A smiling and thankful, Bill Wilson, to the raucous, sold-out crowd at the end of the night: “YOU MADE MY DREAMS COME TRUE. YOU’VE MADE MY DAY, MY YEAR…MY LIFE!!”
Bill Wilson’s story is an inspiring one. The Post and Courier did an amazing job detailing his path to this night, but the TL;DR is that Wilson was born in Charleston, SC, in 1941, and has had a lifetime in music from playing in his High School band, professionally with Moses Dillard and the Tex-Town Display, as a house band for his 1990s soul and jazz speak easy, and more currently, as the sax player for a popular wedding and events band for hire, The Distinguished Gentlemen. – all while at that time maintaining full-time jobs in the Air Force and health industry. In the last few years, Brian Compton, the keyboardist in his current band, was jamming with Wilson and recognized his talent. He made a large effort to get him in the studio with other Charleston’s finest studio players and that set everything in motion.
What came out of that two-day session recording at Rialto Row, led by Coast Records, is an incredibly soulful and funky album that oozes the quality from the Muscle Shoals days. For a 76-year old man, it’d be easy for a concert goer to assume he’d be stationary on the stage and a voice that needs the amp volume turned up. Neither was the case.
This show was incredibly emotional. From his large grins and front row high-fiving during “I Wonder” to his wiping the tears as he finished singing, “I Smile”. I knew the night was going to be a great one when I was watching the band setup their equipment. The venue happened to be blasting the Bobby Brown’s crowd pleaser, “Don’t be Cruel,” and halfway through the song the entire band joined in. A dance party ensued.
The night kicked off with Bill Wilson and his closest friends arriving in a stretch limo. I lost count but Wilson thanked the sold out and dance happy crowd throughout the night at least four times with his contagious, large grin: “YOU MADE MY DREAMS COME TRUE. YOU’VE MADE MY DAY, YEAR…LIFE!!”
Wilson performed three sets this night. The first was with Distinguished Gentlemen covering the classics from the 1960s and ’70s. By my count there were 10 musicians on a stage that comfortably fits four. After a quick fifteen minute break, Wilson came back on stage with Sidepiece, a ’70s and ’80s funk band with the musicians that help made his solo album. Here are some notable songs from those first two sets, along with covers of Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, and The Supremes:
Doobie Brothers – Long Train Running – For this song, Bill, was on sax while one of the female singers, I believe Jenny Lee Ford, perfectly delivered the vocals. Where the song usually winds down, the band continued on and Bill grabbed the mic and delivered a soulful verse that only a man of his talent and musical background could do.
Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine – This is arguably one of the most beautiful songs ever written and goosebumps ran high as Wilson effortless hit these notes and made the song his.
For the third and final set, Bill sang all originals off his debut album, “Stand Up!“. As a true professional, Wilson changed into a fresh suit before his final set and ran out on the stage full petal to the medal kicking it off with his incredibly, deep-grooved single, “I Wonder.” The dance party was in full force. While shooting photos during “All I Need is Love,” I couldn’t help but notice that the front three rows of people pushed to the stage were all women. Yep, he’s got it.
Bill Wilson 3rd Set List – Stand Up!
- I Wonder
- Stand Up!
- All I Need is Love
- You Can Count on Me
- When You Look