Cult Bandleader on the Roof

“We played on the rooftop of the venue,” says local ’70s cult bandleader Gary Wilson of an April 26 gig at Sunset Boulevard’s Eighteen-Thirty club. “We went on about 12:45 a.m. I’m surprised the cops didn’t stop us, but that’s good.”

Wilson’s return to the spotlight comes over 30 years after the release of his best-known record, 1977’s homemade You Think You Really Know Me.

“I originally pressed 300 copies in 1977 and then pressed another 300 in 1979,” says Wilson. “I only have one copy left.” A reissue of around 1000 copies was later released by Philadelphia-based Cry Baby Records. Copies of the original LP editions sell online for $200 and up.

Now considered an indie-punk pioneer, Wilson’s followers and fans include Beck (who mentions his name in “Where It’s At”), the Roots, and Questlove.

A documentary film (You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story) hits DVD in June, with a release party planned for the Knitting Factory in NYC. Wilson’s new CD, Lisa Wants to Talk to You, comes out July 15.

“It’s all-new material,” he says, “recorded in my home studio…no computer.”

Rarely seen live and almost never photographed without masks of plastic and duct tape, Wilson still works the night shift at a local adult bookstore. Asked about the recent media attention, he recalls his equally eccentric and reclusive mentor, John Cage.

“After going over my scores and talking with Mr. Cage about my ideas, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Gary, I wasn’t able to afford to live off of my music till I was 50 years old. I think the same will happen to you.’ He was right.”

– Jay Allen Sanford

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