David Wilcox and North Carolina are a perfect match
These words gushed from my mouth without the slightest notion that
my brain had endorsed the announcement.
My wife and I were hiking along one of the many trails that criss-cross
the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was deep in thought—probably focusing on the
way my Crocs make a squishing-sound when they encounter muck—when
I looked up and there he was. David Wilcox.
By the time I had strangely, and unreasonably, shouted the legendary
folk-musicians name, my brain had restrained any further outbursts, and
thankfully kept me from saying what I wanted to say next—which was,
“What are you doing here?!”, as if famous musicians don’t belong on trails
criss-crossing the Parkway.
As I approached the renowned object of my vociferation, I politely
waved, he nodded, smiled and passed—and my brief, embarrassing
encounter with fame had ended. As I turned to look at my wife—whose
path had now encountered the approaching talent—she smiled a knowing
smile, spoke a reserved, “Hi”, to Mr. Wilcox, and then smiled at me, saying
with her eyes, “You are such a big Goober!”
Regrettably for me, she was right.
In a much less-cringeworthy fashion, Nancy and I were unofficially
introduced to Mr. Wilcox one summer evening in the late 80’s when we
attended a small concert at McDibbs (aka, The Veranda). It was a casual
affair, and although I’m not exactly certain he remembers us—we were second row
back, third and fourth seat on his right and clearly observable by indirect
lighting from the stage—we remember him. And somehow, without much
effort on our part, we ended up at his small-venue concerts every three - four
For some, his folksy, impassioned, story-telling melodies resemble a
harmonic-convergence of James Taylor, Henry David Thoreau and Mark
Twain. For others, Wilcox requires more specificity; rapturous virtuoso
picking; a crisp and engaging voice; layered, nuanced and philosophical
lyrics; stories evoking full-monty heart-break to knee-slapping
Although no one can legitimately pigeon-hole the music and lyrics of
David Wilcox (see above), of one thing all who’ve heard him would agree—
his tunes are singularly, ingeniously profound.
Consequently, in the natural absence of teeny-bobbers, cell-phonewaving
groupies and people dancing in the aisles, Wilcox draws those who
like to hear bluesy, intricate guitar—and those who like to contemplate
words. Deep, soul-stirring—sometimes witty—eloquent words. Words that,
when connected, form thoughts and stories that require focused,
prolonged, intimate chewing (and perhaps, even digestion).
Which may explain why his popularity remains on the low-key side of
things. Although playing gigs from Santa Monica to Winston-Salem—with
venues the likes of McGabes Guitar Shop or the Muddy Creek Music Cafe
and Music Hall—David’s venues are usually 300-seaters or less (usually
less), and understandably, he seems to like it that way. Intimacy is central
to his vibe—and to his listeners.
Perhaps intimacy is why David Wilcox lives in North Carolina (and
occasionally hikes along the sparsely populated trails of the Blue Ridge
Parkway). Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Wilcox moved to the Asheville
area in 1980 and never looked back. Speaking of his past and present
home-states, Wilcox commented, “I got out of [Ohio] as quick as I could; do
you know anyone who likes it there? [Today,] I get to speak from a state
that has dignity. [I am] in a state that has been a country before and looks
forward to being one again.”
Referring to Carolinians' fiercely independent spirit, Wilcox sounds like
one of us (I arrived from South Carolina in 1976, and figure longevity
counts for something).
A largely conservative state, contesting everything from state sanctioned lotteries to men wandering around in women’s bathrooms, Tar Heels have employed somewhat of a common-sense, we’ll-do-it-our-way approach to life—aided, of course, by a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands (the Outer Banks) and a deeply convoluted interior (thousands of soaring ridges and isolationist valleys).
Self-government, and folksy-independent music, are in our terrain and
in our veins (and highlighted on our State Flag, which incorrectly supposes
NC declared independence from the British—both politically and musically
—in May of 1975, a year before Jefferson’s Declaration (somebody should
probably correct this historical error, but NC politicians are too independent
to admit their impropriety).
Anyway, the point is, Wilcox and North Carolina seem to be
symbiotically connected at the guitar, a feature which makes for pleasant,
profound, intimate, melodiously independent songs. Honestly, the two
deserve each other.
And in this spirit of symbiosis and mutual enjoyment, it’s about time
North Carolinians named something after him.
Some—the 21st Century crowd—have suggested we rename the
Jesse Helms Center after him. Others have recommended a “Wilcox
Beer”—the kind of brewski that suddenly makes you giddy, compassionate
and sentimental, all at once. Maybe a solitary, elusive peak will do—Mt.
Wilcox—carpeted in rich evergreens, sheathed in an enchanting mist,
encircled by a crystal clear, softly crooning stream.
One large North Carolinian advocated for the creation of a big fat,
“Wilcox Special”—a juicy barbecue sandwich with a thick, rich,
contemplative sauce (his motives were questionable).
I’m guessing David might be able to come up with something a little
classier—like maybe something people shout-at when they see it. “Look,
it’s the DAVID WILCOX”!
Personally, I kind of like that idea. It would certainly bring clarity to my