Producer Tom Wilson
September 9, 2013 5:20 PM   Subscribe

WMFU DJ Irwin Chusid has put together a tribute website to music producer Tom Wilson. Wilson was born in 1931 and died young at 47 in 1978. Among the musicians he worked with: Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Pete Seeger, The Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Gil-Scott Heron, and Professor Longhair. Some of his notable and more far-out productions, include the Bob Dylan "Like a Rolling Stone" session which was the subject of the much repeated Al Kooper organ riff anecdote. He had been president of Harvard's Young Republican club, graduated Harvard cum laude, and was African-American. He was also friends with Wally "Famous" Amos, and it was through Wilson, that Amos, at the time an agent at William Morris, came to represent Simon & Garfunkel.
posted by larrybob (5 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Wilson is one of those Zelig types whereby, once you notice him, it becomes almost comical how often he crops up in amazing and influential places. He really deserves the box set treatment, à la Martin Hannett or Phil Spector or Trevor Horn, but this is a good start.
posted by mykescipark at 5:43 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another musical Zelig, Chris Robison (sometime member of Steam, Elephant's Memory, and New York Dolls) mentions that the name of his label Gypsy Frog, on which he self-released a couple of mid-70s gay-themed folk rock records, was based on a comment by Tom Wilson.
posted by larrybob at 6:07 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Mothers photo is great. The story goes, some A&R guy heard them playing a Guitar Slim tune or something like that, thought they were great, and just signed them. Later, Wilson, tasked with production of an album, had to tell the label, uh, these guys aren't exactly a white blues band....
posted by thelonius at 9:42 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nice post. Those of us who wrote about music 40 years ago, and paid attention to such things, knew Wilson’s name well. I did not, however, realize the depth/breadth of his Discography, which is remarkable – from Herb Pomeroy to Professor Longhair, with stops in between at performers as disparate as The Blues Project and Cecil Taylor, Hugh Masekela and John Mayall, Herbie Mann and Freda Payne. Even The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union, which I haven’t listened to for years (decades?).

the much repeated Al Kooper organ riff anecdote...

Best is to hear Kooper himself tell it, as in this clip (with Swedish subtitles) from Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home.

p.s. Kooper also is a kind of Zelig figure, who played French horn (as well as organ and piano) on The Rolling Stones’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want, co-wrote This Diamond Ring, a #1 hit for Gary Lewis and the Playboys, formed the original Blood, Sweat, & Tears, put the Super Session albums together, discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd, and on and on. His memoir Backstage Passes is highly entertaining reading. (And as an ‘author,’ he then became musical director for the Rock Bottom Remainders band with Stephen King, Dave Barry, etc.)
posted by LeLiLo at 1:13 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow, what a Discography. Some life the guy had, producing all that awesomeness!! I never knew he was only 47 when he died; 47? that is seriously unreal.
posted by marienbad at 9:06 AM on September 10, 2013

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