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Dan & Wes

I just got word tonight that my friend and former bandmate Dan Stokes died last week. Attached is a photo of Dan and Wesley in Salt Lake City. The following is my recollection of the time we played with the Wesley Willis Fiasco in NYC a few years ago...

My old band was opening for Wesley Willis when he was still playing with the Wesley Willis Fiasco, I think it would have been '96. The bill was just us and then the Fiasco, which was cool. There weren't many people in the audience, because my band wasn't popular, but Wesley was sitting in the audience, drawing a huge picture of a bus. During a break between songs, our singer introduced the next song by making some sort of reference to Wesley Willis - something about the title of the song having something to do with whipping animal's ass with a belt, or something. No reaction from Wesley, still drawing his bus. Then a few songs later, during the next between-song break, Wesley starts BELLOWING. "THAT'S RIGHT I LOVE TO ROCK 'N' ROLL AND I'M-A GET UP THERE AND ROCK THE JAM SESSION AND WHOOP THE LLAMA'S ASS TO THE MAX!" Cool. We were about to start the next song, but he was still yelling. "I'M-A ROCK THE SHIT OUT OF THE ROCK 'N' ROLL JAM SESSION!" All right. Then he started hawking his CDs. "AND I HAVE CDS OF MY ROCK 'N' ROLL MUSIC FOR SALE - TEN DOLLARS EACH...TWO FOR TWENTY!" What a deal! Finally he stopped yelling and we can go back to playing. While we were playing he started hassling my friend Laurie to buy CDs from him, and she eventually gave in and bought one. After Wesley's set (which originally was not going to include "Pop That Pussy", because Wesley did not want to "talk vulgar in front of beautiful women", but eventually he relented and also did "Casper the Homosexual Friendly Ghost") we talked to him and asked if he liked our set. "I LIKED IT! YOU BOYS KNOW HOW TO BRING THE ROCK 'N' ROLL JAM SESSION!" Awesome. He headbutted our drummer many, many times and demanded that he "say RAWR!" a bunch of times too. So I asked if he would write a song about us. He took out his notebook, asked the name of our band, and wrote it down. We were the page after AC/DC! When we were loading our stuff out I asked one of the Fiasco guys if he just tells everyone he's going to write a song about them or if he actually writes all of them. He assured me that he wrote pretty much all of them, and when I mentioned the notebook he said "oh, if you're in the notebook then he's definitely gonna write it." I've yet to find evidence of our song being recorded, but this show was one of the highlights of our band existence, no question.

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After The Wesley Rock 'n' Roll Show

What can I say about Wesley Willis that hasn't already been said? I�ll be the first to admit I was attracted to him by his peculiarly redundant style and bizarre lyrics. He wasn�t just amusing, he redefined hilarity and did so unintentionally. But I stumbled onto Wesley during a transitional stage in my own life, one of maturation and independency. It wasn't long until I'd awakened and saw he wasn�t just the big schizophrenic black guy who sang about sucking dogs� dicks; he was a victim of an mental illness which he could never completely escape.

During my freshman year at Purdue, two years ago, I heard that Wesley was performing in my native Indianapolis. Braving a blizzard of epic proportions (i.e., a typical Indiana snowstorm), several friends and I saddled up and drove down to Indy�s Radio Radio. Once there, we were devastated to learn the over-21 establishment wouldn�t allow us to view the show. We were, however, permitted to meet Wesley. Of course I headbutted him, as is his usual method of greeting, and settled for buying 5 CDs and a t-shirt because he had none of his artwork for sale. To say I was ecstatic would be like calling Wesley "somewhat likable". I saw Wesley Willis as considerably more than just a guy who wrote music; to me, he was simultaneously a rock star as well as the personification of courage.

When I learned of Wesley's leukemia through Yahoo's Wesley Willis Fan Club, I was disheartened but patient nonetheless. I followed the group�s postings and even sent a birthday/get well card when his address became available, just after his 40th birthday. I moved back to campus in early August and didn�t have internet access due to the move. Last I'd heard, Wesley was progressing. I'd seen his number posted, and wanted to call or visit him as soon as I could. Assuming the best, I procrastinated on contacting him and thus wasn't prepared for his passing once the news came. It was the heaviest ton of bricks I�ve ever had bestowed upon me, and I was disgusted with myself for putting off what now will never be.

