Alan Wilson

born on 4/7/1943 in Boston, MA, United States

died on 3/9/1970 in Topanga, CA, United States

Alan Wilson (musician)

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Alan Wilson (musician)

Alan Christie Wilson (July 4, 1943 September 3, 1970) was the leader, singer, and primary composer in the American blues band Canned Heat. He played guitar and harmonica, and wrote several songs for the band.

Early years

Wilson was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Boston suburb of Arlington, Massachusetts. He majored in music at Boston University and often played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit. He acquired the nickname "Blind Owl" owing to his extreme farsightedness; in one instance when he was playing at a wedding, he laid his guitar on the wedding cake because he did not see it. As Canned Heat's drummer, Fito de la Parra, wrote in his book: "Without the glasses, Alan literally could not recognize the people he played with at two feet, that's how blind the 'Blind Owl' was." Wilson wrote for a newspaper in Boston and was considered one of the foremost experts on the blues musicians who came before him. A dedicated student of early blues, his biggest influences included Skip James, Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Booker White. James was the most exalted figure in Wilson's personal music journey. In high school, Wilson studied James' 1931 recordings with great fascination. It was around that time Wilson began singing similar to James' high pitch. Wilson eventually perfected the high tenor, for which he would become known.

Canned Heat

With Canned Heat, Wilson performed at two prominent concerts of the 1960s era, the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969, and at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 (his last appearance). Canned Heat appeared in the film Woodstock, and the band's "Going Up the Country," which Wilson sang, has been referred to as the festival's unofficial theme song.[1] Wilson also wrote "On the Road Again," arguably Canned Heat's second-most familiar song.

Wilson was a passionate conservationist who loved reading books on botany and ecology. He often slept outdoors to be closer to nature. In 1969, he wrote and recorded a song, "Poor Moon", which expressed concern over potential pollution of the moon. He wrote an essay called 'Grim Harvest', about the coastal redwood forests of California, which was printed as the liner notes to the Future Blues album by Canned Heat.

After Eddie 'Son' House's 'rediscovery' in 1964, Wilson taught him how to play again the songs House had recorded in 1930 and 1942 (which he had forgotten over a long absence from music); House recorded for Columbia in 1965 and two of three selections featuring Wilson on harmonica and guitar appeared on the set. On the double album Hooker 'N Heat (1970), John Lee Hooker is heard wondering how Wilson is capable of following Hooker's guitar playing so well. Hooker was known to be a difficult performer to accompany, partly because of his disregard of song form. Yet Wilson seemed to have no trouble at all following him on this album. Hooker concludes that "you [Wilson] musta been listenin' to my records all your life". Hooker is also known to have stated "Wilson is the greatest harmonica player ever"

Stephen Stills' song "Blues Man" from the album Manassas is dedicated to Wilson, along with Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman.


Wilson died alone in his camper in the woods of Topanga Canyon, California on September 3, 1970, at age 27. After an autopsy, his death was listed as acute barbiturate intoxication. [2] Wilson reportedly attempted suicide a few months earlier, attempting to drive his car off a freeway in Los Angeles. He was briefly hospitalized for depression, but released after only a few weeks. [3] Although his death is sometimes reported as a suicide, this is not clearly established and he left no note.[4] Wilson's death came just two weeks before the death of Jimi Hendrix and four weeks before the death of Janis Joplin.

Wilson was interested in preserving the natural world, particularly the redwood trees. When he died so too did the Music Mountain organization he had initiated dedicated to this purpose. In order to support his dream, Wilsons family has purchased a grove naming in his memory through the Save the Redwood League of California. The money donated to create this memorial will be used by the League to support redwood reforestation, research, education, and land acquisition of both new and old growth redwoods.


  • Father of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions, w/ Son House 1965
  • The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party & Other Excursions, w/ John Fahey 1966
  • Vintage Heat Canned Heat 1966, Janus Records
  • Canned Heat Canned Heat 1967, Liberty Records
  • Fred Neil w/ Fred Neil 1967, Capitol Records
  • Boogie with Canned Heat Canned Heat, 1968, Liberty Records
  • Living the Blues Canned Heat, 1968, Liberty Records
  • Woodstock w/ Canned Heat, 1969, Warner Bros. Records
  • Woodstock 2 w/ Canned Heat 1969 Warner Bros. Records
  • Hallelujah Canned Heat, 1969, Liberty Records
  • Slim's Got His Thing Going On w/ Sunnyland Slim, 1969 World Pacific Records
  • Cookbook: Their Greatest Hits Canned Heat, 1970
  • Live at the Kaleidoscope 1969 Canned Heat, 1971, (Originally released as Live at Topanga Corral), Wand Records
  • Future Blues Canned Heat, 1970, Liberty Records
  • Canned Heat '70 Concert Live in Europe Canned Heat, 1970
  • John The Revelator: The 1970 London Sessions w/ Son House, 1970, Vequel Records (re-released in 1995 on Capitol Records as Delta Blues and Spirituals)
  • Hooker 'N Heat Canned Heat w/ John Lee Hooker, 1971, Liberty Records
  • Other Canned Heat Compilations e.g. The Boogie House Tapes Vol.I, II and III - 2012 Canned Heat Revolution.
  • Alan Wilson : The Blind Owl, 2013 (2 CD Severn Records)

See also

  • 27 Club


  1. Vicki Bennington, Canned Goods,
  2. Davis, Rebecca (2013). Blind Owl Blues: The Mysterious Life and Death of Blues Legend Alan Wilson, p. 219, Blind Owl Blues.
  3. Talevski, Nick (2006). Rock Obituaries - Knocking On Heaven's Door, Omnibus Press.
  4. Rolling Stone issue #68, published October 29, 1970

Further reading

  • Rebecca Davis, "Blind Owl Blues: The Mysterious Life and Death of Blues Legend Alan Wilson" (2007) ISBN 978-0-615-14617-1
  • Fito De La Parra, Living The Blues. Canned Heat's story of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival (2000) ISBN 0-9676449-0-9
  • Boogie with Canned Heat: The Canned Heat Story, a documentary (on DVD, Eagle Ent., 2007)

External links

  • Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson biography site featuring musicological essays
  • Alan "The Blind Owl" Christie Wilson Facebook Page run by Canned Heat on Facebook
  • Alan Wilson (musician) at the Internet Movie Database
  • Alan Wilson (musician). Find a Grave.
This page was last modified 25.03.2014 16:58:00

This article uses material from the article Alan Wilson (musician) from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.