RUSTY WILSON nous a quittés RIP


Much luv to all who knew Buss, Family, friends, and passers by

Russell (‘Rusty’) Wilson, co-founder and one-time bassist of Canadian rock act Junkhouse, died on March 12, at age 62, of meningitis.

Prior to joining Junkhouse in 1989, Wilson cut his teeth in rock bands fronted by fellow Hamiltonian Ray Lyell, including early 1980’s outfit Eternum. In an extensive podcast interview on, Wilson explained that they launched right into playing larger Ontario venues, opening for bands like Goddo and Max Webster while still so young they needed special permits to be allowed into the bar venues they played.

In that interview, Wilson recalled that exposure to gospel music in churches in the Detroit area that he visited with family every summer while he was a youngster was a crucial musical experience. “I’d never been to church prior to that. All the dancing and singing there was initially shocking, but I found myself loving it and joining in, and my love of gospel singing remained,” he said.

Junkhouse formed in Hamilton in 1989 with vocalist/guitarist Tom Wilson (no relation), guitarist Dan Achen, drummer Ray Farrugia and bassist Russell Wilson. Tom Wilson and Farrugia had put together a band that started playing local bars, and Russell Wilson soon joined the lineup in colourful fashion.

In an interview with Hamilton City Magazine last year, Tom Wilson recalled that “Russell was a bouncer at a bar up on the Hamilton Mountain owned by a rather interesting character. Our bassist didn’t show up once so we got Russell up onstage and he played and threw people out of the bar at the same time! I’m thinking ‘I’m never going to have to worry about getting paid with this guy.’”

With Achen then rounding out the band, Junkhouse paid serious dues on the Toronto and Hamilton scenes before signing a record deal with Sony Music Canada. Released in 1993 and primarily produced by Malcolm Burn (John Mellencamp, Iggy Pop, Emmylou Harris), the group’s debut album, Strays, made a major splash. With certified gold sales, it is the best-seller of the group’s three albums, and it spawned rock radio hits, with “Out of My Head,” “Praying for the Rain,” and “Big Brown Turtle” all charting on RPM’s Top Singles chart.

“’Out Of My Head’ was No. 1 in France and Holland and other markets,” Wilson told Hamilton City Magazine. “I remember waking up in a hotel room in Belgium and the video was on TV. It was shocking that a bunch of knuckleheads from Hamilton managed that!”

A second album, 1995’s Birthday Boy, didn’t have quite the same success, and Russ Wilson left the band the following year. A revamped Junkhouse lineup included Grant Marshall and Colin Cripps and released one more album, 1997’s Fuzz, notable for the track “Shine,” now considered a signature Junkhouse anthem.

The group then disbanded, though they occasionally played reunion shows in the decades following, with Russ Wilson in the lineup. Dan Achen died in 2010, while Tom Wilson remained active as a solo artist and as a member of Canadian roots supertrio Blackie and The Rodeo Kings (Russ Wilson guested on that group’s 2006 album Let’s Frolic).

Russ Wilson played a vital onstage role with Junkhouse, entertaining with his energized presence, beaming smile, powerful bass playing and angelic harmony vocals that rather belied his formidable physique.

Post-Junkhouse, he continued to guest with and produce other artists and took on acting and teaching work. One notable project was work on the 1996 Daniel Lanois-produced soundtrack of the acclaimed movie Sling Blade, including a collaboration on the track “Phone Call” with Mark Howard.

Wilson did further work with Lanois, and the pair performed together on the star-studded (Bruce Cockburn, Jane Siberry) 2005 benefit The Concert For St. Stephens, one later released as a live album on True North Records.

Wilson released three solo albums. At the Hamilton Music Awards, he won the best Soul R&B recording for “Sentimental Fool” and his album Jimmy Boy was nominated for the Record of the Year.

In his interview with Chelsea Johnson, Russ Wilson cites Daniel Lanois and Tom Wilson as the two artists to have most impacted him. “From Tom, I learned work ethic and songwriting, and from Daniel, the virtue of patience,” he explained.

Russ Wilson was included in the Junkhouse lineup that played shows in Hamilton and Toronto last December, and he was in fine form. Tom Wilson has stated the band will still perform two upcoming shows as a tribute, with further dates in the works. Junkhouse will play the Blues Holler Picnic in Uxbridge, Ont. on June 22 and Crewfest in Brantford, Ont. on July 19.

As news of Wilson’s passing spread through the Hamilton music community, tributes to this much-loved musician quickly surfaced on social media. The picture they paint is of a kind and gentle free-spirit.

Tom Wilson released an eloquent remembrance via publicist Eric Alper: “Rave On, Russell Wilson. We look into the faces of wild things to try and see ourselves. We want to know what part of us might live in there behind the eyes. Russell was a live wire, powerful, off his rocker, loving, conducting the spirits and hanging on by a thread.

“It’s impossible for me to even imagine knowing anyone like him again in this lifetime. He was funny as Hell, unpredictable, incredibly talented, loud, sensitive and he could scare the shit out of ya if you weren’t paying attention. I was lucky enough to go deep into the trenches with him. We ran around the globe together in our band taking on stages from Belgium to Brantford. We played in castles and in barrooms and hockey arenas living on a very long road and we had the best time of our lives. Russell was guided by instincts, not by sight, and he ignited pure fire at high volume, came out swinging’ with a bass around his neck that he made look like a ukulele. The lord never patted him on the head but he may have booted him in the ass a couple of times. He was out of this world as long as we knew him and now he’s closer to us than he’s ever been.”


Noted musician/producer Malcolm Burn was at the console for Junkhouse’s debut album, Strays, and follow-up Birthday Boy. He sent this tribute to Billboard Canada: “When I first showed up at the studio where we were to record Strays, I walked straight in from the airport into a godawful racket. It was the band rehearsing ‘Outta My Head.’ By godawful racket, I mean that in pure Hamiltonian for ‘fantastic fuckin’ noise fellas, I freak’n well love it!!!'”


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