September 6, 1983 – April 10, 2013
Paul Wilson, the drummer of Southern Gypsy Queen, died of a heart attack due to meningitis last Wednesday. Wilson was possibly the healthiest and fittest musician in the country. He didn’t drink. He didn’t smoke and he did not experiment with drugs.
He didn’t need to.
He saw life through exciting eyes and his beautiful inner energy meant that he glowed off and on stage. He was well liked by everyone in the music industry.
He was a great drummer and a great singer. He loved being on stage and always gave 150 percent. Off stage he was always intent on doing the right thing.
He was funny, caring, kind and had a childlike faith in life.
I was lucky enough to tour with SGQ and Shadowclub in April last year. We did Jozi, Jeffreys Bay, East London and Port Elizabeth before driving a marathon stretch to Splashy Fen – of which Paul drove most of the way.
On the first night we stopped in a village on the border of the Eastern Cape and the Free State called Molteno. This was where Paul lived with his beautiful wife, Nicky. This is also where the three members of SGQ grew up: Tammy Wilson on bass, and brother Gareth on vocals and guitar.
Paul and Gareth are the sons of a preacher man. I remember how incongruous it was that they came from a village in the middle of nowhere yet created and played such cool music.
The night we arrived, Nicky had cooked us the most delicious and extensive home-cooked meal. The boys and I tucked into that food with gusto.
Paul was also proud because he and his wife had just bought the large house in Molteno for a fraction of the price it would have cost anywhere else in the country. Their house was a sweet home and the love between the couple was plain for everyone to see.
On the tour, while there were wild times, it was Paul who got us up in the morning for the next stage of the trip. It was Paul who did most of the driving. It was Paul who worked really hard packing and unpacking the equipment from the van. It was Paul who was the responsible backbone of the trip.
And he did it all with natural kindness and because it was the right thing to do.
He really enjoyed life but he enjoyed it in the most simple way possible. Unlike many other artists who thrive on angst and drama, Paul avoided it all costs.
He strived to be happy and smiling and he did this by living by what he believed in – fairness, positivity, love and music.
Tributes from musicians have poured in for one of rock music’s favourite sons.
Lead singer of Shadowclub, Jacques Moolman, said: “He was one of the strongest people in terms of his outlook on life and the way he was with people. I held him in very high esteem. One of the things that saddens me the most is that I never got to tell him how much I thought of him, how much I respected him and loved him.
“He will be sorely missed as a musician, brother and friend. It’s a great loss not just to the musical community but to the world.”
Close friend of SGQ, Piet Botha of Jack Hammer, said: “I first met young Paul in Oudtshoorn many years ago. I’d heard of this great band coming out of Molteno a few months earlier so I was prepared to assist them in every way I could. What followed was amazing. The great albums they produced over the past 10 years, the friendship they struck with everyone who came across their path.”
“Paul and I had a lot of fun times. We used to play golf sometimes. He was a brilliant sportsman. Most of all he was a super innocent man. Whenever our paths crossed I just loved to see that huge smile and positive energy that come out of him. He worked so hard at his craft and was a fantastic drummer and vocalist. I love him and miss him.”
Another group who knew Paul and SGQ well is Black Cat Bones. Said Bones guitarist, André Kriel: “Paul was a great friend, a true comrade and a talented artist. Above all, he taught everyone who knew him to respect one another and to be grateful for being able to live the fortunate lives that we as artists and musicians are granted. We are less one remarkable soldier but the love and wisdom he left behind will ring on in our souls forever.”
Prime Circle’s Ross Learmoth and drummer Dale Schnettler also paid tribute to Paul. “He was a good person and probably one of the best drummers this country has ever seen,” said Dale. “He had one of those personalities everyone liked.”
“It’s a huge loss,” added Ross. “When some people die we all say, just for the sake of it, that he was a nice person. But Paul is a true legend and will be missed.
“When I started in the industry they were also beginning their careers,” said blues guitarist Dan Patlansky. “I got to know him backstage at the countless festivals we had played over the years. He literally was the nicest person I have ever met in my life and he is a talented drummer.
“I was shocked to the core when I heard the bad news.”
Thank you Paul Wilson for your music, your dedication to your craft, your kindness, your big heart, your ready smile and for just being you. Our lives are richer for having known you.