton 2002, p. 75.
  2. Chau, Cathy (February 5, 2002). 52's still rockin' at 25. The Advocate . Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  3. 1 2 3 Azerrad, Michael (March 22, 1990). "The B-52's". Rolling Stone (574): 46.
  4. "Bobby Jack Wilson – Online Athens".
  5. 1 2 3 Sexton 2002, p. 28.
  6. Sexton 2002, p. 29.
  7. "Return to the love shack: the B-52s, the world's greatest party band, comes out (in more ways than one) with its first new album in 16 years. – Free Online Library".
  8. Sexton 2002, p. 30.
  9. Schoemer, Karen (March 1990). "Beehives & Ballyhoo". Spin . pp. 41–44, 86–87.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Simmonds, Jeremy (May 1, 2008). "Ricky Wilson". The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Chicago Review Press. p. 205. ISBN   978-1-55652-754-8.
  11. 1 2 "Rolling Stone Biography for The B-52s".
  12. "Record Company Fact Sheet, 1983". Archived from the original on July 22, 2012.
  13. Wener, Ben (August 11, 1998). "The B-52s party on!: Nearly 20 years after turning the pop world on its ear, the group is gaining in popularity". The Spectator . p. D-10.
  14. 1 2 3 Roberts, Jo (November 27, 2009). "Bouffant bombshell". The Age . p. 2.
  15. 1 2 EMP: Experience Music Project: Kate Pierson talking about Ricky Wilson on YouTube
  16. Shearer, Lee (April 5, 2009). "Oconee Hill: Under every stone, a story". Athens Banner-Herald .
  17. Allmusic Guide Biography for The B-52s