Remembering Dan Wilcox
"The friends I’ve made in Utah have been the best I’ve ever had."
With the sudden passing last week of KPCW co-founder Dan Wilcox, many of those same friends have been showing up at intimate gatherings at various haunts in and around northern Utah to share stories, swap memories and photographs, plug in amps, play music, and generally reflect on what an important part he played in our lives.
The No Name Saloon on Main Street, one of Dan’s regular hangouts when it was known as the Alamo during his earlier days in Park City and on and off thereafter, to be sure featured just such a get-together early Sunday afternoon with a few family members getting to know a small quorum of his close friends.
Over beverages and a tabletop scattered with prints of photos and other memorabilia, plans were formulated to hold a community wake for Dan at the No Name beginning at 2 p.m. this coming Saturday afternoon. At the time it was intimated that additional family and a multitude of friends would be attending what should be a quite soulful and somewhat uproarious sendoff for one of the town’s more beloved characters.
No doubt it will be the same, if not more so, over the hill in Hebertown the following day when Dan’s latest haunt, the Timpanogos Tavern, hosts its own wake and afternoon potluck at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Many of his friends expressed their desire to attend both, I being one of them.
Since word about his passing began to spread around Heber, where Dan had chosen to hunker down over recent time, many of his Timp Tavern confidants have been dropping in to stare disbelievingly at the walls and console each other while hoisting a few to his memory.
As many of his longtime sidekicks would tell you, it was never an easy proposition to become close to Dan. There were complexities aplenty behind those eyes and if you wished to participate, you’d better bring a lunch. He was the alpha-wrangler of his posse and he seldom suffered fools gladly or otherwise.
But once you were granted entrée into his band of amigos, Dan would have your back forever. And what a mind! What widely eclectic interests and arcane knowledge he possessed. Which, of course, is what made him such a hugely popular barkeep at various Park City watering holes and, of course, over Heberway once he opened a couple of saloons of his own.
Dans’s radio days during the ’70s in Salt Lake City at KMOR, KNAK, KRGO and KSOP (I might well be forgetting a station or two) were marked by both program and music directorships and emcee duties at live concerts, many featuring national acts. It was his personal relationships with many local musicians and bands, however, that lasted through the years and made him such an influential presence on the Utah music scene.
A perfect example of the high esteem in which Dan was held within Utah’s extended music community became evident down in Salt Lake City this past Sunday afternoon and evening at a reunion of CowJazz, one of the most singular bands to come out of Utah during the rock era.
Flaunting virtuoso instrumentalists and vocalists alike, CowJazz performed rockin’ and hard-drivin’ country music like no other. Like many musical outfits, they would splinter off into assorted other traveling bands, but they would never forget their roots and those who offered them support along the way.
And this brings us to drumming legend K.W. Turnbow, first quieting the crowd, and then saluting the memory of Dan Wilcox at the top of his lungs from behind his drum kit. With many of Dan’s friends making the trip down from the mountains to partake in the historic reunion, it proved to be a quite poignant moment. Eyes not misted over were very much in the minority.
Even the air is melancholy these days. Emotions are carried on sleeves and the outpouring of love through phone calls, emails, and social media from all over the country is palpable. Part of our fabric has been torn, but, as we always attempt to do, our communities will work through it together.
Both wakes Park City’s at 2 p.m. on Saturday (April 20) at Main Street’s No Name Saloon and Heber’s potluck gathering at 1 p.m. on Sunday (April 21) at the Timp Tavern (1320 S. Daniels Road) should serve to remind us all what an important part Dan Wilcox played in all our lives. And giving our favorite ex-Texan a proper Utah sendoff will, no doubt, provide a healing component all its own.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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