Caught by the Reaper // Larry Jon Wilson


Larry John Wilson

Larry Jon Wilson. songwriter, singer, guitar player. Born October 7, 1940, died June 21, 2010.

Remembered by Ross Allen.

I hate things like this. It seems that nearly every week of doing my radio show some legend has gone and died. You want to doff your cap and pay tribute, so you play a track or two, recount what you know (or have looked up) and they go by… and I clichedly say – “but the music lives on…”

Well with the passing of Larry Jon Wilson, I can say more than that. The music will live and build to a place where his music was truly meant to be, as happens with all great artists. You see, Larry Jon may be known to you but really he is unknown, far from known. When you put together the cumulative parts of what he had, said and recorded, you realise that that is a tragedy. Then, aside from that you had him as person. Thats a double blow.

I was introduced to this music, his world, by default. Growing up a South London soul boy ( though with a slight heavy metal deviation at the ages of 11 to 13 – God, grief will make you fess up the wierdest things !), I had parameters in my musical life. Open to most things but country was way beyond my city limits.

Then there was one magical day in Peckham (surely those words cant be put together in a sentence !). I owe the opening of the door into this extraordinary world to one Jeb Loy Nichols, and it is a debt, a big one ! As not only did Travis Wammack’s version of ‘You Better Move On’, open my mind to what became known as Country Got Soul and thus the music of Larry Jon Wilson and Tony Joe White, Dann Penn and Donnie Fritts – funky and soulful, with that country narrative. The story telling ability was remarkable. It oozes out of all good country (all good songs in reality) but it, and subsequently they, opened me up in turn to their influences. I was aware of a lot of the soulful side of those but not the real country – the soul music of the white south. True stories.

It was not just the music that was amazing but the whole vibe of these guys, and Larry Jon Wilson was pivotal in opening me up to all this. He was the first guy we visited in the States, whilst making in-roads in to recording The Country Soul Revue record. On a trip to Augusta, Georgia, we were met by that voice – the one off the record and the one from down the phone – there he was – a bear of a man, as aimiable and chatty as ever. And he lived next to James Brown !! Happy that we had come to see him, happy to tell us more stories, (at points we thought they would never end, you now wish that they hadn’t !) Always keen to show you things, play you things, tell you about gigs with Mickey Newbury, Guy Clarke, Tony Joe White or Townes Van Zandt. Travelling around the states these troubadors were on ‘Heartworn Highways’, hobo’s with guitars and songs recounting the tales of their lives and stories that they had picked up along the way. These guys, and Larry in particular, were fighting the real fight for music and if not being too over dramatic, life. They were Outlaws. I had never heard the like of it. These were not my usual musical heroes – city slickers but Country, out and out Country, and they were cool. It, they, he, blew my mind. I was in another world and I loved it …

Continues here on

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