Broadcast Pioneers member Art Wilson has had a long career in music while working in the fields of science, technology, and business. A self-taught ukulele player, Art studied guitar during teen years with a teacher who stressed technical skill and theory with a jazz orientation.
Soon ready to play in a band, Art’s early groups included The Driftwoods. In addition to playing for the usual beef 'n' beers and parties, they performed at record hops run by legendary WIBG radio deejay, Hy Lit, a member of the Broadcast Pioneers.
Art has been a valued member of wedding, party, and club bands, including The Agiles, a band he put together at Drexel University, where he earned his BS degree in Chemistry in 1967.
In 1966, Art began playing on a weekly radio program, The Bill Hellman Show, (taped at a local restaurant on a Wollensak home reel-to-reel tape recorder) broadcast on Saturday night on WIFI-FM 92.5. Art sang, played, and accompanied young singers on the show.
With his ROTC commission as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Art served at Fort Belvoir VA, Fort Ord CA (training basic trainees), and various locations in Vietnam. He had a guitar with him and entertained his fellow soldiers, and met and jammed with many skilled musicians.
Stateside, he studied a graduate school teaching program at Temple University, which lead to a high school science teaching job in New Jersey. He then decided to try music as a full time endeavor and played in several rock, club, and party bands including The Painted Pony, a revived male/female pop group, and Audrey and Al Antonio's burlesque/nightclub act which appeared at the unique Hawaiian Cottage in Cherry Hill.
Art built up a busy schedule of private guitar students in music stores, studios, and homes, and taught as many as sixty students per week.
Art worked in the pit band of The Abbey Stage Door in Philadelphia and the Huntingdon Valley Dinner Theater, and was an onstage musician in Chicago with a rock musical, the national road company of The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, a previous Obie Award winning production.
Back in Philadelphia, Art played and sang with the vocally powerful group The Jade Image. He continued teaching and added the classical guitar style to his repertoire.
While managing a retail record store and later working as a chemist, he moved to Center City Philadelphia and continued teaching music and playing guitar professionally.
Art joined the stage review “Hot Mustard,” which had begun as a series of comedy sketches. Art added original music and served as musical director and accompanist. This musical review was associated with Theater Center Philadelphia and premiered in 1976.
During this time, Art met his wife, Janice. She became involved in the Hot Mustard project, as lyricist and songwriter, and on the production team.
Art and Janice formed JanArt Productions, continuing their creative projects. They submitted their song "There's No Zip in the Zip Code" to The American Song Festival, a national competition, and won a prize.
Art played music in an acoustic duo at Head House Tavern in Society Hill, performing there for several years.
Art and Janice enrolled in evening graduate classes at Saint Joseph's University and joined the theater group, Twilight Players (TWIPS). Art had acting roles in Woody Allen's "Please Don't Drink the Water" and in Agatha Christie's "The Mouse Trap," while Janice worked on production and management.
Janice and Art were operating a shop in Ardmore PA when Art began his “day” job, for thirty one years, as Analytical Chemist for the Philadelphia Water Department.
Art and Janice continued writing music, and composed the score for Maidels, Mommas and Ms., a review recounting the lives of twentieth century Jewish women. Additionally, Janice was involved with production, staging, and video, and Art was musical director, accompanist, and singer.
Art played bass in a "power trio" performing classic rock and rock-a-billy, playing locally, including performances in Glenside PA every Fourth of July.
Art’s current group, The Art Wilson Band, specializes in pop "oldies," and plays parties and special events.
Working as a chemist for the Water Department, Art developed computer skills such as word processing, spreadsheets, and databases, and became known as a software specialist, and taught some courses for the Department.
Art honed his computer skills and became a classroom teacher of adults in University City.
Janice, with her South Philly family roots, had always been a fan of the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, which marches up Broad Street every New Years Day. She joined the all female, newly formed Fancy Brigade, “The Fancy Dolls,” and Art became a supportive "marshal" in the group. He served as Musical Director, and using his electronic and computer skills, created the backing recorded tracks for their “drills,” working with the choreographer.
Later, Art and Janice joined the Clevemore Fancy Brigade, which included men and women. Janice continued as a costumed marcher, and Art served as a marshal and became the webmaster of their internet site. He received Clevemore’s “Whitey Nelson Friendship Award”.
Art has always enjoyed impromptu playing and sing-alongs at house parties and found a niche with folk songs and pop oldies. He built a solo act and has been performing at small clubs and coffee houses.
Retired from his "day job," Art continues to explore the never ending aspects of the guitar, and teaching musicianship via the rudiments and theory of music, and is having fun watching his students, (which include son Jonah and, soon, granddaughter Sophia) giving them the chance to explore their own musical passions. He also hopes to keep making people happy by entertaining them and sharing his joy and talent.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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