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“Tom Wilson was a great guy. He had a fascinating ability to read The Wall Street Journal, have a blonde sitting on his lap, and tell the engineer to add more compression to the vocal all at the same time. But by the time we started working on our third album, he was not talking to the engineer as much and talking to the blonde a little bit more, and so I said, ‘Well, why don’t you just let me produce this? I know you have other things on your mind.’ “We’re Only In It for the Money” was the first album that I produced. He produced the first two.”—  Frank Zappa, MTV interview, 1986

Within two years, Tom Wilson had left Verve and started  the Tom Wilson Organization, with two publishing companies under his direction, Terrible Tunes and Maudlin Melodies.

Wilson went on to work with groups like Velvet Underground and Nico – majority artists whose peak was hit in the 1960’s. Wilson’s strongest point of his career was 1955-1968. With the decline in demand for his style of production, Wilson slowly faded from the music scene. He retired for a while to England and later tried working on an opera with producer Larry Fallon. The opera never came to pass. On September 6, 1978, Wilson died of a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was only 47.

Sadly, Wilson’s legacy was not recognized in places like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though he was interviewed over the years by The New York Times and other national publications. His gravestone in Waco, TX was even engraved with the wrong year of death.

Little Known Black History Fact: Tom Wilson  was originally published on

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