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From the X-rated Jolar Arcade to the Belly Up

Gary Wilson will be rolling around in flour, paint, and duct tape

Don't let the messy act fool you, Gary Wilson is one for hygiene
Don't let the messy act fool you, Gary Wilson is one for hygiene

He may not be a native, but Gary Wilson — singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, collector of alien sunglasses, secret-agent lounge musician fetishist of flour and paint — must rank at the top of San Diego music originals. He recently took some questions about his career(s), including his long stint (1991–2009) at the Jolar X-rated arcade.

Past Event

The Black Lips

  • Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+

You say you’ve always felt like a musical outsider in San Diego. Did that ever come close to changing?

“Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates started playing San Diego around 1978. There were not a lot of venues for original bands in San Diego at that time. The local press and media had a love affair with the band the Penetrators but didn’t seem interested in covering my band.... Things have changed quite a bit in the last decade for me (in a good way). I still play most of my gigs out of town.”

What jobs did you hold before heading to Jolar?

“I worked for IBM after I graduated from high school, then went on the road with a lounge band, and then moved to San Diego and became an usher at the UA Glasshouse 6. Then I worked at the Academy Theater and then the Jolar. I started working the graveyard shift, midnight to 8 a.m. It was a wild scene the first night I arrived for my shift. A real loose, rock-and-roll atmosphere. My girlfriend kicked me out twice for working at the Jolar....

“What I didn’t like about working there was sometimes the male customers would get out of line and bother the girls. I would then have to play tough guy and throw the customers out. Sometimes it was spooky working the midnight shift and being all alone in the building. The girls would leave around 2 a.m. and then things would die out. I often amused myself late at night at the Jolar by playing horror movies. I played the original Carnival of Souls hundreds of times.”

Do you keep in touch with any of the women?

“No, I haven’t kept in touch with any of the Jolar girls since I left. My girlfriend would not have approved.”

What led you to get back into lounge performing?

“I’ve been playing in working lounge bands since I turned 18. The audience in the lounge world I play for knows nothing about my original music. I like it that way. One moment I’m rolling around on the floor in a beautiful bliss of noise, duct tape, and flour. Later that night I’m playing in a local hotel lounge or country club playing Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, etc. A great contrast. I currently play keyboards with local singer Donnie Finnell.” 

What are your plans for the immediate future?

“I have a brand new album of new material coming from Cleopatra Records in July 2017 called Let’s Go to Outer Space. I have an album recorded live at Shea Stadium with the 13-piece ensemble Tredici Bacci backing me called Another Lonely Night in Brooklyn released June 2, 2017, on Feeding Tube Records, and Gary Wilson And The Blind Dates Live at CBGBs 1979 on Feeding Tube Records.

Playing at the Belly Up in Solana Beach June 21, 2017, with the Black Lips and Timmy’s Organism. I’ll be rolling around in flour, paint, and duct tape in Balboa Park later this month.”

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Don't let the messy act fool you, Gary Wilson is one for hygiene
Don't let the messy act fool you, Gary Wilson is one for hygiene

He may not be a native, but Gary Wilson — singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, collector of alien sunglasses, secret-agent lounge musician fetishist of flour and paint — must rank at the top of San Diego music originals. He recently took some questions about his career(s), including his long stint (1991–2009) at the Jolar X-rated arcade.

Past Event

The Black Lips

  • Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+

You say you’ve always felt like a musical outsider in San Diego. Did that ever come close to changing?

“Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates started playing San Diego around 1978. There were not a lot of venues for original bands in San Diego at that time. The local press and media had a love affair with the band the Penetrators but didn’t seem interested in covering my band.... Things have changed quite a bit in the last decade for me (in a good way). I still play most of my gigs out of town.”

What jobs did you hold before heading to Jolar?

“I worked for IBM after I graduated from high school, then went on the road with a lounge band, and then moved to San Diego and became an usher at the UA Glasshouse 6. Then I worked at the Academy Theater and then the Jolar. I started working the graveyard shift, midnight to 8 a.m. It was a wild scene the first night I arrived for my shift. A real loose, rock-and-roll atmosphere. My girlfriend kicked me out twice for working at the Jolar....

“What I didn’t like about working there was sometimes the male customers would get out of line and bother the girls. I would then have to play tough guy and throw the customers out. Sometimes it was spooky working the midnight shift and being all alone in the building. The girls would leave around 2 a.m. and then things would die out. I often amused myself late at night at the Jolar by playing horror movies. I played the original Carnival of Souls hundreds of times.”

Do you keep in touch with any of the women?

“No, I haven’t kept in touch with any of the Jolar girls since I left. My girlfriend would not have approved.”

What led you to get back into lounge performing?

“I’ve been playing in working lounge bands since I turned 18. The audience in the lounge world I play for knows nothing about my original music. I like it that way. One moment I’m rolling around on the floor in a beautiful bliss of noise, duct tape, and flour. Later that night I’m playing in a local hotel lounge or country club playing Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, etc. A great contrast. I currently play keyboards with local singer Donnie Finnell.” 

What are your plans for the immediate future?

“I have a brand new album of new material coming from Cleopatra Records in July 2017 called Let’s Go to Outer Space. I have an album recorded live at Shea Stadium with the 13-piece ensemble Tredici Bacci backing me called Another Lonely Night in Brooklyn released June 2, 2017, on Feeding Tube Records, and Gary Wilson And The Blind Dates Live at CBGBs 1979 on Feeding Tube Records.

Playing at the Belly Up in Solana Beach June 21, 2017, with the Black Lips and Timmy’s Organism. I’ll be rolling around in flour, paint, and duct tape in Balboa Park later this month.”

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