Gary Wilson Talks New Album The King of Endicott, Pizza Preferences, and His First Kiss
Gary Wilson’s latest albumThe King of Endicott was released February 8, 2019. We here at WMF were delighted to take the opportunity to catch up with Gary and talk with the living legend about his hometown of Endicott, which has provided so many of Gary’s reference points and inspirations over the years. Topics included pizza, pet ducks, Gary’s first kiss, and his recent intersection with William Shatner and David Hasselhoff. Needless to say, the conversation with Gary was a pleasure, and we’re thrilled to share this new and exclusive one-on-one here.
Bobby Weirdo: What’s the significance of the Northside Park in Endicott? You’ve mentioned it more than once in the lyrics of your songs over the years like “Gary’s in the Park”, and it appears again on the new album, The King of Endicott.
Gary Wilson: I spent twenty-four years in that park. I was born and raised on the Northside Park; my backyard went right into the park. I was talking with my brother recently about the lilac trees — when Easter would come, things would blossom. There was a big carousel, a pool, and they used to have a lot of things for the kids in the late 50s, into the 60s. I would enter my duck into various contests throughout the year there.
Carmen Putrino – one of the original Blind Dates – would go to the Northside Park with me in grammar school. We would actually go into the pool with all our clothes on, for some odd reason — maybe it was on Fridays. We’d just cause a little chaos.
But yeah – the Northside Park is a big part of everything. When I listen to one of the songs on The King of Endicott, “The Lonely Park”, it reminds me of how I used to hang out on the roof when I was a young guy and look out onto the park.
BW: You mention your duck, and you have the song “Where Did My Duck Go? on your 2010 album Electric Endicott. What was the name of your duck?
GW: At Easter time they would sell ducks and chickens at the local five and dime stores – Newberry’s, Woolworth’s…those type of stores. So a lot of times around Easter, my father and mother would buy me a baby duck for Easter. We had a fenced garden for them. Ducky Doo was one of the ducks I had, and Yogi was another.
BW: The album is called The King of Endicott because that’s where you were born and grew up, but you’ve lived in San Diego for forty years now. Do you think you’ll ever move back to Endicott?
GW: Always. I sometimes dream about Endicott, and I’ve always wanted to move back there when I retire. Some of the original Blind Dates are still there in Endicott – Frank Roma, Butch Bottino, Gary Iacovelli – who plays drums on “6.4 = Makeout” and “Chromium Bitch”-- and Greg McQuade who played with me at some of my shows at CBGB in ’77.
BW: The name Lugene has come up in your lyrics in the past on your album Feel the Beat, and also appears on The King of Endicott. Is that someone you knew growing up?
GW: Lugene was the first girl I ever kissed – probably in 8th grade. Lugene would come down on a bus from Johnson City – good times. She was the first girl I could semi-relate to. She and Cheryl Church were the first two. Cheryl was a hippie blonde girl with blue eyes. She was a pretty girl who had the look of the 60s, and I liked her.
BW: Your friends like Frank Roma, Carmen Putrino, Butch Bottino, and so many others have Italian names. Your dad had English and Welsh ancestry, and that’s where your name came from. What was your mom’s Italian maiden name?
GW: Back then, a lot of the Italian immigrants tried to Americanize the Italian names, so my family changed the name to Peters. I can’t remember what the real Italian name was.
My friends were Italian, and the north side of Endicott was the Italian section. My mother grew up there, and my grandmother lived one block from where I grew up. My aunt lived next door to my grandmother, and Butch Bottino’s grandmother lived across the street from my grandmother. Frank Roma, Carmen, and all those guys were Italian.
When my mother and father were dating, my father lived in another part of town. He would come to the Italian part of town and get chased out a lot of times – they didn’t want an English guy dating an Italian girl back then.
So there was a lot of Italian influence there – I was brought up on pizza. During grammar school, I wouldn’t eat the cafeteria. I would go to the store and get a couple slices of pizza and a Tastykake for my lunch.
BW: It’s always cheese pizza, right?
GW: Oh yeah – you don’t want to distort the pizza. But everybody has their own way. In Endicott a lot of stores had hot pies – they didn’t call it pizza back then.
BW: You’ve told me before that you saw Ronnie James Dio playing music in the woods when you were young. Was that in Endicott?
GW: About three blocks up the street from my house, where it got real woodsy.
BW: Did you know him?
GW: I didn’t know or meet Ronnie Dio, but I saw him a few times when we were kids. When I was young he was fronting The Electric Elves. They were all these Italian kids from his area – Cortland. They were these small Italian guys with big afros, and they were good.
BW: You played a show with the Blind Dates back in December, and William Shatner happened to be in the audience. Were you aware he was there during your entire set?
GW: Someone told me right before we played. I knew the Hoff [David Hasselhoff] was going to be there, but Shatner was also there because we were all putting records out on Cleopatra. I never watched too much Star Trek, but I enjoyed him when he appeared on The Twilight Zone and Boris Karloff’s TV series Thriller.
GW: The King of Endicott is out February 2019, and you’re playing some live shows in Southern California in February. Is there anything else going on with Gary Wilson in 2019?
BW: You never know what’s around the corner.
You can purchase The King of Endicott here.