Imagining Community: Remembering Carey

Paying respect to one of Chico's favorite sons

Carey Wilson (left) with the author in 2017.

The planet lost one of its finest artistic reflections on Tuesday, Sept. 27 with the death of Carey Wilson. It was always a joy spending time with my friend Carey, with his gentle smile and carefree laugh, augmenting well crafted words.

“The courage and honesty brought to the performances at this benefit was wonderful to witness. And the sense of community shared by the women on stage as well as those in the audience was palpable and exhilarating for this male attendee.” Carey’s closing paragraph from his CN&R article “Raunchy and the Sweet[“, published July 27, 2017

I was fortunate, like so many others in the local culture scene, to have had Carey cover one of my events. Better yet, Carey’s coverage of Chico Ladies Night, articulated so well, marked the transition of acquaintance into friendship.

I collaborated with Carey on two Imagining Community projects in the final 12-months of his life, “In Concert with Water” which aired on KZFR 90.1FM in September of 2021 and the Carey Wilson Appreciation Show in June of 2022.

Here are a couple of Carey’s poems from “In Concert with Water”:

“The Hours”: In deep still watches of the night the hours float by like dreaming whales. And tracing moon-trails on their flukes, the seconds crawl like snails.

“Reincarnation”: The old dog climbed out of the water and shook himself dry. Then he jumped back in.

Carey Wilson was born on June 3, 1954, to Oliver and Bernice Wilson. He grew up a cowboy kid, hunting and fishing on and near the big old-time ranches managed by his father Oliver in the states of California, Montana, Idaho and Nevada. He graduated from Corning High in 1972 and received his BA in English in 1984 from Chico State.

Carey had a wide variety of talents including a deftness for archery and his self-taught mastery of the drums. (He learned to play by listening to The Ventures.)

Carey was employed in a variety of occupations in the course of his life including welder, roofer, writer, graphic designer, musician and personal support worker. He wrote the Culture Vulture column in the Chico News and Review from 2003-2007 and won the CN&R CAMMIES Hogan/West/LaPado Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

His greatest loves were music, books and friends.

Dozens of Carey’s loved ones have been sharing thoughts and condolences on Facebook, which was a creative outlet for Carey, and a crucial one since he entered into hospice care in late June. Carey was so thankful to hospice at his home in Chico for most of the summer before being readmitted into Glenn Medical Center where he passed away last week.

Below is a small snippet of the online outpouring of love for Carey.

This talented, caring, amazing man passed peacefully last night knowing how very loved he was by all of you. Thank you all for making his life full and showing him how much you cared for him until the very end. –Carey’s niece Erica Wilson-Kinyon

As an artist it’s incredibly rare to read someone write about what you do and feel like they truly ‘got it.’ Beyond critique, beyond compliment. The jolt of affirmation and recognition is incomparable. It’s the type of thing that really does keep you going. Carey Wilson did that for me not once, but twice. Invaluable. RIP.–Longtime Chico actor and musician Matt Hammons

Heartbroken today with the news of the passing of our beloved Carey Wilson … drummer extraordinaire and one of the loveliest humans to walk this earth. As all who were privileged to cross his path over the years, we are so much the better for it. So glad I was able to connect upon my return … just so sad it was for such a brief amount of time. Rest In Peace my friend.–Todd Steinberg, old-school Chico bassist

Cheers to Carey Wilson, lover of words, music and everything weird, a true kindred spirit. I don’t think I ever encountered him without a smile on his face and something witty or insightful on the tip of his tongue. His presence was a gift to Chico and all who knew him. Farewell, friend.–Ken Smith, local musician and staff writer at CN&R

Rest In Peace Carey. I worked with him for years, watched him play amazing drums, and talked hours about music (lots of Hawkwind). He was a talented and sweet weirdo in the purest sense.–Mark Lore, former CN&R arts editor/writer

It was always a pleasure to visit with you and clink glasses, read your reviews and columns and listen/dance to your music. A true Chico icon has moved on. Sad for us and I’ll miss you Carey Wilson.–Sherry A. Butler

40 Years of friendship and frolic. Honored to have known him. RIP Carey Wilson.–KZFR radio personality Rick Carr

Carey Wilson and I first met in the English dept. at Chico State, then worked together at Moon Publications, where he did graphics for a couple of my travel books. I don’t think too many know that he also worked (very!) closely with C. Owsley Rain on the design, type-setting, and cover art for Henri Bourride’s book of collected News and Review “Chow” columns. I always appreciated his intellect and sly humor. I will miss him greatly, as will so much of Chico.–Steve Metzger, retired Chico State English instructor, author, longtime CN&R contributor

I’ve been playing Captain Beefheart most of the day. I’m realizing that somehow this music reminds me of the talks Carey and I had concerning the Captain. Captain’s music going up off into space, just like Carey.–Scott Pressman, Chico musician

Sad to hear long time Chico stalwart Carey Wilson passed away. Been out of town far too long to have any details but believe he had been battling the Big C for awhile. First time I came across him was not surprisingly behind a drum kit at the old Palmz nightclub with Secret Service. And then with too many bands to remember afterwards as he delved into his musical passions. Think this is the only recording I have of that band. Hope they have only OG greasy/dusty taco wagon Taco Cortez Chicken Chimichangas and always at the ready drum keys in the after life my old friend.–Feeney Arnold, Chico musician

And so it goes
As we cherish
Carey, and his prose.

Check out my special Imagining Community episode for Carey, “Remembering Carey Wilson.”

Bill “Guillermo” Mash is a Chico advocate, writer and radio personality, and one-man show behind Imagining Community, a grassroots media and civic engagement endeavor “sharing stories that make our collective imaginations sparkle and engage.”

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5 Comments

  1. Carey’s friendship and presence were invaluable gifts that I will always appreciate. Thank you, Carey.

      • I got to visit Carey briefly in Chico in late July, when I was there with my husband and brother. It had been a very long time, and I’m so glad I got to see him.
        Thanks for writing this about Carey.

  2. So sad to hear of Carey’s passing and his struggle to fight this disease that he lost the battle to. I got to know Carey as my brother in law since 1970 and his kind spirit. My condolences to his family and friends.

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