Wesley Willis went from providing a good laugh to offering more inspiration I ever imagined possible. Many of his fans can�t possibly imagine the forty years he�s endured�belittling schizophrenic demons, leukemia, poverty, racism, a traumatizing adolescence in the projects. That list barely scratches the surface. Those who knew him best have related to me that he rarely let his disadvantages protrude through; instead, most people saw a charming, adorable 300+ pound teddy bear who just wanted to rawk. That's exactly the Wesley I met, and that's the rock star I�ll remember until I'm greeted in the next life with a headbutt.

Rock Over London, Rock On Chicago,
Kalin Schlueter - A Wesley Willis fan forever

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RIP Wesley

I'll never forget the time I first heard Wes's cover of "Girls on Film". I sat on the floor to my apartment with stereo up as loud as it could go. The walls shook and my cat cowered in the corner, confused and petrified. The best thing about it... my roommate left because of the noise.

Wesley never failed to bring a smile to my face no matter what the situation was. I spent many a night in the dark subways of Boston with my headphones on and "They Threw Me Out of Church" in my ear. That was the only way to survive crowds of screaming red sox fans and drunken college frat boys.

I regret not being able to get into TT the Bear's last time he came to Boston and it saddens me to know I'll never get a friendly headbutt. He'll be sorely missed here on the East Coast as well as the West.

As my friend said, there goes one of the last true punks.

Rock on Wesley

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As many know by now, the legendary Wesley Willis has gone.

Wesley was my favourite entertainer, not to mention one of the greatest stories I had ever heard in my life. I first heard Wesley in 2001. It was on the Blue Meanies live album. I'll never forget my uproar the first time I heard "Ladies and Gentlemen......THIS BAND CAN WHOOP A WILD HORSES ASS!, THIS BAND CAN WHOOP A BIG CAMELS ASS WITH A BELT!". My first Wesley song came with "I whupped Batman's Ass". Next was "Cut the Mullet". Within a week, I had learned the legend of Wesley Willis, and became a fanatic. Within three weeks, my friends dubbed me "Captain of the Wesleynauts".

When I was a boy, I moved from my native Ireland to Southern California where I am currently trapped, so needless to say, I am surrounded by yuppies and junior bros who think the Warped Tour is about as punk rock as it gets. Last summer, I had a brief stint carrying around a boom box in public places blasting Wesley as loud as I could, scaring the hell out of the cool dude infidel. Whenever the rare occasion that would happen when I would pass somebody who knew Wesley I would be greated with chants of "Rock over London, Rock on Chicago" and then greated with the slogans of whichever favourite of Wesley's brands that the people chose.

However, as much joy as Wesley brought, there was always a sad part of him. "Chronic Schizophrenia" is quite possibly the most sad song I have ever heard. Even made me cry the first time I did hear it. But through it all, Wesley persevered and overcame all his monstrous obstacles. Racism, Schizphrenia, Money troubles, People laughing at him, obesity and much much more. I had more respect for him than anyone else on the planet, and he is the greatest example of an artist I have ever seen.

Despite the sad side of Wesley, he always did manage to cheer me up. Whenever I was pissed off, I'd put in a Wesley CD and within a single minute, I'd be overjoyed again. Damn that Wesley, he never could leave me in a bad mood.

I'll never forget Wesley, or my adventures with my boombox and his lovely voice informing the world that "McDonalds is a place to rock!", and "Don't drink and drive if you want to stay alive!".

Rock on for eternity Wesley, I love you mate.

