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Billy Wilson

Billy at our 40th Reunion, 1996









Country Soul - 1977

Mike Bennett,  Charlie Thomas,  Ann Darnell,  Steve Smith,  Bill Wilson

Rock 'n' roll's 'first' drummer Wilson dies

EL PASO - A local rock 'n' roll pioneer has gone on to that big gig in the sky. Billy Wilson - who drummed for the Rock Kings and backed greats such as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard - died Monday morning in the living room of his East El Paso home, according to his wife, Alma Jean Wilson.

He was 69.

Wilson pounded the skins for the Kings in the 1950s. They are considered one of the first rock bands in El Paso. He might have been the first rock drummer in El Paso.

"Billy was the first rock 'n' roll drummer I ever saw," said Dalton Powell, former drummer of the Bobby Fuller Four. "He was probably the first actually out there playing in El Paso."

Powell remembers seeing Wilson behind the drums at weekly teen dances the Kings played at Fort Bliss.

"He was one of my first inspirations to play. He was a great guy," Powell said.

That's a sentiment expressed by other local music figures, including Tim Thompson, choral director at El Paso High School, who played with Wilson in the band City Limits in the 1980s.

"We immediately just became like brothers. He was an incredible guy ... He'd just do anything for anybody. He was that kind of guy," Thompson said, adding "a lot of people are torn up about this."

Wilson's death came shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his wife said.

"He didn't have any symptoms," widow Alma Jean Wilson said.

But the cancer was detected after a doctor's visit in October, she said. Wilson declined further treatment after one round of chemotherapy, according to Rick Kern, a local music historian who runs the Web site

Kern said Wilson attended, but did not perform at, the first Border Legends Jam in October, where rock musicians from the '60s and '70s shared the stage.

"He looked good," Kern said.

In addition to the Rock Kings and City Limits, Wilson was a go-to guy for name artists who needed a kitman in a hurry. He played fill-in stints with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck and LeRoy Van Dyke.

He also declined an offer to join Austin steel guitarist extraordinaire Junior Brown's band, his wife said.

"He got Billy's name from some other musicians," she said.

She met Wilson during his tenure in City Limits. Their 14-year relationship - they were married the last three - started with a crush.

"I was so dog gone bashful back then that the guys would go up to the bar to get drinks and he'd go, 'Hi, how are you?,' and I'd say 'I'm fine' and turn around," she recalled.

She said the generosity to which Thompson referred carried over into her husband's business life. He's run City Limits Sewer and Drain Service for more than 20 years.

"My younger son went on a job with him and there was an older lady who couldn't pay them any more, so she gave them some cookies," she said. "He would do that. If people couldn't afford it, especially some of the older people, he wouldn't charge."

A benefit concert, announced last week, to help defray Wilson's mounting medical bills will go on as planned, Kern and Thompson said.

It's at 3 p.m. Nov. 30 at the American Legion Hall, 3720 Shell, just off Montana near Airway Blvd., and will include many of Wilson's friends and fellow musicians.

"He didn't have any insurance or anything," Thompson said.

Funeral arrangements were pending and are being handled by Mt. Carmel Funeral Home.

Wilson, who served in Vietnam in the U.S. Army in the 1960s, probably will be buried at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, his widow said.

He is survived by son Rick Olds and daughters Kisha Woody and Crystal Dawn Wilson, and stepsons Charles Lonewolf Crews and Marvin Dale Crews.

Email your memories and comments of and about Billy to

40th Reunion, 1996

Jack Valdespino,  Billy Wilson,  Ed Thurman,  Bobby Jones

Billy was one of our classmates who finished senior year at Burgess High School.  He was a great guy and a fearless football player.  Billy we will miss you and God's speed.   Jim Cobb, El Paso

Billy lived a colorful life.  Did it his way, even when it was not the easiest way.  We had a good run. I'm gonna miss him............bad.  Richard Cook, El Paso

Billy was a great guy, this makes me very sad.  He will be missed by many.  Co, you will understand this--- He's going to the big GIG in the sky.  Glenn 'Bo' Bowman, San Antonio

Yeah Bo, now Sue will have to listen to Billy's GIG stories.  For those of you that don't know, a bunch of us had some good times at the ranch, we'd fish and hunt all day and at night we'd drink a lot and tell stories.. One night Billy didn't have much to say, just sat around and listened to all of us laughing and telling jokes.. we were ready finally to hit the rack but Billy was just getting wound up, he started telling Air Borne and Gig stories, about the life and times of Billy Wilson when he was on the road playing gigs in California, Montana, back east and all over the U.S.  God bless you Billy.  Richard 'Co' Cook

Richard's Ranch, 1998

Dog,  Bruce Harper,  Billy Wilson,  Richard 'Co' Cook,  Glenn 'Bo' Bowman

May this man rest in peace he sat in with us many times and we loved him please let us know if we can help with any thing you need.  Rev.
Kelly O'Dell, a friend in St. Louis MO

There is (was) a benefit concert at the American Legion Post #36 on Sunday, November 30th. You can also send donations in care of the Ladies Auxiliary at 3730 Shell St. El Paso, TX 79925.
"If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand, if there's a rock n roll heaven then you know they got a heck of a band"...... Billy, you're home, you just arrived sooner, we're yet to follow!   Billy influenced many drummers more than he ever realized. Most notable is Dalton Powell. He influenced me, too. Ironically, he influenced me further though Dalton.  Skip Clark, El Paso
Billy surely received extra special notice in a big city like El Paso, because he was an extra special person.  It was always a treat to talk with him.  Nicest man in the world.  So sorry he's gone.  May he rest in peace.  Bobby Jones, Van Horn