A 2005 documentary film, You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story, details the life of Gary Wilson, the eccentric indie-punk pioneer best known for his highly sought 1977 LP You Think You Really Know Me. The album was recorded in the basement of his parents' house, and only 600 copies were pressed -- many of them smashed over Wilson's head at shows.
Highly influenced by avant-garde performer John Cage, he says "I feel [Cage] is the most important composer of our time. Mr. Cage was my idol when I was growing up. When I was 12 and 13 I was listening to Edgar Varèse, [Alban] Berg, [Arnold] Schoenberg, other 12-tone music. I thought that that music sounded cool and weird. I went to the local university record library and listened to the album that I consider the most important album in my life. It was called Concert for Piano and Orchestra by John Cage, with David Tudor on piano. When I heard this record, my ears and thoughts expanded. I started to go for the most extreme avant-garde music and art I could find."
In the mid-1970s, from the time he was 21 through around 25 years old, Wilson played bass with a pop jazz band called Now And Then, alongside drummer Ken Craig, singer Shauna Guidici, and trumpeter Leonard Corris. "We bought matching leisure suits to look sharp," says Wilson. "It was the 1970s. I learned a lot from Lenny Corris. He also played trumpet with Sinatra [and] Harry James. My first gig with Lenny and Now And Then was backing jazz trumpet virtuoso Clark Terry at Binghamton University. While playing with Lenny at a Binghamton Hotel, Lenny received a call from vocalist Peggy Lee asking if he was available to play the Rainbow Room in New York City with her. Always enjoyed playing with Lenny."
Wilson and his band the Blind Dates ended up relocating from New York to California. They performed all over San Diego in makeup, led séances from the stage, and were known to wear beekeeper's hats or sheets of plastic held together by duct tape. Club operators at long-gone area venues like the Skeleton Club and Straita Head Sound often booted him over the messes.
In late 1979, Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates had just played CBGBs and Max's Kansas City in NY, among some other east coast dates. Six of the shows were recorded for a possible live album. "At the time," says Wilson, "I had two-track master tapes recorded right off the board at CBGBs. I lost these tapes. Hope to find them at some point." Around the same time, local music paper Kicks were running constant ads for Wilson's new album, produced my Michael Coyne. "Michael Coyne produced and put up the money for Invasion Of Privacy," recalls Wilson. "Michael was in negotiations with Capitol Records and would guarantee me to Capitol Records. He then got popped in Lima, Peru and spent years in Peru's jail. He lost everything."
Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates eventually split, and Wilson disappeared from the public eye. "Around 1981 to 1986, I was an usher at the UA Glasshouse 6 movie house, near the Sports Arena. I then worked for five years at the Academy [Adult] Theatre on 37th and University Avenue." Wilson also played in bands fronted by local Donnie Finnell and '40s/'50s icon Roy Brown (best known for "Good Rocking Tonight").
"Had the pleasure of playing bass with Roy Brown. I remember playing one of his last shows at the Whisky A Go-Go in LA. The night was electric. Sir Douglas Quintet opened the show."
Years later, after Sub Pop Records cited Wilson as an indie inspiration and Beck mentioned his name in 1996's "Where It's At" ("Passin' the dutchie from coast to coast/ like my man Gary Wilson rocks the most"), New York's Motel Records sought to rerelease Wilson's seminal LP and hired a private detective to find him.
He was rediscovered working in a porn/peep show/nude dancer shop called Jolar in San Diego, where it turns out he had moved around twenty years prior. "Some of the original Blind Dates -- Joey Lunga, Butch Bottino, and Dave Haney -- had moved from Endicott [New York] to San Diego a few years before me. I ended up moving into a house with them, and we were able to practice and put the group back together."
In addition to the rerelease of You Think You Really Know Me, Wilson's more obscure tracks (some recorded locally in the early '80s) have been reissued on the Motel CD Forgotten Lovers. Stones Throw Records released an album of new music entitled Mary Had Brown Hair.
In 2010, Wilson signed to Western Vinyl in Austin, Texas, and began recording a new album, Electric Endicott, released near the end of the year.
The DIY cult rocker appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on October 27, 2010, performing alongside the Roots and Questlove.
His video “In the Night” debuted on Pitchfork in late 2010, while an Mp3 of “Secret Girl” was released on Altered Zones. Wilson also released a new mixtape on International Tapes.
In 2011, he played the annual SXSW Fest, held March 16 - 20 in Austin Texas. A new animated video for his song “Secret Girl” was made available on the Altered Zones website. Directed by Annie Pearlman, it pays homage to Wilson’s favorite film Carnival of Souls. He gave the Reader a rare in-depth interview -- Return of a Local Cult Hero.
February 2014 found Wilson releasing a new vinyl 7" record featuring the songs "Seacruise" and "I Just Want To Hold You In My Arms Tonight," featuring cover art by Celeste Byers and debuting February 21 at Helmuth Projects in Bankers Hill, on a bill that included Lube. The latter song was also shot as a music video.
An album called Friday Night with Gary Wilson was released in 2016. He told the Reader at the time “When I start a project, I first need to be inspired. It might take a day, a week, maybe a month. Then slowly the recording process begins. I don’t use a computer. Each song takes quite a bit of time as I play all the instruments and that takes a lot of self-editing. Small things like the bass drum hitting it wrong just once can ruin the song. Then you go back and try it again. I throw a lot of songs out. They must sound like a Gary Wilson song, or else what’s the use.”
Around the same time, his never-released 1967 single from his Lord Fuzz band came out. “Lord Fuzz was my first rock band. I was thirteen years old when I joined. I played Farfisa organ. We were a bunch of Italian kids living near one another. Our parents would take us to the gigs and we held our own against the older bands. We were all about thirteen years old when we cut ‘Move On’ and ‘The Freak.’ A good time for music. It was recorded with one microphone on the band and a separate track for vocals.”
Wilson announced three albums planned for 2017: Gary Wilson & the Blind Dates Live CBGB's 1979, Another Lonely Night In Brooklyn: Gary Wilson & Tredici Bacci Live Shea Stadium, and Let's Go To Outer Space With Gary Wilson.
After playing a local venue in late summer 2017, Wilson told the Reader "During our final song, after whipping my keyboard player with a large plastic bag, Todd Rundgren's manager jumped on the stage and started yelling in my ear 'get off the stage now.' It was a good night."
"Todd and I both have albums recently released on Cleopatra Records. I guess Todd's manager complained to Cleopatra Records about my show. Cleopatra was mad at me for a short time. The Cars keyboard player currently plays with Todd's band. He told me he enjoyed our show."
A new album called The Marshmallow Man was announced in Autumn 2022.