Senior Captain of the Wesleynauts
Sebastian Knowlton

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It's strange, being originally from Florida, I never knew Wesley Willis was at all famous until this weekend. However, I have a great memory of that guy. I lived for a few months in Seattle back in '95 and went and saw the band Sublime play with a couple of others at a small club. I think it was in the back of a Chinese restaurant. It was all very mellow. Sublime was in a booth talking to fans, Lou dog was roaming free around the club, and I was sitting at a table by myself having a beer waiting for the show to start. All of a sudden, this large black guy sits across from me leans forward and says, "Say Rah." I was kind of puzzled and didn't say anything, just stared at him. And he said it again, "Say Rah." So I very reluctantly let out a half ass "Rah." And then he headbutted me. I was a little surprised, but immediately he said it again, "Say Rah." So I said "Rah" again, this time with more enthusiasm, and he headbutted me again. This went back and forth four or five more times until he was satisfied that I understood, and without saying anything else he got up and walked away. Later on, I saw him play his set, and I did understand. Sublime ended up being horrible that night and blew an amp about halfway through. On my way out of the club, I stopped to say goodbye to Wesley as he was selling his cds out of a box. He only had one thing to say to me. "Say Rah," he said. I knew what to expect.

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Wesley & Scott

RIP Wesley

Scott Heisel http://www.Punknews.org Editor

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Hello!
I know you have no idea who I am but I am a friend of Wesley's. I just heard of his passing. I am devastated to say the least. I hadn't spoken to Wesley in a long time. Actually, the last time he called me I believe it was late last year I didnt' answer the phone because it was 1:30 AM and I knew I couldn't get off the phone with him and I just didn't pick up the phone. I could kick myself. I tried to call him back a couple of times but missed him. I guess I just wasn't trying hard enough. I was pregnant with my second child and just didn't make enough of an effort.

I met Wesley in 2000 at a concert I attend with my husband at a small club in West Virgina. I knew very little about him but the few songs I had heard were funny and in a weird way very catchy, I guess. My husband had been a "fan" for a few years and we had to go see him live and in person...I mean it was close and it was something to do, right? Well, when we arrived at the bar where he was performing we found him setting alone at the bar. My husband finally gathered the courage to introduce himself while I stood behind him...in shock and a little frightened by Wesley's actual size. Well, within minutes Wes had me butting heads and yelling "Rah" and yelling "Rowl"! I was terrified but then I found myself actually enjoying his company. We talked and he told me how great an artist he was. We helped him pedal some CD's and then during his concert he dedicated a song to me and blah! blah! blah! Sometime during all this I must have given him my number and to be polite, i guess, and invited him to visit my home if he were ever back in town. I mean I live in Kentucky!!!! What are the chances??? Well, Wesley began calling my husband and myself as I'm sure he does many many people. We developed a friendship and he decided he was coming to visit! I just couldn't tell him no! I panicked when he called and told me the date to pick him up at the airport but I just could not bring myself to turn him down. There was something sad about him I guess. I have a little girl that was about two at the time. I wasn't sure how "safe" he was...I mean what if he had a hellride like the many I had talked him down from since we met. Could I handle actually being around him during one? How would it effect my baby seeing one of these? So, I explained my concerns to Wes and he assured me he would be fine (of course!) and gave me the number to Tammy Smith to call for a reference. I called and explained my situation and she assured me he was "safe" and told me I could call her for anything during his stay. Well, Wesley came and stayed for the weekend. And although it was exhausting the whole time between the first meal....he downed a super-sized milkshake in about 10 seconds and then informed me he was lactose intolerant...to losing his jogging pants trying to get out of my floor revealing his "black crack" to myself and my two year old daughter...until he left and had a hellride boarding the plane because his headphones broke....it was an experience that I will never forget....he really changed the way I look at many things. He was such a great person. Sometimes it would break my heart when he would call me after that to talk him down from a hellride because I just wished I could hug him like one of my kids...ya know? He would call me over and over after he left. I'm sure he did many other people too. Once he called me from I think it was Colorado and I told him to make sure he kept his money hidden. That worried me so much. Because when he stayed with us he needed clothes and when I told him I would go to a specialty shop and get him some jogging pants without hesitation he handed me what must have been a couple of thousand dollars in cash. It was so scary to me that he trusted people that easily. I often felt like so many people took advantage of him...I know he understood more than he sometimes let on but still....he wanted so bad to be "cool" and have rock and roll fans that sometimes I think he tolerated cruelty instead of turning people away.

Anyway, I'm sorry to have written so much. I hope it makes sense. I just had read somethings you had written about him and you seemed so genuine that I wanted to contact you. I hope you don't mind.

