Biography & Career
Willie Wilcox is known as the consummate musical “In–The-Pocket” rock drummer. He has been delighting fans from around the world for the past 25 years with his live and recorded performances as a principal member of the Prog and Power Pop group “Utopia” with Todd Rundgren. Willie is a versatile musician contributing to the Utopia’s record productions, song writing, bass playing and lead vocals.
Born in Trenton New Jersey in 1951, Willie was first inspired by his father who was a trombone and bass player. Willie would watch his dad playing concerts in the park and fondly remembers the feeling of going up on stage after the band’s performance and watch all the musicians packing up their instruments. There seemed to be something magical about being on that stage and at 10 years of age Willie was hooked!
He would go on to study drums and percussion as a teenager in Glens Falls NY at the local drum shop, “Freddy’s.” He worked in the drum shop cleaning and repairing Ludwig drum kits, studying & eventually teaching. It was here that he attended drum clinics with Max Roach, Gene Krupa, Ludwig’s Joe Morello and Mel Taylor of the “Ventures.” Teo Macero, producer of many of the Miles Davis records lived in Glens Falls and had an Italian restaurant there called “Maceros.” Teo invited the big-bands to play there as a favor to him on their way to their way to their Montreal gigs from New York. Wille sat in the front row as a 16-year-old kid watching Count Basie, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Gene Krupa playing live! Willie was the intermission entertainment between the band’s sets playing drums lives along with Freddie Hubbard and John Coltrane records on a huge stereo system behind the bar.
He got to meet and mingle with his big band and drumming idols and one night was asked by Gene to sit in with his band further cementing Willie’s career path into the drumming world.
Willie graduated high school winning a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music performing a percussion piece with a resident pianist and composer Dr. Maurice Whitney. The piece they performed was by the French composer “Darius Milhaud” titled: “Concerto for percussion and small orchestra.” It featured timpani, marimba, suspended bass drum, triangles, ratchets and multiple percussion instruments. This was a piece that was normally performed by college graduates as their final performance piece for graduation at schools like Julliard and Manhattan School of Music.
Willie completed a year at Berklee School of Music and quickly transferred to Manhattan School of Music in NYC.
While in New York Willie studied drums with legendary jazz drum instructor Jim Blackley. He played at the playboy club and also played the big band mountain circuit playing live shows in the Catskills for the classic acts while attending college.
During his last year at Manhattan School of Music Willie auditioned for the Daryl Hall and John Oates band. They were preparing to tour their new record “Abandon Luncheonette” featuring the hit song “She’s Gone”. Willie aced the audition and went on to tour extensively with Daryl and John opening for artists like Lou Reed, The Bee Gees and Dr. John. This would be the beginning of his rock music drumming career. The next landmark opportunity brought the recording of the record “War Babies” with Hall and Oates. This would be Willie’s first meeting with Todd Rundgren who would become a life long musical collaboration with Willie in the band “Utopia.”
Willie took a gig with Bette Midler playing the show “Clams on The Half Shell” and performed on Broadway for six months at the Minskoff Theatre. This was a big band gig and also starred legendary vibes player “Lionel Hampton” and legendary bass player “Gerald Jemott,” Aretha Franklin’s long time bass player.
It was just after this six-month period that Willie was asked to join “Utopia” with Todd Rundgren. This would become a 25-year collaboration recording some 25 records, and participating in multiple U.S and world tours.
During this time period, Willie also played drums on albums for Meat Loaf ”Bat Out of Hell,” Todd Rundgren solo records, Shaun Cassidy and Steve Hillage. Other live and studio projects also included Mick Jagger and Ringo Starr.
Willie had a significant song writing career composing and producing songs with artists like Luther Vandross, The Pointer Sisters, Natalie Cole, Kylie Minogue, Hall and Oates, Meat Loaf, Manny Pacquiao and scoring a #1 hit with dance artist Stacy Q, “We Connect.”
Willie would continue his production and composing career at NBC Universal Television writing theme songs for shows like Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money.”
He has spent the last 10 years as the senior audio director at the largest gaming companies in the world, Bally Technologies and Scientific Games where he produced and remixed all the original tracks from Michael’s hits for the Michael Jackson games in 5.1 surround sound.
Wille’s most recent U.S tour with Utopia in 2019 found him returning to his drum roots and place of comfort, “Ludwig Drums.” He can be seen playing his Ludwig “Turquoise Blue Sparkle, Classic Legacy Mahogany Series kit” featured on the recently released DVD, “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia” Live at the Chicago Theatre available at all online outlets.
Hardware & Setup
Ludwig Legacy Mahogany in Turquoise Glitter
14x22 Bass Drum
7x10 Tom Tom
8x12 Tom Tom
9x13 Tom Tom
14x14 Floor Tom
16x16 Floor tom
LB400B Chrome over Brass