Phillip Wilson -- who is sometimes credited as Philip Wilson or Phil Wilson, but not to be confused with the trombonist of that name -- was one of the top drummers of his generation in jazz and blues, and even made a splash in rock circles in the end of the 1960s. Born Phillip Sanford Wilson in St. Louis in 1941, he emerged at the start of the 1960s at the forefront of avant-garde jazz. He made his recording debut in 1962 on soul-jazz organist Sam Lazar's album Playback, but during the mid-'60s he moved solidly into avant-garde music as a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and he also cut albums both with them and with their co-founder Roscoe Mitchell. In mid-1967, Wilson was approached by Paul Butterfield to join his band; their drummer, Billy Davenport, had grown weary of touring and had just retired, and Butterfield and guitarist Elvin Bishop were eager to reconstitute the band in new terms. Wilson was central to those efforts, a drummer as progressive as Davenport had been rooted in '50s blues.
The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw. With his playing as an anchor, supported by two saxmen and a trumpet, the band emerged totally transformed into a jazz-blues-R&B-rock hybrid outfit. Wilson not only played (and co-authored "Love March" with saxman Gene Dinwiddie, which became the most popular song in the group's entire history thanks to their performance of it at Woodstock), but also sang lead on one song of In My Own Dream. He remained with the band until the start of the '70s. He subsequently worked with Julius Hemphill, the band Full Moon, Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Bill Laswell, and his old Art Ensemble cohort Lester Bowie, with whom he later shared a duet album. In 1992, Wilson was murdered under mysterious circumstances while walking near Central Park in New York City. He was 50 years old.