One more thing before I let you go....did Wesley get a proper burial? Did he suffer long? If only I hadn't been selfish and picked up that phone that night or tried harder to contact him.....maybe I would have been there for him at the end. I just got so caught up in my life I didn't take the time to stay in contact because with Wes it took so much effort and strength to just be there for him.

Sincerely,
Roxy Haney
Grayson, Kentucky

PS Yes! Wesley Willis really stayed the weekend in a small town in Kentucky! How punk rock is that?

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Hi Uli
I remember Wesley's paintings on the wall of your office when we came over last year - very fine, and very individual, which is a mighty hard thing to do these days. At least you guys helped him get his stuff in front of people who wanted to listen, and that's really important. I forgot to mention it, but my friend Sexton Ming was in Berlin the other week doing a show, and we were talking before the gig about music, and he montioned Wesley's name in the course of just talking about the music he likes, so I had to break the news to him that Wesley had died. Sexton went onstage a little later and his opening words to the crowd said that he was dedicating the gig to Wesley, followed by "Rock over London, Rock over Chicago..." and then straight into the first song. Thought you might like to know.

all the best,

max decharne - the flaming stars

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Dear Maiko,
Before you read the following, I would just like to mention that the loss of Wesley Willis hit me very hard. I met Wesley two years ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan (I had driven 5 hours to get there) and he was one of the friendliest people I had ever met. When I found out about Wesley's passing, I wore my Wesley Willis shirt and made a wristband in his honor that read: W.W. 1963-2003. I wrote a tribute to Wesley for my university paper and I am hoping to get it published. I considered Wesley a friend and I will miss him very much. Please send my condolences to everyone at Alternative Tentacles.

Aaron Bronsteter
CFBU Music Director

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I thought ya'll would like to know about the tribute to Wesley Willis on this week's Dr. Demento show (if you weren't all ready aware of it). It was about six minutes in length, and also served as an effective mini-bio of Wesley. The good doctor played excerpts from several of his songs, and mentioned his love of seeing bands, inner demons, etc. Demento also read a moving tribute from Jello, and it was quite touching. Now I REALLY regret never seeing Wesley live! (One further note: this Wesley tribute was immediately preceded by a Jeff Foxworthy bit. Also featured on this same show (among others): The Cramps, Pearl Jam, and Monty Python. Only on Dr. Demento!)


Cheers to all,
Dennis Campa
San Antonio, TX

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Hello Jello and folks at AT,

I was totally bummed to hear about Wesley's passing, I became a fan of his about 6 - 7 years ago, got some of his discs, saw his documentary, which was amazing, and even got to see him live, meet him, get his autograph and picture taken with him.

When I heard about his passing I went to your site and was suprised to come across one of the pictures my friends and I had taken with him! I was just wondering how you got it, to see myself with Wesley Willis up on the site of the leader of one of my favorite bands growing up (that being Jello obviously) was quite amazing. One thing I have learned from his example is that dreams, like being on your favorite label for example, can actually be achieved, and just being on your site is amazing, thank you! I would like to be a part of a Wesley Willis tribute album if it ever happens, and I think it should. Ironically, I was wanting to cover something from him recently already. I too have a solo project, not quite like Wesley's but compatible enough to do my own version of one of his songs. raynoid.tk if you would be kind enough to check it out. Take care, long live "WW esley" (as he spelled his name in his signature he gave me)
Sincerely,
Ray Noid, Windsor ON Canada

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Wesley And Richard

In 2002 I graduated from Mount Vernon Highschool,a few months prior I had used a fake I.D. to sneak into a bar to see Wesley, and at that show I was put on the guest list for an upcoming show. At both shows, hanging out with Wesley at the merchandise table was equally as enjoyable as seeing him on stage. My face hurt from smiling. towards the end of my highschool days, the yearbook staff asked me to submit a picture of myself, so I gave them a picture of myself with Wesley and I was very specific to add that they were only allowed to use that picture in the yearbook if they included the caption "Richard Olmsted with Rock Legend Wesley Willis", which of course they did. Every year the video production class puts together something called senior video, I submitted footage of Wesley headbutting me. Telling me to say "rah!" and "roah". People would always ask me, and they still do "who was that rock legend you met- the one in the yearbook", and all I can say is "thats the rock legend,Wesley Willis".

