Howard Fleetwood Wilson II
Howard Fleetwood Wilson II - Performer
BMHOF Class of 2013
Howard Fleetwood Wilson is Buffalo’s drummer extraordinaire, laying down hard and heavy beats for more years than you can even remember. He started playing drums as a Bennett High School student in the late 1960s. "I've lived and breathed music ever since," he says.
An early love for the seminal work of rock drumming legends Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts soon commingled with admiration for such jazz giants as Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa to produce a style that was “fairly unique”. Wilson studied with local traps guru Louie Marino (BMHOF Class of 2001). Later work at UB was cut short pre-graduation when the drummer took to the road with such acts as Junction West and National Trust, playing covers along the East Coast.
By the mid-'70s, Wilson had tired of the cover-band circuit and, in bands such as Ian Quail, began dabbling in original rock. When Quail disintegrated, Wilson received a call from industry honchos David Kahn and Jerry Meyers, asking him to join the band Cheeks. The two secured the band a deal with Capitol Records to record the soundtrack to the Mad magazine film “Up the Academy”. The Cheeks single, a freewheeling interpretation of the classic “Boney Maroney,” received extensive East Coast airplay. The film bombed, however, but not before Wilson and Cheeks were treated to “a fairly serious payday”.
Meyers and Kahn landed Cheeks a demo deal with Elektra, which flew the boys to Port Jefferson, L.I. for two weeks of recording at the Boogie Hotel, a studio owned and operated by '70s arena-rock outfit Foghat. Producer John Jansen, who worked with Supertramp, Television and Meatloaf's Jim Steinman, banged the band into shape. But before Elektra made a decision on Cheeks, the band broke up.
“We were just too young to be that far away from home with an unlimited partying budget,” laughs Wilson. “It was a great experience, but in retrospect, we could've gotten more -- and better -- work done if we had done it right here in Buffalo.”
Tenures with the Rain, a three-year, beaucoup road-mile gig with Scott Carpenter & the Real McCoys, and several freelance studio and live jobs followed. One in particular -- a Robby Takac-produced session for pop chanteuse Mikki Howard -- led to the genesis of the Brain II project.
“I went into the studio with Robby, laid down some percussion and cymbal tracks, and was handed a check at the end of the day," recalls Wilson. The check turned out to be much bigger than Wilson expected. With that money, he purchased the equipment he would use for all of the Brain II recordings. Brain II is unlike anything else Wilson has done. Moody, atmospheric and ambient, the tracks "are really dear to me, because they're so personal. They have a sort of spiritual significance to me, if that makes any sense.
In the mid-'90s, Wilson had no steady gig. He went to see the Terry Sullivan Thing at Nietzsche's. Sullivan asked him to join the band, which would soon become the Dollywatchers, on the spot. The two have played together ever since.
For Wilson, the idea of being inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame represents not just an honor, but also validation. He realized he made the right decisions when he found out.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I've been playing the music scene for a long time. There were times when I would think ‘Am I going in the right direction?’ But to get an award like this and there are a few other things I'm doing right now, it all makes me sit back and say, ‘Yes, I am.’ ”
Back - 2013