Interviews with Blues Artists on the Records That Move Them

Blues Artists discuss the recordings throughout their lives that impacted them deeply. A sound biography, as it were. 

Today, Dear Reader, we’re debuting a column called AUDIObiography©, a glimpse into the listening life of musical artists from first memories until the present. We’re including YouTube links for easy access to each of the artist’s choices. Enjoy listening to each and every record as our interviewee recollects songs that earmark significant times of his or her life! 

Today’s Guest: 


            We caught up with none other than singer OSCAR WILSON during a recording session for a new CASH BOX KINGS album, yet to be titled. Lead vocalist and contributing songwriter to this brilliant blues band, Mr. Wilson is an especially apt choice due to his prolific listening habits, ability to memorize song lyrics and passion for the great music of the past. He truly lives up to the nickname coined by bandmate Billy Flynn, “the human jukebox.”  

      Peter Hurley: Hey, thanks for contributing to our inaugural column, Oscar. I can think of no better interviewee than yourself. We’re going to focus on record listening and how meaningful it was in shaping your musical life. So, what is the very first recorded music that you remember? 

Oscar Wilson: Oh, I remember that well.  It was “Work With Me Annie” [Listen to this song here] when I was about 3 years old. My sister told me, “If you are old enough to sing along with that you’re old enough to go to the bathroom by yourself!”I caught a little hell for not getting there in time after that. Come to find out later, that a lot of people reacted strongly to that record.

Hurley: That must be memorable for sure! That’s bound to make an impression. As you went on listening to the radio and records growing up, what was the record that you first related to personally?”

Wilson: That would be “The Entertainer” by Tony Clark [Listen to this song here]. As the youngest of nine kids, I had to entertain to get noticed. I could say that song was written about me, definitely. Had to learn to stand out. And I learned. Check out the lyrics to “The Entertainer,” that one nails it.

      Hurley: I can relate, I come from a family of ten. Music, especially the singles that poured forth from the AM airwaves in the early days were an oasis. Though instrumental music has a special power, what was the record where you became most aware of the vocal as a major instrument? 

      Wilson: “Goodnight Sweetheart” by Pookie Hudson & The Spaniels [Listen to this song here.]

My older brothers sang that one in a group. People are surprised when I sing doo-wop during our Cash Box King sets, but all my influences are on display. We include this in a medley of classics. 

     Hurley: Doo-wop is a special form of street blues, isn’t it? So much about teenage love, joys and sorrows.  Speaking of which, did you have a record that became “your song” with someone you loved or wished you knew better? 

Wilson: “As” [Listen to this song here] by Stevie Wonder. Stevie was and is a genius and this one takes me to a different place. So many of Stevie’s songs are special, you could choose any among his whole catalog. But “As” for sure.

Hurley: There were so many groups from that era that came and went. Not Stevie, obviously, but what “one hit wonder” record is one of your faves? 

      Wilson:Well, speaking of singing to a girl, “Expressway to Your Heart” by The Soul Survivors [Listen to this song here] was a thing I’d croon to my target of affection. That’s some blue-eyed soul right there. I would sing that one to a girl I liked in 8th grade. It’s always about a girl, isn’t it?. 

      Hurley: True, that. As you became more aware of the recording process and how it is to be present when musical moments are made, what record or record album would you have liked to have participated in making?       

Wilson: Any Lightning Hopkins record… yes, any one. My father used to play guitar like that and it drew me close to him to hear him play. This was the blues, man. I lost my father when I was very, very young but my mother loved the blues too. Especially on Fridays, she’d put on some Lightning Hopkins and it would just move me.

I always associate Lightning Hopkins with my family and it gives me a real good feeling. I met some blues greats in my life; Honeyboy Edwards used to live down the street from us, but we knew him as Honeyman. But I never met Lightning Hopkins and that would’ve been a dream for me. [Listen to Lighting Hopkins Texas Blues Man Album here]

       Hurley: Speaking of dreams, what song/record do you wish you would have written? 

         Wilson: “A Gift of Love” by The Impressions. [Listen to the song here] The great Jerry Butler takes the lead on that one. I loved the sincerity and majestic vocals in that song before I even knew romantic love at that time. And when I did fall in love at a later age, it made this all the more meaningful. Jerry Butler is a master.   

        Hurley: Was that the record that inspired you to believe that you, too, could sing? Or was there another?

        Wilson: “What About My Love” by Johnnie Taylor. [Listen to the song here]

My brother-in-law was a musician, Bass Man Pete, they used to call him. I sang that song with the band when they’d rehearse and that inspired them to ask me to go out and play with them. I went out and sang a few times but the musician life style looked tough. I had kids to support at the time and couldn’t quite pick up on it as a profession. But now that my kids are grown, I love it with a passion.   

      Hurley: Beyond passion, what is that record for you that is a “guilty pleasure,” one that you have trouble admitting that you like? 

WilsonThat one would be “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley [Listen to the song here]. I’ll turn this one up on the car radio if I’m by myself. It’s got that old r&b feel but I wouldn’t admit to singing along with it to my friends. Well, you got it out of me.  

   Hurley: The car radio must be the sweetest place to have the best listening experience! It ain’t a record until it sounds great blasting from a moving vehicle. Out and loud. With that in mind, what record has the best recorded sound to your ears? 

      Wilson: “Angel Eyes” by Gene Ammons [Listen to the song here]

Oh my, that man can play and Angel Eyes has a sound that is so sublime. We knew Gene Ammons’s kids growing up, played baseball with them and everything. Folks might say, “This cat’s better” or “That guy can really blow!” but when I think of jazz, Ammons is the man with the sound I always have in my mind and heart.  

  Hurley: Being from Chicago, we were lucky to hear his soulful playing filling the clubs. What record did you know would be a hit upon first hearing? 

      Wilson: That would be “While I’m Alone” by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly [Listen to the song here]. Man, I used to think I wrote that song! I’d have my radio by my side at night and that song’d come on at some point in my sleep. It seeped into my consciousness until that song was in me. 

    If I heard it during the daytime, I’d wonder “how did they know my song?”

     Hurley: I have to laugh at that. I fell asleep to my older brother’s transistor under my pillow with my ear to it every night. When he’d come in after I’d fallen asleep, he’d pound me on my arm and take it back. I never did learn not to take his transistor; the temptation was too great. What record did you love that you wouldn’t play for a parent, Oscar? 

Wilson: Oh, man, “If 6 Was 9” by Jimi Hendrix [Listen to the song here]. Hendrix was bad. I had a garage full of albums back then and my mother would tell me to take his records off anytime I’d start playing ‘em. But she did like the slow blues version of Voodoo Chile,’ though. That had some blues that she was familiar with and wasn’t so loud for her.    

      Hurley: Yeah, that was the album era. When it came to singles, what was the first record that you owned/bought with your own money?

Wilson:  “The Love That I Found” by The Brothers of Soul [Listen to the song here]
I had a summer job at our local church at about 12 or 13 and the first thing I did with the little bit of money I got was buy this 45. I treasured that and it led to a whole lotta years of collecting. 

Hurley: Last question for now, Oscar: If you had to choose only one record to bring on a spaceship that represented MUSIC OF PLANET EARTH to other intelligent life, what would it be? 

Wilson: “As” by Stevie Wonder [Listen to the song here].

That, right there, is a song for every form of life and for all time.

     Hurley: Thanks very much for this, Oscar, this has been a delight and a privilege. Good luck with your new record. Please say hello to your Cash Box King bandmates and let’s stay in touch.

     Wilson: You got it, man.

– Peter M. Hurley, May 24, 2022