I've tried to explain him to people before, but I always feel like I have failed, so I've stopped trying to give my own account of Wesley, and now I just tell people " go buy one of his albums ", - I know Wesley would have told them the same.

And sometimes people will call me up and say "hey, I got one of that Wesley guy's cd's", and they're laughing hysterically, and they say "this is the guy you said I could learn some life lessons from?" and with all seriousness I say yes. because thats the other thing, I think everyone should take a look at wesley's life, and a moment to reevaluate their own. Here is someone who has clearly had their share of misfortune in life, but someone who never forgot his friends, never gave up rock shows or art, bus rides or music, or anything else he loved. he lived life exactly like many of us wish we did. he rocked life like a magikist. he won't be forgetten.
-Richard

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I miss Wesley like the lightbulb in my bedroom. Two great lights are gone. I played the guitar but I was no good, then I bought a casiotone MT45, which I was also crap at playing. Originally I looked to keyboard greats like Roddy Bottom for my inspiration and then I heard Wesley for the first time. He was a true rocker and roller. I never went to any of his gigs cos we were at opposite ends of the earth but that never stopped me listening to his music. Wesley was and is the greatest, he is my inspiration. Rock over London, rock on Chicago --Wesley Willis rock it like a mules ass!!

-Buck Anal

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Craziest thing - Saturday Morning 8/23/03 I woke up with an overwhelming need to listen to my Wesley Willis CD throughout running around on all my errands. I had finished the entire CD before coming into work where I saw the e-mail that had posted after I left work the following day announcing his promotion to glory. I hadn't listened to the CD for months before that.

After reading the news, I found it all too difficult to listen through the CD without being overwhelmed with grief. I still can't. I couldn't believe how much it impacted me - & I feel that it must have had the same effect on most people. That's why I woke up with such an urgency to listen to his songs. The collective unconscious had whispered to me in my sleep that I'd never be able to listen to him the same again.

All hail Alternative Tentacles for showcasing all the wonderful things everyone has to say about Wesley, just as they showcased all the wonderful things Wesley had to say about all those he admired. Thank you for letting him do that, and keeping us updated on his health so we could show him our appreciation while he was alive through letters & such.

& because some things just can't be said, screamed, or sang enough.............Rock on Wesley Willis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Hello,
These are some pictures of a concert that my friend and I went to. We had a great time. May Wesley rest in peace.
Sincerely,

Ian Zack

Wesley At Show

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Dear A.T. Folks,
It's doubly sad that I'm learning of Wesley Willis's passing on the same day Johnny Cash has left us. Like Cash, Willis was a unique and irreplacable musical personality. I will miss them both.

I first heard Wesley Willis over the P.A. at the Ventura Theatre before one of Jello's spoken-word shows. I was blown away. Willis's music was so raw and fun and humorous, I just started cracking up. I got that look Jello referenced in his eulogy; one of complete awe. Soon after, I bought one of his A.T. releases and couldn't find enough friends and family to share the disc with. I loved Willis's music. His joy and sincerity came through in the recording and his enthusiasm was contagious. I shared the disc with my roommate at the time, who later moved to S.F. and became an avid attendee of Willis's performances.

I hadn't listened to Wesley in a while until my buddy spontaneously mentioned him a few weeks ago. We were in the middle of a concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre when my buddy looked over and said, "Rock over London (the band was British), Rock on San Jose, (insert corporate slogan here)." I didn't realize until now that Wesley had died only a few days prior.

Thank you, Wesley!
-Colin Westerfield

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Gidday, I'm so bloody pissed off and saddened about the passing of the great Wesley Willis shit , shit ,shit .Wesley was so unique. the first time I ever experienced any of his music I was instantly a life long fan . and what a good bloke as well , a real rock`n roll soldier on behalf of all your Australian mates
Rock over America
Rock on Australia
Chris Cashel, Gumeracha, South Australia

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I am reminded of this quote "Only the good die young" I don't know who it is by but it speaks truth! Wesley Willis we will miss you but your kick ass rock and roll will live on through our hearts and our minds (and I guess CDs and Records) Peace, Love and a little slice of (A)narcho pie
Toodles, Jeff

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