Arts DEVO: ‘Chico’s drummer’

Rest in Power, Carey Wilson

Carey Wilson (photo by Ken Pordes)
Jason Cassidy

Bone Gruel, Mummified Mice, The Grassy Knoll, Living Karaoke Band, You Poor Devil, Stickmen, Booze, Verves, Sin Twister, Danny Cohen’s Near Death Experience, Lonesome Cowboys, Incredible Diamonds, John LaPado Band, The Trousers, Vibrio, Sexotics, Resistors, Rosie & the Moonshiners, Midnight Rage, IGC & the Green Things, Skiffle, Folkenstein, The Lovely Amanitas, Biggs Roller, The Time Beings, Walter Ego, Starting Today, The Party, Lisa Langley & the LPs, Bobby Weir Band, Third Rail, Tequila Mockingbird, Mutated Funk, Secret Service, Technical Difficulties, Forlorn Hope, Wounded Pickup, The Stuff That Leaks Out, Bender, Poser, Peanich Stoolidge, Tim McKee Band, Carey Wilson’s FryBaby, Tom Blodgett Band, Shakespeare in the Park Green Show Band, Unnamed Barn Band (with Dan McLaughlin, Tim Kemper, John LaPado, et al), Rev. Jim’s Birthday Band, Kentucky Derby Party Band (with Doug Stein and Saul Henson).

That is the (very likely incomplete) list of bands (in no particular order) for which Carey Wilson sat on the throne during his decades spent playing drums in this music-crazy town. Sept. 27, following a diagnosis of stage 4 lymphoma and a summer of treatment, cancer caught up to Chico’s Drummer. Carey died at Glenn Medical Center. He was 68.

This is where Arts DEVO writes about his connection with the deceased artist/musician/friend, using this newspaper column to mourn and amplify a person’s impact for readers. It’s a trick I learned from Carey, actually—or should I say from Culture Vulture? Really, it’s C. Owsley Rain, Carey’s nom de plume for the Culture Vulture column that ran every week in the CN&R for four years (2003-07).

My hiring as the paper’s arts editor coincided with his first column, and even though we already knew each other from the local music scene, it was through reading/editing Carey’s words (and collaborating as his coworker—he being the designer of the pages I edited) that I began to understand, and be inspired by, his openhearted approach to devouring life and sharing the adventure with others.

His notes on friends, departed or otherwise, were my favorites and were where he loosed his writer chops to illuminate the character of the characters he ran with (one of my faves being the unforgettable “We’re the only ones who know” piece on legendary musician-about-town John LaPado). The memorials weren’t obituaries. They were opportunities to think deeply, consider meaning and offer proof that making memories is why we’re all here.

To look at that list of his groups—many for which Carey was the catalyst—and consider for one minute the number of people to whom he was connected in the bands and in the audiences, the mind reels at the number of memories/connections he created. Add Carey’s documentation of the local music/arts/social scene, both in his column and as a reviewer for the CN&R on and off for 20-plus years, plus the fact that the energy he put into all of this was actually surpassed by his gentle and kind nature, and it’s no wonder a wave of Chicoans flooded the interwebs with cherished memories of a man who had a gift for creating them.

Even though he was prone to hyperbole himself, Carey would probably pooh pooh such grand assessments, so I’ll wrap things up with this:

One of the qualities I admire most in a person is openness to new ideas, and the people I’ve looked up to as examples for how to live this life are those who’ve sustained this mindset as they age. In this, my friend Carey was the paragon. He may have been disproportionately obsessed with one band—his all-time favorite, Hawkwind—but his fixation did not cloud his fresh-eyed approach to all the world’s offerings. Thanks for sharing the ways of the seeker, Carey. I try to remember to keep my eyes open every single day.

From the entire News & Review family, Rest in Power.

And the beat goes on.


  1. I love Carey and appreciate this article, Jason. I was writing to Carey in hospital while Carey kept his FB as a journal of his recovery. I deactivated all my media accounts before he passed, and so I was informed of his death by a close friend. I know Chico will not be the same without him. Carey’s love for others was always on his sleeve and in his sweet smile. But for all his friendships I know he was lonely for love. He never had that mutally connected sweetheart that he craved, and all that love spilled out from him toward his friends. Keep drumming, Carey.

  2. I am glad Carey is at peace now and no longer in pain but as a community this loss is a real gut punch. Somebody out there needs to commission a mural for him so we can see his owlish face smiling at us forever and ever.

  3. My dear cousin you will be missed. Sad we didn’t stay closer after all our elders passed. We did have some good times when kids. RIP cous.

  4. Thank you for this Jason. Carey was a gentle soul and will be missed. Like Barbara I’m not on social media so I was only made aware of his death through this column. Wish I could have helped more. Imagine there will be a lot of folks from out of town the weekend of his memorial. I have a small extra bedroom if anyone needs space to stay over Saturday. It’ll be nice to see folks. Sadly funerals are the new was we can all connect again.

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