In Remembrance of Larry Jon Wilson

Larry Jon Wilson 10/07/40- 06/21/10

We’re getting caught up on things we wanted to post but were traveling and vacationing and spending time away from the laptop. Our apologies but we’re making it worth the wait with this tribute to Larry Jon Wilson from his goddaughter, our very own Postcard ChaCha.

1985 was a good year to be me.  I lived with my mama on Grandview Drive in Nashville, Tennessee.  Our neighbors consisted of my godfather, Larry Jon Wilson, and an assortment of songwriters, musicians and friends.  My life was that of a music industry child, late night guitar pulls, studios, a variety of sometimes wonderfully bizarre and talented babysitters, and of course, Larry Jon.

Things I remember about my Larry Jon: Big strong hands, that big booming southern voice, an old Cadillac, unfiltered Camel cigarettes and the stories.  When I was a child, this man towered over me.  Once, when I was about 5, I saw him pick a man up by his collar in the supermarket after slapping his son for crying.  Larry Jon stood well over 6 feet tall and that poor little man just shook and stammered till LJ set him back down on the grungy linoleum floor and gave him one piece of advice, “don’t you ever slap that child again.”

LJ would come next door, grab my hand and walk me down to the neighborhood pizza place.  He’d sit me on his knee, he’d sing me songs, tell me stories and we’d carry on.  He was the biggest and strongest man I knew, it was literally like having my own personal super hero.  Once, a babysitter didn’t heed my mama’s warning not to lock the bathroom door, but my bath time came, she locked the door anyway and just like my mama said we were locked in.  This woman lost her mind, screaming out of the bathroom window to the neighbors below.   Larry Jon heard the commotion and came running to our house (with the entire neighborhood behind him), where he kicked the bathroom door down, grabbed me from the babysitter and said “Woman, you are too stupid to be watching this child.  My Rachel will be coming with me now.”

That was how it always was with me and LJ.  We were quite the pair, but he and Nashville didn’t get along too well and he eventually moved back home to Georgia.  He also had several children of his own and later on in my life I would learn of countless other “strays,” that he took in and cared for as if they were his own.  He would play the Bluebird Café (but only on Thursdays, he hated the idea of playing for “industry people” and swore they never went to Thursday shows) and I would see him from time to time.  But the distance never mattered.  Nothing would ever change.  He was always my Larry Jon, my super hero.  Always a force to be reckoned with, always good for the best story you’ve ever heard, for home cooked grits and eggs, some good old fashioned Georgia hospitality and for a song that would leave you wondering how anybody could live without a little LJ in their life.

Although he found a huge following in Europe, the States never quite “got” LJ, but he never cared much if they did or not.  A late bloomer, he got his first guitar on his 30th birthday and decided that was that.  LJ had a few releases on my grandfather’s label, Monument Records,  in the 70’s and maintained a small but loyal following for years before finally releasing his first full length album since his “Monument Days” in 2007.  He never fit in any category, which is exactly why my grandfather signed him to Monument in the first place.  It was home for artists with immense talent that couldn’t be categorized, or neatly issued in some specific genre.  Artists like Larry Jon who didn’t fit into anyone’s nice little packages of pop, rock, or country.  He lived amongst the other outlaw musicians, and fit in well there.  He could tell you stories about Townes Van Zandt and James Brown that would leave you howling.  And by the time he was done with you, he’d have you believing in the supernatural, aliens and how a polymer chemist got a guitar for his 30th birthday and never looked back.

On the 21st of June, 2010, Larry Jon left us.  That following Saturday, I sat in the 3rd row of the First Baptist Church of Augusta for his service.  A gospel singer took the stage and sang “Farther Along,” which for the record, makes one of the most heart wrenching funeral numbers you’ll ever hear and was a song written by Larry Jon for his Papa, John Tyler Wilson.

Life rolled on, what would have been Larry Jon’s 70th birthday passed, my 30th flew by.  And from time to time it would hit me.  But it wasn’t till Christmas, when I was sending out Christmas cards and there I was, addressing a card to him, where I would make my yearly proclamation of my big fat love for him that I stopped, remembered that 3rd row in The First Baptist Church of Augusta, and put the card away.

Most of the time, it seems that LJ’s death just isn’t possible, but I know one thing’s for certain.  My childhood, myself and my entire life, have been “Wilson-ized.” And that’s about the most beautiful thing LJ could have given me.  He showed me how to live in the sunshine, hell sometimes for me he was the sunshine.  He showed me the proper way to make good grits, how to laugh at yourself, but most of all he showed me character.  And I know there will never be another character in my life quite like him.

(Below is a video of Larry Jon’s last show in London)

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2 Responses to “In Remembrance of Larry Jon Wilson”

  1. I just passed by the Ohoopee River two days ago, I never sought I’d see it, and I thought of LJW right away! I had no idea he had died. Great songwriter.

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