4. Alan Wilson’s voice can still be heard in some insurance commercials
Alan Wilson, who was known as “Blind Owl” to his fellow musicians and his fans, was a vocalist and talented musician (guitar and harmonica) for the American blues band Canned Heat. His distinctive vocals, particularly in songs such as Going up the Country, led the group to develop a following which though relatively small was fervid in its support of the band. He possessed a wide vocal range, which he demonstrated on blues classics such as On the Road Again, further creating a cult-like following for the band. As with Brian Jones and other founders of bands in the 1960s, Wilson was a fan of the founder of the 27 Club, Robert Johnson, and joined those who adapted and expanded on Johnson’s interpretation of the blues, including the legendary Son House, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.
Wilson also emulated their lifestyle, in the form of a fondness for drugs and alcohol. A music major at Boston University, Wilson readily adapted to the life of clubs followed by all night drinking sessions, followed by the ingestions of chemicals to ensure further functioning. To calm down barbiturates were added to the mix. In September, 1970, with Canned Heat at the peak of their success (which included a critically acclaimed performance at Woodstock), Wilson died from an overdose described by the coroner as acute barbiturate intoxication. The death followed what was interpreted by some as a suicide attempt when he tried to drive his car off an LA freeway at high speed. Wilson died on September 3, 1970, becoming the latest member of the 27 Club, though in a few short days his death would be erased from the papers and news magazines when another new member joined.