For those of you looking to read about Gerald Wiggins, the bio/obit is just below this brief postscript (or click here).
There’s no more powerful reminder of the fleetingness of life, than the death of someone close to you. Well, maybe a brush with death yourself, but my own firsthand experience proves even that message can wear off over time. DevraDoWrite has been silent for nearly three months, and perhaps it would amuse Wig that his death has spurred me back into action. We became close friends almost 38 years ago; he was on the road playing for Helen Humes and we met in Nice, France at Le Grand Parade du Jazz. We continued our friendship in New York where Helen would play long engagements at The Cookery in Greenwich Village. In those early years that followed, Wig was a long-term house guest in the apartment I shared with our mutual friend, Ernie who also played piano and worked for the Musicians’ Union. We had two pianos in the apartment and many wonderful parties populated with friends and neighbors including Helen Humes, Tommy Flanagan, Norman Simmons, Richard Wyands, Jerry Dodgion… wonderful music and memories that I will always cherish.
Wig taught me a lot of cool chord changes back when I was still playing piano, but more important was what I learned from his example through the years:
“My name is Joe and I don’t know.” — never speak ill of anyone;
“My name is Jess, it’s not my mess.” — never meddle in someone else’s business;
“My name is Sam, don’t give a damn” — don’t let anyone get you down.
And I watched Wig fight his own demons and win.
Plagued by health problems, these last few years were really hard on him, but he kept rebounding, returning time and again to his family, his friends, and to the piano to create more live and recorded musical memories for his fans. He was well loved and will be sorely missed.