Ricky Wilson (American musician)

Ricky Wilson
Background information
Birth nameRicky Helton Wilson
Born(1953-03-19)March 19, 1953
Athens, Georgia, United States
DiedOctober 12, 1985(1985-10-12) (aged 32)
New York City, United States
GenresNew wave, post-punk
Occupation(s)Instrumentalist, musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, bass guitar, keyboards, vocals
Years active1973–1985
LabelsWarner Bros., Reprise, Island
Associated actsThe B-52's, Black Narcissus, Loon, Tom Verlaine, The Zambo Flirts

Ricky Helton Wilson (March 19, 1953 – October 12, 1985)[1] was an American musician best known as the original guitarist and founding member of rock band the B-52's. Born in Athens, Georgia, Wilson was the brother of fellow member Cindy Wilson. The B-52's were founded in 1976, when Ricky, his sister Cindy, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and Fred Schneider shared a tropical flaming volcano drink at a Chinese restaurant and, after an impromptu music session at the home of their friend, Owen Scott III, played for the first time at a Valentine's Day party for friends.[2] Wilson's unusual guitar tunings were a large contribution to the band's quirky sound.[3]

On October 12, 1985, at the age of 32, Wilson died from complications related to AIDS following the recording of the band's fourth studio album Bouncing Off the Satellites. According to Keith Strickland, the album had been completed and mixed before Wilson's death, with only the cover art not yet designed (an illustration by Kenny Scharf was ultimately decided upon). Devastated, the band went into seclusion and did not tour to promote the album, although they did several photo shoots and TV appearances, as well as filming a video for "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland".

In addition to his work with The B-52's, Wilson played the guitar on the song "Breakin' in My Heart" on Tom Verlaine's self-titled debut album in 1979. This was his only non-B-52's appearance on record. He also appeared in various films, namely One Trick Pony. Posthumously he also appeared in Athens, GA: Inside/Out, The B-52's 1979-1989, and The B-52's Time Capsule: Videos for a Future Generation 1979-1998 through archival footage.

Early life

Wilson was born on March 19, 1953 to Bobby Jack Wilson, a fireman and a veteran of the United States Army, and Linda J. Wilson (née Mairholtz),[4] in Athens, Georgia. At an early age, Wilson developed an interest in music, and learned how to play folk guitar from the PBS series Learning Folk Guitar.[5] Upon entering Clarke Central High School, Wilson had upgraded to a Silvertone guitar and, to tape his music, purchased a two-track tape recorder with money earned from a summer job at the local landfill.[5]

In mid-1969, Wilson met former Comer resident Keith Strickland at the local head shop The Looking Glass.[6] The two shared common interests in music and Eastern mysticist culture and quickly became friends.[5]

Wilson quietly came out as gay to Strickland while the two were in their teens, becoming the first member of the band to do so.[7]

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