George Wilson picked up the trombone as an eighth-grader, but virtuosity on auto parts and old appliances took him another 50 years. In about l985, when visiting a piano teacher friend, he says, "I saw she had a real cow horn, and I tried to see if I could get some sounds out of it. I got three or four different notes and she gave me the horn." Once home, he thought, "Man, I'm going to try a trombone mouthpiece on this!"
Ever since, the 78-year-old proprietor of Wilson's Auto Service and Dinosaur Repair in Ojai has been playing music on objects including, but not limited to, stove broiler burners, wheel cylinders, transmissions, flashlights, auto horns, carburetors and plastic dinosaurs.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 15, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Magazine caption-A caption for a 'Fixations" article on musician George Wilson in the L.A. Times Magazine on May 12 ('Fanfare for the Common Junk Part," Metropolis) incorrectly identified the object Wilson is playing. It is an automobile automatic transmission case.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 2, 2002 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Page 4 Times Magazine Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
A photo caption for a "Fixations" article on musician George Wilson ("Fanfare for the Common Junk Part," Metropolis, May 12) incorrectly identified the object Wilson is playing. It is an automobile automatic transmission case.
How exactly do you get a recognizable tune out of a plastic dinosaur? As Wilson explains it, any more-or-less hollow object can be an instrument, given the right mouthpiece. His method is to rig a trombone mouthpiece onto a 3/8-inch-diameter fuel hose, which goes into a hole in the object being played. "It acts as a pre-amp and makes everything louder. If the hole is too big, I bridge the gap with other rubber bushings used on car suspensions." Sounding different notes, Wilson says, is all in the lip muscles. (As for the dinosaur, it was part of a set Wilson's wife put together in honor of the shop's name, which refers to his work on vintage cars.)
Wilson concedes that audience feedback has been mixed. "I've played for people of all ages and they are enthralled at first, but then they lose enthusiasm," he says. He often plays on a Model T bulb horn for a half-dozen friends with whom he goes on hunting trips. "They kind of like it and are beginning to tolerate me more."
Wilson's concert career may be picking up, however. He played a plastic dinosaur in Ojai's 1999 Fourth of July parade, and in February of 2000, he played auto parts at "Adoorable U," a show in Ojai of art created on old Volkswagen doors. That same year, a local sixth-grade class taped a performance of Wilson with accordionist and teacher Frank Umbro. Though he favors popular music from between 1938 and 1942, Wilson is loaded for bear with a wide repertoire that includes a rendition of the Beatles' "Yesterday" on a water-heater part. "I'm available!" he says.