September 3, 1970 – Alan Christie Wilson, co-founder, leader, and primary composer for the American blues band Canned Heat was born on July 4, 1943. He played guitar, harmonica, sang, and wrote several songs for the band, notably among which the monster hits “On the Road Again” and “Going Up the Country”.
Nicknamed “Blind Owl”, he majored in music at Boston University and often played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit, before forming the blues-rock/boogie band Canned Heat. Alan played guitar, harmonica and wrote most of the songs for Canned Heat. After Eddie ‘Son’ House’s ‘rediscovery’ in 1964, the producer John Hammond Sr. asked Alan, who was just 22 years old, to teach “Son House how to play like Son House,” because Alan had such a good knowledge of the blues styles. The album “The Father of Delta Blues – The Complete 1965 Sessions” was the result. Son House played with Alan live and can be heard on the album “John – the Revelator: The 1970 London Sessions”.
With Canned Heat, Alan performed at two legendary concerts, the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Canned Heat appeared in the film Woodstock, and the band’s “Going Up the Country,” which Alan sang, has been referred to as the festival’s unofficial theme song
Canned Heat enjoyed considerable artistic and commercial success, crowned by an appearance at Woodstock in 1969. But guitarist Al “Blind Owl” Wilson, a nick name that was given to him by John Fahey, was a troubled man. He was estranged from his family; he lacked confidence and suffered from depression, possibly even undiagnosed autism. One of his eccentric habits was sleeping outdoors, as he did at lead vocalist Bob Hite’s house in Los Angeles on the last night of his life. Wilson’s body was found in Hite’s yard on September 3rd, 1970. His hands were crossed over his chest and there was a bottle of Seconal by his side. Cause of death was officially given as an accidental overdose of barbiturates, but drummer Fito de la Parra believes Wilson committed suicide, at age 27, starting out a crop month for the 27 Club with Jimi Hendrix expiring on the 18th of that month and Janis Joplin 16 days late on October 4th, all at age 27.