Jamming on the Stage
Former patient and his brother form a southern rock band in pursuit of their dreams.
The current look for former Shepherd Center patient Brian Cameron Wilson, 31, of Locust Grove, Ga., can be described in two words – ZZ Top.
Brian’s beard doesn’t quite reach his waist yet, but if it gets there, so be it. For Brian, being compared to Billy Gibbons, lead singer of the legendary southern rock band, isn’t a bad thing at all.
Brian and his brother Mark Wilson are members of the southern rock band Reluctant Saints. With a sound reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynryd and the Marshall Tucker Band, Reluctant Saints is building a following in the Southeast. In fact, they performed at the same venue with their mentors at the “Fast Cars and Guitars Event at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Lynyrd Skynyrd” last summer.
They play mostly at nightclubs, state fairs and weddings now. But they have their sights set on bigger venues. “Definitely, I think my best days are ahead of me,” Brian says. “My hope is that’s the case for the band, too.”
That Brian is able to set those goals, both of which are realistic, is a testament to his determined work ethic and the care he received at Shepherd Center.
In fall 2007, Brian was nearly killed in a motorcycle crash. He and three friends were on a leisurely Sunday morning ride. But a car in front of them was committed to an even more leisurely pace.
“We were on a 55-miles-an-hour road doing 45, and we came upon a car doing 35. We went around that car, and when we did, we accelerated to 70. When we cut back in front of the car, on a wet road, I lost control of the bike and slid 150 feet. I was wearing every bit of racing gear you could imagine. My thought is always that I’d rather sweat than bleed. Sure enough, I didn’t have a scratch on me.”
But Brian was far from fine. He tumbled across a right-of-way, hit a fence and shattered his L-1 vertebrae while sustaining various other injuries. He was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Brian doesn’t remember much of his time there, though, because of the pain medication he required.
But he certainly remembers his time at Shepherd Center, where he was admitted for rehabilitation for the spinal cord injury.
“I was doing physical therapy at Shepherd nine days after the accident,” he recalls. “By the time we had our first meeting with everyone, I asked the doctors whether I’d be able to walk again. My doctor said he couldn’t be sure of it. But I was walking a few days later.”
As Brian was recovering, he and his brother Mark decided the time was perfect to find a few like-minded, committed musicians and create a band that would allow the brothers a shot at living out their dream.
They formed Reluctant Saints with three guys they had played with at various times.
Brian Cameron Wilson, 31, of Locust Grove, Ga., is a former spinal cord injury patient who can now walk. After his recovery, Brian and his brother Mark Wilson formed a southern rock band called Reluctant Saints. They rehearse regularly and play gigs across the region.
“Basically it’s a band of guys who’d played around town with a lot of really good people, but were always in someone else’s band,” Brian explains. “Mark and I had talked about how to put a band together the way we wanted it, without all the rock star problems, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.
“We’re a young band, even though we’re not young guys by music standards,” he adds. “But we draw on some of the old work ethics. My dad decided he wasn’t good enough as a guitar player in the ‘70s to make it in the business. Truth is, he could play circles around most of the guys making a living with a guitar now. We’re committed to being as good as we can get as musicians.”
Brian knows the odds are stacked against any new band hitting it big time. But he’s shown he can beat the odds.
“It’s going to be a long, hard road to get known and appreciated. But it’s starting to happen for us,” he says. “It’s our goal to get to where we can make a living at this. So while there are better days ahead, there’s nothing wrong with where we are now.”
Mark never doubted for a second that his brother would recover from his injuries and get back into the music he loved.
“I knew Brian would be able to make a full recovery, personally and professionally, no matter what,” Mark says. “I knew from the get-go that his attitude would be there. I also knew he’d still be playing guitar, either in a wheelchair or not.”
The brothers have a long history of supporting each other’s aspirations. In fact, Reluctant Saints isn’t the Wilson brothers’ first experience in the same band. When Brian was 15, he started a band with some friends. When an opportunity arose for a gig at a local church gymnasium, Brian was short a bass player.
At 12, Mark wasn’t exactly a world-class bass player. But …
“Brian had found two drummers, a three-piece brass ensemble and two piano players, but he couldn’t find a bass player. I said, ‘OK, I can do that,’” Mark recalls.
Brian adds: “I handed him a bass and told him he was playing in three days. Get ready.”
Both say they’ve been talking – off and on – about putting something special together ever since. They think Reluctant Saints is that something special.
“I’m still not where I want to be physically,” Brian says. “When I got hurt, I could run a 5K in 20 minutes. I was 27 and in the best shape of my life. Now, I’m clumsy and not very agile, kind of like Yoda with a cane.
“But I can muster up the energy to not be awkward and out of balance when I’m performing. And I’m always getting better.”
For more information on Brian’s band, see www.reluctantsaints.com.
Written by Bill Sanders
Photos by Louie Favorite
Video by Eric Petersen
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.