Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum pictures: 5

A Barrie Wilson page by Larry Pennisi


Barrie and Dave Knights from a late 60s French import. I often wonder how BJ felt about the different PH bass-players he worked with: Knights, Copping, Cartwright and Dee Murray in 1977. Since bass-player and drummer are integrated more than other band members, I would have liked to hear BJ's slant on the various configurations over the years.


The short-haired BJ Wilson or 'Ravious Wislon' as Brooker once called him. Here the year is 1972, the place, Central Park in New York City.

I recall BJ talking about that haircut, saying that he started to trim his beard and well ... it just ended up going further than expected. Who knows though ... being in Procol, that 'befuddlement' is contagious!


 BJ in 1970 from an import album. Still using the grey Ludwig 'Ringo' set, BJ was just beginning to develop that 'octopus in the bathtub' style by now. Mick Grabham noted, 'any other drummer, you would have told to shut up' if they attempted to play as involved a part as BJ, complementing the music. His work on Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) is one of the best-constructed, intelligent approaches to drumming that I have ever heard. The way he leads us out of the organ solo is nothing short of inspired.


With all tentacles in play, the octopus unleashes a ubiquitous, flailing attack during a mid-70s concert.

Never at a loss to add something unexpected, BJ was continually a source of inspiration. His repetition of notational phrases played by other band members, as in Fires and Bacon, is jazz-like in conception. The drummer's drummer ... always in our hearts.


In a brief bearded period, BJ is seen here in a Creem magazine advertisement from 1971, promoting Broken Barricades.


'Got any merry-wanna?' read the caption below beloved BJ. If only we had known. Then again, with addictions, it doesn't matter if a trend is noted or not. Interventions are known to work from time to time, but are by and large unsuccessful. Though not at the juncture which tragically ended his life so prematurely, BJ was a textbook alcoholic. Harsh words for some perhaps, but the truth. I miss him most of all ... like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. That really hurt to write.


BJ from Procol Harum – A Band of Changes. The article itself said Nothing That We Didn't Know already. Simply, that the drummer and guitarist were 'mainstays'.

I also feel that BJ's drumming underwent a massive metamorphosis between 1969 and 1971. Though he developed even further in his technique, it was around 1970 – 71 that he started to sit on his stool only about fifteen inches above the floor. Take a look at the later pictures of BJ: he is practically on the floor.

Such interpretatively skilled drummers are extremely rare. His drumming was as sensitive as his soul seemed to be.

He was irreplaceable. Period.

Index for Larry Pennisi's pictures

Barrie's daughter, Sarah Jane Wilson, responds

Memorial picture

In the studio

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