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'BJ: Master of the Courageous Fill'

Richard Amey in Worthing Advertiser, 9 August 1995

Haunting the fervour among Procol Harumís fans, in seeing their band revived and playing Britain for the first time in 18 years, will be a shadow of sadness: the absence of drummer BJ Wilson.

Their 1991 album The Prodigal Stranger was dedicated to him and so, too, should be this British Tour, which has prestigiously selected Worthing Assembly Hall on August 19 as one of its only eight dates.

Barrie James Wilson died after three years in a coma after a drug overdose at his Oregon home, following family problems.

It is a dismaying revelation to those fans who had met BJ. He seemed an ordinary, cheerful man of Southend, in group photos and offstage almost too conventionally dressed for a rock musician, let alone a drummer.

Wild he came across as definitely not. As a supremely innovative, sensitive and powerfully dynamic instrumentalist, he inescapably

From a lad on the side drum in a Boys' Brigade band, he became one of the most admired, sought-after drummers of late 60s, 70s and 80s rock. {picture, left, of BJ in Boys' Brigade band Ö for more, see here}

On stage, he wore usually a short-sleeved shirt, to keep cool. He positioned his kit front stage left, opposite the piano, so the band could see him without turning round.

He tightened his stool low, so the snare drum was at stomach, and often, before Procol took the stage, he would quietly move from behind the curtain to check the kitís set-up.

He more or less invented the dramatic drum entry, imitated incessantly since Procolís A Salty Dog and Joe Cockerís With A Little Help From My Friends.

From then on, every Procol track started in anticipation of what he was going to play.

His last work with Procol Harum voice and pianist Gary Brooker was on Brookerís 1980s solo albums.

"Weíd been pals since 1963," Brooker told me. "He made friends everywhere. It was tragic. I played the piano to him in his coma, played him the Prodigal Stranger tapes, but it did no good.

"He loved the instrument of drums. He knew it was much more special than just something on which to bang out a disco beat.

"He was a master of creating the courageous fill. He wasnít interested in just playing a straight 4-4 beat.

"And he would read a song. He knew the words. He followed me singing and the piano acutely: listening, anticipating and knowing when to play something to enhance the music.

"Some people are irreplaceable. His contributions were unique."

BJís replacement on tour will be Graham Broad, who has played with Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Paul McCartney and Van Morrison.

On bass will be Matt Pegg, son of Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention, who despite his tender years, has already made several Procol Harum and Jethro Tull world tours.

The guitarist will be Geoff Whitehorn, five years with Procol already, formerly with Bad Company, If and Crawler.

For a pair of tickets to the Worthing concert: how many vestal virgins were heading for the coast? Answer to me at Cannon House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing BN1 1NA by Monday. Enclose your address and telephone number.

BJ Wilson's page at 'BtP' 

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