Jon Dawson: The Southern genius of Tim Wilson

There’s currently an independant film making it’s way around the United States called “Tim Wilson Live at the Punchline”. If you’re not familiar with Tim Wilson, he was an impeccably gifted southern auteur who was half Mark Twain, half Ronnie Van Zant. Intrigued? You should be.

The first thing most people noticed about Wilson was his voice – it was big, expressive, and Southern as hushpuppies and humidity. Not to be confused with the put-on voice that Lawrence Whitney (“Larry The Cable Guy) uses in his act, Wilson’s voice was 100 percent authentic. His voice sounded the way Sam Elliot looks.

Like any good comedian, Wilson was an astute observer of the human condition. On multiple occasions, Wilson was known to break down the differences in Southern accents by state – sometimes narrowing it down to zip codes.

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According to Wilson, Southern accents start in Virginia and go all the way down to Gainesville, Fla.

“Everybody knows when you get south of Gainesville, you’re back in Michigan,” Wilson once said on the Bob & Tom Radio Show.

Wilson was an English major with a penchant for classic rock and country music. His eclectic tastes were the subject of one of his best-known songs, “Acid Country:”

    Mama made us listen to Pink Floyd and Floyd Cramer    

We had three square meals of mushrooms and cornbread    

Mama’s kitchen smelled a lot like incense and cat head biscuits    

We’d watch Porter and Dolly then throw on the Grateful Dead

Growing up, I was (and still am) a fan of cornbread and Pink Floyd. Hearing an unabashed Southern guy (with an accent even thicker than mine) reference psychedelic rock music was a revelation. As it turns out, it was OK for me to like barbecue and The Who.

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Currently on my shelf (I don’t stream music; streams are for fish and throwing the dogs off of your scent), you’ll find rock, blues, jazz, and electronic music spanning 1929 up through 2022, and the comedy I love is no less eclectic. To me, the classic comedians are Jerry Clower, Richard Pryor, before-the-scandal Bill Cosby, George Carlin, and Bill Hicks. Much like Tim Wilson, the two Southerners on that list (Clower and Hicks) don’t get the recognition they should.

Call me a rube with a chip on his shoulder if you will, but you could have stuffed a sock in Tim Wilson’s mouth and he’d still be funnier than Louis C.K. The funniest guys going right now are Bill Burr and Dave Chappelle, but I digress.

The Bryan Hanks Show airs on 960-AM in Kinston, and daily at 7 a.m. & 3 p.m. It also airs on the suite of stations in New Bern and Greenville (107.5-FM) at 6 p.m.

Wilson appeared on “The Tonight Show” once back in the early 1990s, did a guest spot on the ABC sitcom “Grace Under Fire” and received national exposure through specials anchored by Ron White and “Mike and Molly” star Billy Gardell, who referred to Wilson as “the Mark Twain of comedy.” Wilson also recorded a comedic concept album/tribute to soul music called “Super Bad Sounds Of The 70s,” which yielded the “The Booty Song” – the all-time most requested song on cruise ships and at the Kennedy commpound.

Wilson also co-wrote a Christmas song with Jeff Foxworthy (it was played to death, just Google it) and with Roger Keiss, “Happy New Year – Ted” – a serious investigative book about murders believed to have been committed by Ted Bundy in Georgia.

Near the end of my tenure with the Kinston Free Press, I made a few attempts to book Tim Wilson on the Free Press Radio Show that I co-hosted with Editor Bryan Hanks. A few months before Wilson died it looked like we’d be having him on the show the next time he was in our area.

I had a chance to see Wilson perform about 10 years ago when he was playing at a small club in Goldsboro, but I didn’t go because I figured I’d have plenty of chances to see him in the future. I made the same mistake when I passed up the opportunity to see Mark Sandman with his group Morphine in Chapel Hill, thinking I’d catch them on a future tour on a more convenient night. As it came to pass, Sandman died before the next tour commenced.

Whenever Tim Wilson was scheduled to appear on either the Bob & Tom or John Boy & Billy radio shows, I made it a point to tune in. His appearances were so hysterical that at one point I started recording them because his off-the-cuff material was as brilliant as his prepared material. The man could riff like Charlie Parker, turning any situation or conversation into a mild masterpiece.

Once while sitting in on the John Boy & Billy Show, Tim joined in on a phone interview with the celebrated author (and, as it turns out, a gold medal jerk) Tom Clancy.

At some point during the interview, Clancy answered a question by saying, “well, if you send your kids to school – if in fact, you have schools down there …”, and bless his heart, Tim Wilson took Clancy apart. To this day, I’m still trying to find a recording of the exchange, but it was almost worth Clancy being a complete toilet plunger just to hear Wilson throw it back at him tenfold.

The guy who wrote “The Hunt For Red October” couldn’t dive fast enough to escape Wilson’s superior wit.

I could go on about the genius of Tim Wilson, but I’m out of space. If you’d like more info on Wilson, contact me at and I’ll type your ear off.

Jon Dawson’s books are available at

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