90s in 90 Days #50-“Wanna buy my CD?” -Wesley Willis memories

90s in 90 Days #50-“Wanna buy my CD?” -Wesley Willis memories

Schizophrenic.  Dangerous to himself.  Friend to artists.  Inker of Chicago skylines.  
Wesley Willis was the “Where’s Waldo” of the 90’s scene, visible wherever live music happened–from Lounge Ax to Empty Bottle, Thurston’s over to Metro.   “Chicago Rocked” (hey, did I mention that I’m trying to get it financed?) opens with Wesley Willis, who I credit in the book as someone who inadvertently allowed the book to happen.  That concept will make more sense once you read the book, I swear.
One of my most lasting memories of Wesley came from WKQX/Q101s “Twisted 2” concert at the Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena).  I was working part-time on the air; hosting “The Local Music Showcase” on Sunday nights, and pulling occasional fill-in shifts on the weekend.  We must’ve been short-staffed that year, because my then-Program Director, Bill Gamble, asked me to do a stage announcement that night.  I got slotted to introduce the show’s second band, Goo Goo Dolls.  
The idea of walking out on stage at the Horizon, as a complete unknown on the Q101 airstaff, didn’t so much scare me as it did unnerve me.  I decided that I wanted to do something memorable.  Scratch that–I needed to do something memorable. I asked Wesley Willis to come to the show and do the stage announcement with me.
Wesley Willis was…a handful.  He was an unpredictable, driven-by-demons, giant of a man with a scar tissue patchwork forehead.  The concert promoters were concerned about keeping him reined in back stage.  Q101 management was concerned about keeping the concert promoters from flipping out.  I was concerned about not shitting myself the second my stage mic went live.  Long story short, the stage announcement was fine.  It confused about 85% of the crowd and annoyed another 10%.  But, man, that 5% really got a kick out of it.  
But that’s not my lasting Wesley memory…
Wesley always had his D.I.Y., casio-driven, CDs on hand, hustling them to anyone who ended up in his line of vision.  Walking around backstage at Twisted, he found a potential buyer:  Perry Farrell.   “Wanna buy my CD?” Wesley asked Perry, who at the time was traversing a cosmic plane different from the one you and I share.  “It is a rock and roll record that will take you on a harmony joy ride.”  Perry smiled enthusiastically, then said in that fey, Crispin Glover, voice of his, “Sure, man, cool.”   Seconds later, one of the alternative nation’s pied pipers was fishing for a ten-spot to trade for a Wesley Willis CD.  Unforgettable.
Another memory from the same show comes from Stoley, who co-hosted mornings on Q101 for a while and also fronted the Lupins, “Wesley Willis was in the Goo Goo Dolls’ dressing room, and Johnny Reznik finds a large white envelope on a table in their dressing room.  He says, ‘What is this?’  And he opens it up, and he pulls all of these papers out of it, and he goes, ‘This looks like a record contract.  This is a record contract with Def American.’ And he starts leafing through it, and he goes, ‘Who’s Wesley Willis?’  I’m like, oh, Wesley left his record deal in the Goo Goo Dolls’ dressing room.  I’m like, hey, I’ll get it to him.  So I took it and found him, and I’m like, Wesley, don’t leave this lying around.”


90s in 90 Days

Over the course of 90 days (not consecutive, though I’ll try), I’ll be offering up a capsule look at something about Chicago music from the 90s.  It could be a radio memory.  Thoughts on a song, show, band, or album.  Maybe a review aided by hindsight.  Whatever it is, it’ll be original content just for this site, and not found in my book.  

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