my dear mother left me, when I was quite young....
March 22, 2006 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Al 'Blind Owl' Wilson was one of the more interesting characters on the 60's music scene. A contemporary (and fellow traveler) of John Fahey, and student of blues history and with Bob Hite, the founder of seminal 60's blues-rockers Canned Heat (youtube video of Wilson and the Heat featuring the Owl on vocals) . A painfully introverted man who suffered from depression and addiction throughout his life, Wilson had a light touch and lack of histrionics uncommon among his blues-revival contemporaries. He died by his own hand at 27. is a loving and comprehensive tribute, featuring many rare interviews and photos.
posted by jonmc (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks for these links. I never knew that Al Wilson had become a cult item. Canned Heat was one of the few white blues bands of the 1960s to 1.) have actual credibility as a blues band, 2.) have a really good hit single, 3.) be worth listening to today. They were saved by 1.) not having a big, dick-swinging lead guitarist, 2.) having a fat guy (almost as good as a black guy in outsider status) lead singer, 3.) having a genuine intellectual-type in the band (Al Wilson). Actually, the whole band was pretty ugly -- another saving grace. You're right about Wilson having a light touch. He was a unique figure. If the 60s blues revival had gone in his direction, we might have been spared the early seventies. Instead, the dark, self-indulgent Hendrix, Clapton, Leslie West ('nother fat guy) wing took over.
posted by Faze at 12:05 PM on March 22, 2006

Nice post, jon. The video is a bit unsettling because the sound is imperfectly synched. I thought it was funny that no where on the Wikipedia page do they talk about what "Canned Heat" or "Canned Heat Blues" might be about. Don't the kids know about drinking sterno these days?
posted by OmieWise at 12:07 PM on March 22, 2006

having a fat guy (almost as good as a black guy in outsider status) lead singer,

While there's no doubt that Bob 'The Bear' Hite was sincere in his love for the blues, he was basically a serviceable boogie singer on the upbeat numbers. Wilson's falsetto singing was something rare in it's time. Al's shyness and lack of outward flash also was rare in the psychedelic peacock era and there was a sadness about him (much like Mike Bloomfield) that made me feel that his affection for the blues was on a deeper level than most and that always drew me to him.
posted by jonmc at 12:14 PM on March 22, 2006

But the Bear has a tribute site of his own, too.
posted by jonmc at 12:28 PM on March 22, 2006

also, some mp3's from the always excellent Diddy Wah
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on March 22, 2006

...there was a sadness about him (much like Mike Bloomfield)
You're right about Hite. He was only an enthusiast -- but unpretentous and likeable. Bloomfield and the Elektra-era Butterfield Band were on a whole 'nother level, though. No amateurs there! But also, no Wilson-like spiritual "mother" figure, either. Butterfield's loss.
posted by Faze at 1:02 PM on March 22, 2006

Thanks for the cool post, jonmc.

It keeps reminding me that I need to get around to making a post about Lightin' Hopkins like I have been planning on.
posted by dios at 1:09 PM on March 22, 2006

That reminds me that I still need to go up the country. Baby do you want to go?

All this fussing and fighting, man, you know I sure can't stay.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:23 PM on March 22, 2006

great post, jonmc - thanks.
... and dios: do it!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:41 PM on March 22, 2006

Good one. Yes, dios, please post.
posted by at 10:50 PM on March 22, 2006

Thanks for the post, johnmc. For me, Canned Heat has always been one of those simple no-frills voices of the anti-war 60s counter culture. In its quiet way, it made just as forceful of an impact as Janis' wail or Jimmy's guitar. I was only born in that time, but I cherish the music as remnants of my parents.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:41 AM on March 23, 2006

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