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Webb Wilder

Alien investigations of rock

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Webb Wilder
Hideaway BBQ, Raleigh
Friday, Dec. 1, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Webb Wilder
  • Webb Wilder

Ever wonder why, when the flying saucers touch down, they always land in a rural area? What's with the anal fixation? Do extraterrestrials really think that posterior probing is a suitable welcome?

Webb Wilder, a private eye specializing in alien abduction, has all the answers: "I think the rural areas are more representative of your average earthling in America," he explains from his Nashville home. "They're not really looking for publicity." Wilder blames the anal thing on "pent-up, prurient urges." He compares their interstellar travels to Earth to prison: "Buggering is just the by-product."

Although he speaks with confidence on the subject, Wilder's alien detective credentials exist only on film, debuting with the 1984 cult classic Private Eye. Wilder was called in to investigate Hiwayne Suggs' claim that wife Pristine had been abducted by aliens. Ultimately, he only deduced that she took off with trailer-trash neighbor Eugene Bilbo, and Hiwayne was too embarrassed to tell the truth. Wilder's stoic delivery and hillbilly detective hat made him something of a TV icon after USA Network made Private Eye a staple of its Night Flight program in the late '80s. Wilder was already an accomplished guitarist, so he used the acting attention to start a band based on his character.

But there are no aliens mentioned in the music, and the only probe is Wilder's guitar. Though Wilder still resorts to between-song humor and there is the occasional goofy song, this is not a novelty act. His music is real roots-rock, inspired by reading Raymond Chandler, watching Andy Griffin and listening to a whole lot of Bo, Elvis, Jerry Lee and Crescent City funk.

"I'd say rock 'n' roll," Wilder says. "Nobody's satisfied with that, but I need to say rock 'n' roll and hold fast, because boy, it sure is, I think."

On his latest album, Tough It Out: Webb Wilder Live in Concert, Wilder's only nod to space is the Ventures-inspired instrumental "Sputnik." Propelled by Los Straitjackets drummer Jimmy Lester and a trio of guitarists who crank out hard-driving, rockabilly-tinged stuff, Wilder lives up to his self-proclaimed stance as "the last of the full grown men."

Wilder's self-deprecating humor, along with his trademark guitar and vocals, have kept him a cult figure long after Pristine Suggs and her alien boyfriend have moved on to a higher plane. But, with a career based on detecting extraterrestrials on film, he still worries people don't take his music seriously: "You wonder if people are still chuckling from the previous song or from something you just said. If people take a look at a big lumpy guy in a hat, what are they gonna think? I was a hat act in rock 'n' roll before there were hat acts in country."

Still, the alien detective is slated for a return to film with a 30-minute feature comprised of three 10-minute episodes for the Internet. Called Scattergun, the project was filmed in the countryside around Wilder's hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss., and in New Orleans. Whatever the outcome of his alien film career, the singer/guitarist will continue his musical career, abiding by the down-to-earth principles of the Webb Wilder credo: "Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em!"

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